Technology, Middle East
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Why Iran Would Love an F-22 or F-35 Stealth Fighter (But Can't Build Them Just Yet)
All of these scrappy-underdog accomplishments fall far short of developing a working stealth fighter.
There can be such a thing as posturing too hard.
(This first appeared last year.)
Iran’s aviation industry has accomplishments to boast about despite operating under heavy sanctions for nearly forty years. It has managed to keep once state-of-the-art U.S.-built F-4 Phantom and F-14 Tomcat fighters in operational condition for decades, including nine years of high-intensity aerial warfare with Iraq, despite being cut off from spare parts from the United States. It has refurbished the rusting hulks of old F-5 Freedom Fighters into twin-vertical stabilizer Saeqeh fighters, reverse-engineered their J85 turbojet engines, and created a variety of viable capable drones.
All of these scrappy-underdog accomplishments fall far short of developing a working stealth fighter. Russia, which possesses a mature military aviation industry, has basically thrown the towel on its Su-57 stealth fighter program (at least on the short term) because the expenses and technical challenges have proven so prohibitive. Much wealthier countries ranging from France, Germany, India, Japan and the UK are only in the early stages of developing their own.
But Tehran would have the world believe that it quietly developed its own stealth jet way back in February 2, 2013, when one was unveiled as part of the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies attended by then-President Ahmadinejad.
IAIO Qaher (“Conqueror”) 313 stood out as a diminutive franken-plane that would look cool in an action flick. It retained significant design characteristics of the F-5 Freedom Fighter, but sported canted vertical stabilizers like an F-22 Raptor, flouncy wings reminiscent of a 1950s-era MiG-17, drooping wingtips resembling Boeing’s discarded Bird of Prey concept, and bat-like canards—a second set of wings next to the cockpit.
It didn’t, however, look like something that could actually fly—as pointed out by David Cenicotti of The Aviationist—in an epic takedown. Some of the key points: