Iran unveils ‘first’ domestic fighter jet

Iran unveiled what it said was its “first” domestic fighter jet, with President Hassan Rouhani insisting that Teheran’s military strength was only designed to deter enemies and create “lasting peace” Images on state television showed Mr Rouhani sitting in the cockpit of the new “Kowsar” fourth-generation fighter at the National Defence Industry exhibition in Teheran. State media said the plane had “advanced avionics” and multi-purpose radar, and that it was “100-per cent indigenously made” for the first time. The jet was capable of carrying various weapons, and will be used for short aerial support missions, Tasnim news agency said. Footage of the Kowsar’s test flights was circulated by various official media. But live footage of the plane taxiing along a runway at the defence show was cut before it could take off. “When I speak of our readiness to defend, it means we seek lasting peace. If we lack readiness, we welcome war,” Mr Rouhani said in a televised speech shortly after. “Some think when we increase our military power, this means we seek war. (But) this is peace-seeking because we don’t want war to happen,” Mr Rouhani added. “If we don’t have a deterrent… it gives a green light for others to enter this country.” The plane was first publicly announced last by Defence Minister Amir Hatami, who had said it would be unveiled today. He gave few details of the project, focusing instead on Iran’s efforts to upgrade its missile defences. Brigadier-General Hatami said the defence programme was motivated by memories of the missile attacks Iran suffered during its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, and by repeated threats from Israel and the United States that “all options are on the table” in dealing with the Islamic republic. “We have learned in the (Iran-Iraq) war that we cannot rely on anyone but ourselves,” he said in a televised interview. Washington has sold hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to Teheran’s regional rivals, but has demanded that Iran curb its defence programmes, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions on the country in a bid to force its capitulation. Mr Rouhani said Iran must show restraint as well as deterrence, in an apparent swipe at his hardline opponents who seek to provoke the US with aggressive slogans. “With a couple of sentences one can start a fight. With a couple of military moves one can enter confrontation. But then it will be costly,” he said. Following the withdrawal of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal in May, Iran has avoided an aggressive response and sought to maintain its goodwill with other international partners who oppose Washington’s move. Mr Rouhani said US pressure was also a spur to action. “Why does America impose economic sanctions on us? Why does it impose them on Turkey? Why does it drag China into an economic war? Because it feels each one of them has a weak point. We must fix our weak points.” Iran’s air force has been limited to perhaps a few dozen strike aircraft using either Russian or ageing US models acquired before the 1979 Iranian revolution. Iran unveiled in 2013 what it said was a new, domestically built fighter jet, called Qaher 313, but some experts had expressed doubts about the viability of the aircraft at the time.


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