By Mahmoud Hakamian
In 2003, Iran unveiled a fake subsonic stealth fighter called the Shafar, which, in 2014, was revealed to be a mock-up made of wood.
The Iranian regime has refurbished the rusting hulks of old F-5 Freedom Fighters into twin-vertical stabilizer Saeqeh fighters and reverse-engineered their J85 turbojet engines, as well as creating a variety of viable capable drones.
But in regards to developing a working stealth fighter, Tehran would like to have the world believe that it developed its own stealth jet in 2013, when one was unveiled as part of the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies attended by then-President Ahmadinejad.
The IAIO Qaher (“Conqueror”) 313 was a small plane that incorporated design characteristics of the F-5 Freedom Fighter, and the F-22 Raptor, along with the 1950s-era MiG-17, and Boeing’s discarded Bird of Prey concept — a mixed up conglomeration that earned it the name, “Frankenplane”. But, it didn’t look like something that could actually fly, according to David Cenicotti in The Aviationist.
Some points he made were:
– The Cockpit Was Too Small to Fit an Average-Height person
– the nose was too small to fit a radar
– Simplistic Cockpit Instruments
– One of the pictures depicts a relatively low-tech instrument panel likely taken from a civilian light plane, that showed an airspeed indicator maxing out at 260 knots, which is little over half the speed of a subsonic civilian airliner
– There is No Jet Exhaust Nozzle
– The jet intakes seem too small
– No visible weapons bays or sensor apertures
– Stealth jets generally carry weapons in internal bays to maintain a low-radar cross section, but internal bays were visibly absent.
– It appeared to be made out of shiny plastic—without tell-tale rivets and screws
– And the canopy appeared to be smudgy plexiglass and had no latch
Iran regime’s state media released a video which supposedly depicted a Qaher in flight. But after reviewing the footage, it appeared to be a less-than-full-scale remote-control replica and not a real plane. As a matter of fact, Iranian media had to clarify that these were in fact two different reduced-sized test drones.
The Qaher seemed to be just an unconvincing plastic mockup designed for propaganda purposes. It disappeared for several years only to resurface in April 2017 when prototype number “8” was paraded before President Rouhani and recorded taxiing on a runway. Iranian media claimed that the jet had not yet undergone flight tests.
Still, the unconventional airframe seems rife with aerodynamic flaws and radar reflective hot spots. Analyst Galen Wright also noticed that an Iranian mechanic had stenciled on the tire-pressure for the Qaher as 50 psi. For comparison, the tires on a lightweight F-16 ramp up to 300 psi.
State-run Fars news agency described the new Qaher as a “logistic aircraft” and a “light fighter jet for military and training purposes.” This hints that if Iran ever does build flying Qaher, it might not be intended for frontline service. It may be a prototype, or a test airframe. Iran may eventually design an actual flying jet plane, but by now, the experience of the United States, China and Russia would make Iran’s effort not seem credible, by comparison.
Iran wants a stealth fighter, as it fears attack by Israel or the United States, and Iran is competing for regional dominance with multiple Arab states, who are equipped with fourth and 4.5-generation F-15, F-16, Typhoon and Rafale jet fighters. But, developing a working stealth jet from scratch is probably the most expensive solution to address those challenges.
In the meantime, Tehran’s predilection for making claims that are easily disproven, is proof of its insecurity.