Amid decades of sanctions imposed on Iran which eventually forced Tehran to work on indigenous projects, including the “Kowsar” fighter jets that were finally delivered to the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force.
The fighters which have been labelled by critics as a mere copy of the US F-5s were unveiled as the newest contender in the arena of aerial combat last year. The first fighter jet to be developed in the country, Kowsar is a labelled as a fourth-generation fighter aircraft which has been designed and manufactured by Tehran-based Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO).
The fighter jets which are designed to upgrade and strengthen Tehran’s aerial defence capabilities will now replace Iran’s ageing air fleet, most of which consist of fighters imported from the US and Russia.
Officially unveiled by Iran in 2018, the Kowsars have been deployed by the Iranian Army and Air Force. Designed to perform close air support (CAS) and light attack operations, the fighters can also be used to support the training activities of fighter pilots.
After years of instability in Iran’s defence sector due to economic sanctions imposed by the United States following the Iranian revolution in 1979, the development of the fighter jets is seen as a ray of light in the field of defence aviation.
According to The National Interest, a Washington-based international affairs magazine, the fighters represent a major step for Iran to boost its aerospace industry.
“This isn’t to say we will see an actual Iranian stealth fighter anytime soon, but if Iran can make their own engines, their own fuselages, and their own computer systems, it’s only a matter of time until they field something that we will have to be worried about.”
Primarily based on the ageing design of the US F-5 Tiger aircraft, the Kowsar boasts of an optimized airframe design to provide superior performance by reducing the drag caused by harsh winds.
Poised for air-to-air combat, the light attack aircraft has a state-of-the-art cockpit equipped with an advanced flight deck and avionics suite, which are integrated with next-generation radar technology and hydraulically actuated flight controls.
The fighter jet also comes with multiple hard-points under the fuselage section and wings that can be armed with a range of weapon systems to enhance its firepower. The jets are equipped with two J90 turbofan engines which have a maximum rated thrust of 5,000lb (2,268kg) each.
Capable of attaining a maximum speed of 1,500kilometres/hour, the fighters can travel to a maximum distance of 2,200km without the need of any mid-air supplies. They can also reach higher altitudes faster with a higher climbing rate of 7,620metres/minute.
However, despite Iran’s attempts to integrate newer avionics and radar systems within the sturdy airframe of the F-5s, the new aircraft has been labelled a means of deception.
The United States Department of State’s Communication Team had tweeted – “It seems that regime officials are not sufficiently familiar with the development of the aviation industry. Their plane is very similar to a fighter jet produced by the United States decades ago and Iran has an old fleet of these planes. Deception is their favourite means.”
Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute hints that the Kowsar aircraft is not the reboot of the US F-5, but a new system of avionics packed inside the F-5 as a placeholder.
He also says that the Kowsar is not a fighter aircraft at all, but a jet trainer and a light attack plane which could come to the rescue of the Iranian Air Force, which still uses US-made F-14s and F-4s, the airframes of which had already been abandoned in America.
“The Iranian air force is an interesting mix,” said Bronk, while speaking to the Business Insider. They’re (Iran) unquestionably extremely good at making use of older equipment against endless predictions.” added Bronk.
However, Bronk while lauding Iran’s attempts to produce amid economical problems and US embargoes. “Given the state of their economy and the embargoes, that is pretty impressive,” said Bronk.
Concluding the analysis, Iran’s Kowsar jets are no F-35s or F-22 Raptors but are lethal enough to create hassles for the invading forces.