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Thursday, August 30, 2007      New: Take a Stand

Iran upgrading its U.S. F-14s, testing GPS-guided smart bombs

LONDON Iran says it has succeeded both in restoring its F-14 fighter-jet fleet to operational service and in developing its own GPS-guided smart bomb.

Industry sources said Iranian defense firms have been overhauling and upgrading F-14A fighter-jets. They said the Defense Ministry has overseen a serial production line for F-14 overhaul.

The ministry has administered a project by the state-owned Iranian Aircraft Industries Complex to enhance the F-14As, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said the project began in 2007, and since May three F-14As were upgraded.

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In 1972, Iran procured 60 F-14As from the United States. The Tomcat fleet was hampered by the U.S. refusal to sell F-14 spare parts to Teheran since the 1980s.

By 2002, only 25 out of the F-14As were still in operational service, the sources said. In that year, however, Iran launched a $1 billion to overhaul the F-14s as well as the U.S.-origin F-4 fighter-jet.

The sources said the F-14A upgrade was taking place at the Iranian Aircraft Industries Complex in Mehrabad. They said the company was expected to overhaul and upgrade additional F-14s in 2007 and 2008.

The upgraded F-14s would be equipped with Iran's new guided air bomb. Officials said the new 2,000-pound bomb has been flight-tested and would undergo serial production. On Sunday, Iranian state television showed the Ghased bomb destroying a target.

"We will use these [bombs] against our enemies when the time comes," Iranian Defense Minister Mustafa Najar said on Sunday. "We will use this weapon where we want to hit the enemy's strategic and defense targets. This will be used against our enemies, against those who violate our land and air space."

Meanwhile, Iran has reported the development of a one-ton air-to-ground munition.

Officials said the Iranian Defense Ministry has developed a 2,000-pound bomb that could be guided to its target. They said the bomb, dubbed Messenger, or Ghased in Farsi, has been successful in recent tests by the Iranian Air Force.

A Defense Ministry statement described the bomb as a smart munition. The statement said the Defense Ministry would launch serial production of the 2,000-pound bomb on Aug. 27, the onset of Government Week.

Industry sources the Messenger was meant to resemble the U.S.-origin Joint Direct Attack Munition. JDAM is a kit that converts general purpose bombs to smart munitions.

Officials provided few details of the bomb. They said the munition contained a GPS system that could guide the weapon to its target.

The Defense Ministry said Messenger was launched from the Iranian Air Force's U.S.-origin F-4 and F-5 fighter-jets. It was unclear whether the bomb could be fitted to the air force's Soviet-origin fleet, comprised of the MiG-29 and the Su-24 fighters.

The ministry said Messenger, development of which was completed in 2006, was one of the most powerful smart munitions in the world. The statement said only several countries had the capability to develop such a weapon.

Defense Minister Mustafa Najar said Iran has become self-sufficient in military production. During a tour on Aug. 23 of an installation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Bushehr, Najar said his ministry was producing missiles, munitions, artillery as well as naval surface and underwater vessels.

Najar said the ministry was also manufacturing fighter-jets, unmanned aerial vehicles and armored ground platforms. The minister said Iran's military has achieved what he termed full combat readiness.

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