Iran’s ‘new’ fighter jet said to resemble 1960s-era U.S. F-5

by WorldTribune Staff, August 22, 2018

A new fighter jet which Iran says was domestically designed and manufactured looks a lot like the U.S. F-5, which was designed by Northrop in the 1950s and used by the U.S. since the 1960s, observers say.

Above: Kowsar ‘indigenous’ fighter – prototype 3-7400 (2018). Below: U.S. Northrop F-5F Tiger II combat capable trainer – prototype 00889 (1974). / Twitter @JosephHDempsey

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami were among the dignitaries on hand in Teheran on Aug. 21 for the unveiling of the twin-seater Kowsar as part of Defense Industry Day.

State news agency Tasnim described the Kowsar as a “fourth-generation” fighter jet with advanced avionics and “multi-purpose radar” and stressed that it was “100 percent” domestically produced.

Outside observers, however, said they instantly recognized that the Kowsar was merely an updated version of the F-5. In the 1960s and 70s, Iran purchased more than 200 F-5A and F-5B variants from Northrop. Many of the jets were sold off or destroyed during the Iran-Iraq war.

“Yes, it’s a modernized F-5, first designed in the 1950s and in service since the 60s. One can get a lot out of modernizing older airframes but this is pushing it,” said Justin Bronk, research fellow for air power and technology at the Royal United Services Institute.

“An hour ago, a 42 yrs old U.S. made F-5F which is just a testbed for avionic of Iranian Air Force future training jet (Kowsar-88) was unveiled & claimed to be a 4th Generation Fighter jet completely designed & manufactured in Iran,” Iranian aviation historian Babak Taghvaee tweeted.

Ofir Gendelman, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, said he “immediately saw that this was a very old U.S. warplane.”

Joseph H. Dempsey, Research Associate for Defense and Military Analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, noted the similarities between the Kowsar and F-5:

“It is possible that Iran has reversed engineered the F-5 design and can produce their own versions locally – as opposed to using existing airframes,” Dempsey told The Defense Post. “There remains some questions over this, particularly in respect of building engines and sourcing updated avionics independently. Whilst the Kowsar shown today is externally an F-5F it is not going to be identical to the ones received from the U.S. For example, interior images portray a more modern digital cockpit display and ejection seats based upon the Russian K-36, as used on the Mig-29.”

Whatever the Kowsar really is, there is no video proof that it can fly. AFP noted that the live feed on Aug. 21 of the Kowsar taxiing down the runway was cut before the plane allegedly took off.


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