Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Iran not rolling over and playing dead

Iran shows off homegrown fighter jet

IRAN overnight showed off for the first time a new fighter jet said to be modelled on the American F-5 but built using domestic technology, state media reported.

The "Azarakhsh" (Lightning) jet - one of the first to be home-produced by Iran - made a successful flight in the central city of Isfahan in a ceremony attended by Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and other officials.

"The success of this domestically developed fighter plane is another example of the technological achievements of our country," said Isfahan governor Morteza Bakhtiari, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

"At a time when the United States is selling its arms to its allies in the region, our country's specialists are taking big strides every day towards self-sufficiency in defence," he said.

The development of the plane was first announced in September last year, when military officials said that it was "comparable" to the US F-5 fighter jet.

Iran has also developed another homemade war plane named "Saegheh" (Thunder), which it has described as similar to the American F-18 fighter jet.

The fly-by in Isfahan appears to have been the first time the Azarakhsh jet has been shown in public.

Many of Iran's military planes are of American origin and were bought under the pro-US shah ousted by the Islamic revolution in 1979.

The current US embargo means the Iran must work hard to find spare parts to keep its fleet in the air, and officials have repeatedly emphasised the importance of moving towards self-sufficiency in defence.

The United States last week announced new military pacts worth $US20 billion ($23.35 billion) for Saudi Arabia, $US13 billion ($15.18 billion) for Egypt and $US30 billion ($35.02 billion) for Israel in a bid to counter Iran's regional influence.

Iran dismissed the deals as "fruitless" but insisted it was not worried by the moves.

Original article posted here.

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