Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Iran Unveils Locally Made Fighter Plane

Iran unveiled its first locally manufactured fighter plane Wednesday during large-scale military exercises, state-run television reported.

The report said the bomber Saegheh is similar to the American F-18 fighter plane, but "more powerful." It also said the plane was "designed, optimized and improved by Iranian experts."

State TV said the Iranian air force had commissioned the Saegheh plane after many test flights in the past year.

Television footage showed the airplane taking off and launching two rockets. The plane had a small cockpit and only one pilot. READ MORE

"Saegheh is capable of launching both rockets and bombs," the report said.

General Karim Ghavami, commander of Iran's air force, told state-run television that the war games were being held "to show the trans-regional forces that we are ready to defend our country up to the latest drop of our blood."

The Islamic republic is concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan at a time when the international community has threatened to impose sanctions against Tehran because of its disputed nuclear program.

During the war-games, which began Aug. 19 and have been dubbed "The Blow of Zolfaghar," Iran has test-fired short-range, surface-to-surface missiles, submarine-to-surface missiles, a new air defense system and laser bombs.

Iran's military also test-fired a series of missiles during war games in the Persian Gulf in March and April, including a missile it claimed was undetectable by radar and could use multiple warheads to hit several targets simultaneously.

After decades of relying on foreign weapons purchases, Iran now says it is increasingly self-sufficient, claiming it annually exports more than $100 million worth of military equipment to more than 50 countries.

Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers and missiles, the government said. It announced in early 2005 that it had begun producing torpedoes. The government has not said how many warplanes it will build.