Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force /نيروي هوايي جمهوري اسلامي ايران
Credit: Roundels of the world
Last update 10-02-2021
To calculate the local (Iranian) calender deduct 621 to the Gregorian (Western) calender.
The Iranian governement uses the news channels to spread information about modfications/upgrades; sometimes it is not corresponding to realty or is misinformation.
Some given projects are thought not to have reached production status.
Northrop F-5 maintenance and modification/upgrade projects
US arms embargo after the declaration of the Islamic Republic of
Iran forced the Air Force toward self-sufficiency,
initially focusing in mantainance of the F-5 fleet, manufacture of
spare parts and later in upgrading available airframes/avionics and
building new aircrafts.
Maintenance goal was practically reached early, while manufacturing spare parts was only limited. They had to be unofficially imported; fictitious firms were established in several Western countries, trying to forward these spares to Iran. Some actions were blocked, like the one in February 1993 when British customs seized 7'5000 General Electric J-85-21B blades that the firm DBI Ltd. had manufactured as replacement for Iranian AF F-5s with an estimated value of USD 1m; in July 2003 US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency searched 18 US companies suspected of having exported aircrafts (among which F-5) and missile components to Multicore Ltd, an Iranian front company in London for clandestine procurement of weapons system.
The OUJ complex was established at Nahaja in 1986 to revise, re-construct damaged aircrafts, particularly during the war with Iraq, later constructi new, domestic devoped aircrafts
Reverse engeneering of parts for all aircrafts of US
origin was organised through some existing aviation companies: HESA/Iran
Aircraft Manufacturing Industries, based at
Mehrabad and Isfahan (maintenance,
repair of all types of aircrafts), PANHA
(repairing and mantaining military helicopters and power plants,) GHODS
(electronic devices) and Bashir Basir Industy (design, manufacture and
upgrade of pilotless planes).
Mehrabad AB houses HESA's main aircraft repair, overhaul and manufacturing facilities; it boasted by 1995 the capability to manufacture 55% of engine and fuselage parts for the Northrop F-5s. Important repairs to damaged airframes considerably slowed down HESA's capability to develop a new fighter, the Hazarakhsh (see below).
Mentioned programms are listed hereunder:
Initial aim on the way to self sufficency was to manufacture an air-to-air missile, upgrade available avionics and airframes according to necessity. Following projects are known:
Modification to use Chinese PL-7 (itself a copy of French Matra 550 Magic) air -to-air missiles was studied in 1994 or 1995.
Introduced only in 1995 to add chaff/flare dispenser on outboard underwing pylons. No photos have been shown.
Offogh (Horizon) project
In July 1999 it was announced that this project had improved the range of the APQ-159 fire control radar from 32 to 64 km in search modus and 16 to 40 km in tracking mode and the radar had been equipped with a 90 off-boresight capability, bringing with the Raad project the compatibility to employ Chinese CATIC PL-7, Russian R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) and Sidewinder AIM-9P. Earlier, at an exhibition in Tehran during February 1996, one F-5E with an PL-7 missile was put on show.
Manufacturing an air-to-air missile was high on the self-sufficency requirement. This was realised with "Fatter", consisting of an AIM-9P Sidewinder body and motor and completely new Iranian avionics. The missile is in service since 2003, reported available in considerable number.
Sattar 1 and Sattar 2 project
air-to-surface missiles have been revealed mid-1999; the first is said
to have a 20 km range and the second is said to have a completely
design, equipped with a Paveway-type search sensor and a range
of 30km. These two missiles are intended for use by Iran's F-4E
Phantoms and F-5E Tiger IIs.
Air-to-air refuelling probe
An air-refuelling probe equipped Northrop F-5E was seen for the first time in April 2009 on an F-5E. This was a prelude to the modification of the fleet to extend the rather limited range of this fighter, but it was not followed.
The Simorgh (a winged creature in the shape of a bird) project involved the conversion of stored Northrop F-5A and RF-5As into two seaters (mentioned totally 13), needed due to the shortage of advanced trainer in the Air Force, replacing old Lockheed T-33As.
HESA was charged to realise it, starting with the conversion at its Izfahan factory from around 1991, later Iran Manufacturing industries (IAMI) at Izfahan/Shahid Babael AB. Northrop documentation was available and clandestine import of avionics and cockpit transparencies from the USA was organized; work on the first airframe started around 1993. Seven are said to have been delivered by the end of the year 2002, 9 by 2005.
Prototype Simorgh conversion, serial 09. Photo: HESA?
Overhaul facility showing 1 Simorgh two-seater. 1 Northrop RF-5A modified as Simorgh single-seater (?),
1 Northrop RF-5A and, probably, 1 Northrop F-5E.
Photo: Fly Angel
In-flight view of Simoragh code 11 and an unknown one; strangely tail and nose stripes
seem to be blue/white/red instead of green/white/red like the national flag.
Improved overhaul/manufacture capacities to increase self-sufficeny were launched in 2008. The Air Force showed remarkable capability in building parts and overhauling aircrafts, including Grumman F-14s, Mikoyan MiG-21s, Mig-29s and Pilatus PC-7s "Shahid Babael AB/Izfahan
Was an initial uprade using he same designs and airframe as the original Northrop ones.
Kowsar I (fighter)
This project unveiled in 2018 was started to give a new lease-of-life to the remaining Tigers (around 60) in Iranian use and extend their service life till approximately 2040.
The Air Force Commander in Chief flew an F-5 on a final test flight in March 2018 at Vahdati AFB, recently overhauled in Iran; also anounced in September 2018 was first succcessfull overhaul of an F-5 (together with an Mirage F.1) in 12.500 man/hours at the Shahid Nasser Habibi AB/Mashad in Northeastern Iran.
Photo: MEHR Agency
Newly overhauled Northrop F-5E serial 3 at Shahid Nasser Habibi AB (Mashad)
Unconfirmed information state that former Vietnamese Northrop F-5A were received at an unknown date and, at least one, modified to two-seater by HESA for use by the 85th Squadron, renamed Advanced Training Squadron.
One of two Simorghs shown to the public
was at Kish Island air show in October 2002, serial 3_7020b ex
RF-5A. Note 8 on tail showing its home base: 8th Tactical Air Base-Isfahan.
Photo: Holger Müller www.mig-21.de
Photo: Shahram S.
3-7017B first noted camouflaged Simorgh landing at Tehran-Mehrabad on 17-06-08
Simorgh 3-7013B landing at Tehran-Mehrabad on 17-06-08, note big "Simorgh" drawinging on tail, different to
3_7020B shown above; five Simorgh have participated at the fly-past in Tehran on 17-06-08.
Photo: Shahram S.
A The Air Force Commander in Chief flew an F-5 on final test flight in March 2018 at Shahab AFB, recently overhauled in Iran; also anounced in September 2018 was the successfull overhaul of an F-5 (together with an Mirage F.1) in 12.500 man/hours at the Shahid Nasser Habibi AB/Izfahan in Northeastern Iran.
and manufacture of "new" aircrafts
The second aim was to develop new aircrafts and avionics; this was realised in several projects. Each was given a name, which, unfortunately, often changed creating some confusion.
Following projects are based on the Northrop F-5 and are probably only ment as technological demonstrators to help development of a much more advanced trainer/fighter named Shafagh, allegedly based on the Russian-Iranian "Project Integral".
Azarakhsh (Lightning) project
This upgraded aircraft was to be manufacture by the Owj complex to include (mostly made in Chinese) avionics upgrade: Sy-80 Fire Control System (needing to expand radome slightly and delete of one M39 cannon), two MFD, GPS, TACAN, HUD, RWR and PL-5C air-to-air missiles. Chinese and Russian experts and aeronautical engineers collaborated with local experts.Four men and three Chinese experts participated to the project. The first reverse-engined aircraft was used as a test aircraft, followed by another single- and 1 double-seaters.
Fully bomb-laden double-seater Azarakhsh seen on take-off. It possibly is an Northrop F-5F
painted in Azarakhsh colours during the excercise "Blow of Zolfaqar", on 06-09-06.
This was an new monufacturing Project by HESA on the basis of the Northrop F-5F; a new bubble canopy, single- instead of doule-seater, was to replace the original one. Back seat was removed and replaced by an extra fuel tank, spin extened for extra fuel. Project was abandoned, no prototype was built.
Saeqheh I (Thunderbolt) project alias "Azarakhsh-2"
Saeqheh is the most advanced F-5 modification project known, probably realised to learn about the effect of twin tail on the aircraft's performance to gain experience for the development of the new twin-tail fighter named Shafaqh, confirmed by the commander of the Owj Complex (which built the aircaft) in 2017.
New outboard canted fins were probaby influenced by the Canadian Venga TG-10, all-composite jet tainer and light strike aircraft, shown at Le Bourget in 1994.,
Saeqheh was developed by MATSA Air Force Technology and Electronic Center and the Shahid Sattari Air Force University of Teheran, starting in 1998, first flight occurring on 30-05-04. Northrop F-5E airframes, rebuilt from scrap, were converted to the new configuration (at least one is a former Vietnamese aircraft). Iranian made, partially digitalized components have replaced some parts of the Emerson APG-159 radar; new platforms have replaced the navigation systems and radios. It officially first flew 08-07-04 from Mehrabad AFB, entered service with the Air Force on 06-09-06 and was claimed to be the first completely designed and manufactured aircraft in Iran.
Project was transferred to Iranian Aircraft Manufacturing Industries for further development in 2009.
Photo: FARS Agency
First prototype serial S110-001 in original colours. Visible is the F-18 similar fin and new square air inlets.
prototypes were built and it seems 9 additional modifications from
Northrop F-5E were planned,against the wishes of the Air Force. Only a
total of five aircrafts have been sighted till now.
Officially the aircraft entered serivice on 06-09-06. Known is the participation of the first prototype to the exercise "Blow of Zolfaqar", which began on 19-08-06 ending on 07-09-06, carrying out attack missions armed with Multiple Rocket Launcher, as shown here accompanied by an F-5F; the aircraft was without Sidewinder missile rails at wing tips.
Two additional prototypes flew from
Tehran on 20-09-07. The three aircrafts
joined the IRAF on 22-09-07 when they made their appearance to fly-by at
the National Army Day. All three aircrafts participated to the same event in
the year 2008.
Photo: FARS News Agency/Hosseini Fatemi
First and second prototype (background) S110-001/-002 landing at Mehrabad on 22-09-07. Note second
prototype with modified pitot tube, fin attachment to fuselage, normal round air inlets, and new, slightly
different paint for each aircraft, reminding US Blue Angels aerobatic team colours.
Photo: Shahram S.
Saeqeh participated actively at air-shows, among which the one at Bandar Abbas Naval Base on
June 02nd, the air-parade at Teheran on Semptenber 22nd, and to exercise Milad-e-Noor-e-Velayat
on June 22nd to 24th 2009 in Southern Iran.
Saeqeh equipped Squadron has been formed according to an statement made
by the Commander of the Air Force made on 24-02-10, both for air
defence and ground attack with bombs, rockets and cannons. This is not tought to be a new Squadron, but the aircrafts integrated
in the 23rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Tabriz AB. Only 4 prototypes have been photographed at the same time.
Sidewinder (or local product) and cannon (rockets?) pod armed prototype 3-7367 at Dezful airshow March 2013.
Iranian medias stated in January 2015 that mass production of the Saegeh has started, unofficial sources mentioned that 24 Northrop F-5s were planned to be modified.
Photo: Saeed EzadiLine-up of Azaraksh, F-5F, Saegeh at Dezful/Vahdati AB on 24-03-10. Note tiger head on Northrop F-5F
Three camouflaged two-seaters were shown for the first time at Teheran-Mehrabad in April 2015 (serialled 3-7368) and on 18-04-17 (serial 3-7182), one at Kish Island on 17.11.16 (3-7370).
One of the first Saegheh II to be shown (possibly the prototype), serial 3-7182 Front view of serial 3-7182
Poor quality still from a video of a Saeqeh II carrying an underfuselage tank, underwing training (possibly) air-to-air missile (which one?),
no wing-tip missile.
According to local soureces the are 8 single- and 2 doubleseaters in service beginning 2020.Kowsar 88 project (trainer), renamed Yasin