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

An 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:

                          Photo: unknown

Modification to use Chinese PL-7 (itself a copy of French Matra 550 Magic) air -to-air missiles was studied in 1994 or 1995.

Zam-Zam project

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.

Fatter project
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

IThese 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 indigenous 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.

Simorgh project
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

Saeqeh 80

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.

frame 1        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
Note 8 on tail showing its home base: 8th Tactical Air Base-Isfahan.
                                                                                                   Photo: Holger Müller

    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.
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.

Development 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 is a reverse enginered of both the basic Northrop F-5E and F-5F aircraft presented as completely developed by Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries (HESA) at Isfahan and  locally built, but according to some fonts, only original frames having been improved as
Silk Rod 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.

In April 1997 the Air Force declared that HESA had successfully designed, built and tested its first fighter aircraft; by late 1997 mass production was to start.

This capability was reached after manufacturing F-5E fuselages, avionics etc for refurbishment of damaged airframes. It has strengthened and reinforced composite wings, providing capability to carry 1'000 kg guided bombs, a laser designator and a new, more advanced radar with some Russian parts. Additional improvements are in the possibility to carry locally developed new air-to-ground (Zulfiqar) and Shabaz-1/2 unguided, large caliber rockets in addition to the normal Sidewinders and Chinese PL-7  air-to-air missiles and bombs. The General Electric J-85 engines are uprated with stronger thrust; first flight is given in 1997.
It participated to the
exercise "Blow of Zolfaqar", which began on 19-08-06. By mid-2000 four aircraft were said to have been undergoing operational tests and, officially, a production of about ten aircrafts per year was foreseen to fulfil an order of 30-35 aircrafts, which never materialised.

A second upgrade, under the designation
Azarakhsh II, seems to include FIAR Grifo-7 radar and ability to fire Chinese PL-7 and AIM-9J missiles.

Two single and 1 double-seater Azarakhsh (of possibly 6 built by 2001) participated to the National Army Day fly-past at Tehran on 17-04-2008, serial 3-7361 is shown hereunder. Probably all these are simply testbed.

Shahram S.
                            Azarakhsh 3-7361 landing


                      3-7174 Only double-seater Azarakhsh known, seen 17-04-08         Photo: MEHR agency

   Photo: unknown
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.

                                         Drawing: Venga

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.

Three 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 
on June 22nd to 24th 2009 in Southern Iran.


One 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 Ezadi

               Line-up of  Azaraksh, F-5F, Saegeh at Dezful/Vahdati AB on 24-03-10. Note tiger head on Northrop F-5F

       Photo: Dara Z.
              Under fusesalge view of IAI Saegeh 1, serial 3-7378 2nd Tactical Air Base at Kish Island Air Show, 28-11-18

frame 1 
Note double tail.
A mysterous Saeqeh I monument was shown at Mehrabad AB on a video. Who has details?

Saeqheh II
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

                                     Photo: unknown
            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
Shown on 21-08-18; it was first announced in 2012, mentioning that it was a new two-seat trainer under development, called at the time Kowsar-88.
It incorporates parts of the Northrop F-A and F-5A and 50 are foreseen to be ordered, but none has been reported till now

Kowsar II project (fighter)
The aircraft was shown to President Rohani visiting an armament exhibition in Teheran on 21-08-18. Mentioned this as a prototype, two seater (serial 3-7400)
fully developed in-country by
Aircraft Manufacturing Industries (IAMI).
It is clearly derivated from the Northrop F-5F; has only a single tail (not like double tails of the Saeqheh II). The aircraft has been produced/modified by Iran Aircraft
Manufacturing Industries (IAMI)

It looks like development of the above mentioned projects, the whole avionics has been modernized in-country: new Grifo radar copy, INS/GPS, TACAN navigation
suite, modern HUD+MFD with digital map, modern IFF, RWR, altimeter, a new ejector seat (
based on the Russian K-36, as used on the MiG-29) and J-85-GE-21 turbojet called "Owj", also made in Iran.
As armament it carries one 20 millimeter cannon, can be fitted with 2 Fatir missiles (Iranian built AIM-9 Sidewinders), 2'400 kg of weapons with 5 minutes combat at maximum power/at sea level and several types of Hydra rocket launchers
Italian Grifo radar (Chinese model or its domestic model) is also carried. All this according to Iranian information; quite a lot for a Tiger copy!

The airframe had already been locally manufactured earlier, difficulty at the time was to obtain new avionics, thus being unable to launch a full scale production. The Air Forces commander stated that 15 trainers would be delivered by 2022.

   Partial view of production line; five aircrafts were on the line (published 18-11-18)                           IAMI                             Leaflet with performances   

                Photos: Iranian Ministry of Defence                                                 

              Roll-out (above) and underfuselage view (below) of Kowsar, serial 3-7400

According to some sources an acro-team will be formed with this aircraft, staging an airshow in the International Air Show to be held in 2020, later also in other coutries.
A ream of three aircrafts was shown in 2020. (see Iran Iranian Republic AF)

Is this the aircraft developed in Iran set to replace the Freedom Fighter, or is it just another fake news as it has been several times earlier? Probably just a tech demonstrator.
if not a model.

                     Prototype F-313 08.      Photo: Irib News