Iran will build a drone version of the Qaher-313, an alleged domestically manufactured stealth fighter jet, an Iranian official has said.
According to the official, several new variants of the aircraft will be unveiled shortly.
The news was revealed by the managing director of the Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO) General Afshin Khaje Fard during a televised interview, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported.
The jet has reached “full maturity” and will be adopted by two military units, Fard added.
Fard also added that new versions of the aircraft will be presented during the middle of the next Iranian year, which begins on March 21, 2023. Following this timeframe, the unveiling is likely to take place in September-October 2023.
According to Tasnim, Fard also said that the new year will see Iran testing two prototypes of electric aircraft. He added that Iranian-made firefighting drones have been purchased by two foreign countries.
Qaher-313, also known as the F-313 and allegedly manufactured by IAIO for the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, was first revealed in 2013 and was met with much skepticism from international observers.
According to Iranian claims, the aircraft is “among the most advanced fighter jets in the world” and features advanced stealth characteristics, high maneuverability, and the ability to carry guided weapons.
A supposed prototype was presented at an unveiling ceremony, with the officials claiming that the jet had already performed test flights.
A number of international experts noted that the presented aircraft is likely to be a mockup and incapable of actual flight. They highlighted various questionable features, such as the jet’s dashboard featuring random instruments lifted from small commercial aircraft, and its body being ostensibly molded in a shape that lacks any aerodynamic sense.
Iran also shared a video of the aircraft allegedly performing a test flight, which appears to feature a small-scale model, controlled from the ground.
Iran’s aerospace industry has been suffering from a range of international sanctions, some of which date back to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Most of the combat aircraft wielded by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force are Western-made jets inherited from the pre-revolution Imperial Iranian Air Force.
They include the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the Northrop F-5 Tiger II and the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, delivered in the 1960s and 70s.
In later decades Iran supplemented these aircraft with small numbers of bought, captured or interned Chinese Chengdu F-7, Soviet MiG-29 and French Mirage F1 jets.
Initial rumors about Iran planning to receive modern fighter jets surfaced in 2022. According to the reports, Russia agreed to deliver 24 Sukhoi Su-35 4.5 generation fighter jets that were originally ordered by Egypt.
Russia reportedly began training Iranian pilots on the new jets in spring 2022, and in early 2023 Iranian officials confirmed that the deliveries would begin soon.