Iran Reveals Newest Fighter Jet in Defiance of U.S. Sanctions

The world was given its first look at Iran's new fighter jet on Tuesday as President Hassan Rouhani inspected the Kowsar aircraft.

The fighter had its first on-camera outing one day before Iran's National Defense Industry Day, with video and images of the unveiling showing Rouhani sitting in the cockpit.

The Kowsar is Iran's first domestically produced fighter, and according to Iran's Tasnim News Agency, has highly integrated architecture and a fire-control system that uses fourth-generation digital data networks.

🎥اولین جنگنده بومی پیشرفته مجهز به سامانه‌های اویونیک و کنترل آتش بومی نسل ۴ با نام کوثر با حضور رئیس جمهور رونمایی شد.

— خبرگزاری فارس (@FarsNews_Agency) August 21, 2018

The supersonic aircraft will reportedly be able to carry a range of weapons and is designed for use in short-range air-support missions. Tasnim said the plane is outfitted with "advanced avionics" and multipurpose radar.

According to the state-backed Press-TV, the Kowsar can use digital military data networks, multipurpose digital monitors, ballistic calculation software and smart mobile mapping systems. It also offers pilots a built-in heads-up targeting display.

The aircraft comes in single- and double-seater configurations. The double-cockpit design, which was on display Tuesday, is meant for pilot training as well as combat missions. A video from last year showed the Kowsar taxiing on runways in preparation for test flights.

The Kowsar project is a significant achievement for Iranian weapons researchers, and represents the country's efforts to become more self-sufficient in military technology. Iran's air force still relies on outdated American aircraft purchased before the 1979 revolution and a handful of Russian jets. Iran's aging fleet puts it at a huge disadvantage compared to regional rivals such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as the U.S.

According to the Military Factory weapons database, the Kowsar's test schedule indicated the jet could enter full service in the early 2020s. The website described the aircraft as "highly conventional as advanced jet trainers go." The wingspan is believed to be around 36 feet and the plane's length just over 40 feet.

On Saturday, Iran's Defense Minister Amir Hatami said the Kowsar would be unveiled to coincide with National Defense Industry Day. Though Hatami gave few details on the fighter itself, he emphasized the importance of an indigenous defense industry. "We have learned in the [Iran-Iraq] war that we cannot rely on anyone but ourselves," Hatami said in a televised interview. "Our resources are limited and we are committed to establishing security at a minimum cost."

The minister also said Iran was continuing work to upgrade its missile defense networks, motivated by the memories of Iraqi missile attacks between 1980 and 1988. Hatami also said the country's poor relations with and threats from the U.S. and Israel made such upgrades vital.

Despite looming U.S. sanctions, Iran has been bullish in its pursuit of upgraded weapons technology, which its leaders maintain is purely for defensive purposes. Iran's ballistic missile program was a key grievance of President Donald Trump, who wished to renegotiate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to include limits on missile development. In February, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned, "Without a moment of hesitation, the country must move to acquire whatever is necessary for defense, even if the whole world is opposed to it."