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MIDEAST > Iran unveils futuristic-looking warplane

TEHRAN - Agence France-Presse

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad walks to talk with the pilot of the domestically designed and built Qaher (Conqueror) F-313 fighter jet during a ceremony to unveil it in a warehouse in Tehran on February 2, 2013. Iran unveiled the fighter jet with Ahmadinejad touting it as "one of the most advanced" aircraft in the world. AFP photo

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad walks to talk with the pilot of the domestically designed and built Qaher (Conqueror) F-313 fighter jet during a ceremony to unveil it in a warehouse in Tehran on February 2, 2013. Iran unveiled the fighter jet with Ahmadinejad touting it as "one of the most advanced" aircraft in the world. AFP photo

Iran on Saturday unveiled a fighter jet it said was designed and built domestically, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touting it as "one of the most advanced" aircraft in the world.

State television footage showed the grey, futuristic-looking aircraft, code-named Qaher (Conqueror) F-313, displayed in a hangar.

The warplane "is among the most advanced fighter jets in the world," Ahmadinejad told defence ministry top brass at the unveiling, media reports said.

Ahmadinejad said the aircraft was designed and built in Iran, and was test-flown for "thousands of hours" by pilots who are "very satisfied with its performance." The unveiling comes as Iran marks the 34th anniversary of the 1979 revolution, which replaced the US-backed shah with an Islamic regime.

Iran traditionally uses the anniversary period to showcase military, space and nuclear advances, against the backdrop of international sanctions.

Ahmadinejad called Qaher "a deterrent" meant to send a "message of peace," despite its aggressive name.

Media quoted Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi as saying the plane boasted a very low radar signature, and that "advanced materials" were used to build it.

He said, without elaborating, that it is also equipped with "advanced electro-avionics systems." Vahidi said the plane could land on short runways and will "meet the needs of the Iranian air force." The Islamic republic is subject to a US embargo which prohibits it from buying new fighter jets and spare parts for its aging air force, much of which is of American origin and was bought in a huge pre-revolution spending spree.

Iran also has Russian jets, but in past years has concentrated on developing entirely home-produced warplanes.

Tehran is also locked in a showdown with the UN Security Council over its controversial nuclear programme of uranium enrichment, and talks with world powers aimed at resolving international concerns have been stalled for months.

February/02/2013

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