Iran has "unveiled" its first "locally manufactured" fighter aircraft, nicknamed the "Saegheh." Reading this AP account, you'd think Tehran had achieved some sort of technological breakthrough. Here's a sample:
The report said the bomber Saegheh is similar to the American F-18 fighter plane, but "more powerful." It also said the plane was "designed, optimized and improved by Iranian experts."
State TV said the Iranian air force had commissioned the Saegheh plane after many test flights in the past year.
Television footage showed the airplane taking off and launching two rockets. The plane had a small cockpit and only one pilot.
"Saegheh is capable of launching both rockets and bombs," the report said.
General Karim Ghavami, commander of Iran's air force, told state-run television that the war games were being held "to show the trans-regional forces that we are ready to defend our country up to the latest drop of our blood."
Here's the real scoop on the Saegheh. It's nothing more than a re-manufactured U.S. F-5 (which has been in Iran's inventory for more than 30 years), with a second vertical stabilizer and a slightly modified nose. The aircraft may also have a more capable air intercept radar, although nothing on the scale of early-model F-15s or F-16s, let alone the F-18 or F-22. The Saegheh's payload is minimal, so are its self-defense capabilities, and it can loiter in a target area for only a few minutes. In a nutshell, the Saegheh is hardly evolutionary, let alone revolutionary.
Yet, the MSM laps up every PR release from Iran like a kitten drinking warm milk. And that leads me to a larger point, concerning Iran's recent displays of military force--events that have received extensive play in the western press. Some of these displays are little more than public relations stunts; I received a tip the other day (that I'm still trying to verify) that a recent broadcast of an Iranian missile test was (in fact) footage of a Chinese launch from a few months ago. True, Iran is trying to upgrade its military capabilities, but much of Tehran's military remains poorly equipped and marginally trained. Their recent embrace of "asymmetric warfare" is, in part, an admission that their conventional forces are hopelessly broken and no match for a superior military foe.
I don't know what "Saegheh" means in Farsi, but a better nickname for the aircraft might be the local word for "target."