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Iran appears to have used the designation "Azarakhsh" (Thunder) to reference at least three and possibly four different aircraft configurations. None of these designs has entered serial production, and the promiscuous use of this name remains something of a puzzle. Iran is under no obligation to disclose all the details of its arms program, and to the contrary, following the old Soviet maxim of "show the best and hide the rest" is evidently engaged in a perception management effort seeking to magnify its apparent military strength by displaying "new" weapons. Some part of the confusion about "Azarakhsh" may simply reflect the confusion of Western observers, but in their bewilderment they have been assisted by the Islamic Republic.

Azarakhsh - 1997

Iran was not known to have possessed advanced technology to build fighter planes. However, in April 1997 Iranian Brigadier General Arasteh, a deputy head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces (serving under Major General Ali Shahbazi, the joint chief of staff) claimed that Iran had successfully designed, constructed, and tested its first fighter aircraft, the Azarakhsh. According to one theory, Iran cobbled together an aircraft by reverse-engineered elements from a number of other aircraft. Evidently a modified F-5, this Iranian design evolved from an examination of the wide variety of fighter aircraft in Iran's inventory, which included both the F-4 and F-5, along with training and experimentation.

The Owj Industrial Complex was established 1987 to design and manufacture all kinds of aircraft. The benchmark chosen was Northrop F-5, with which the IRIAF has had considerable experience. The Azarakhsh (lightning) fighter was to be a nearly exact copy of the F-5E Tiger II. Externally it is distinguishable by a [barely visible] 17cm extension of the nose, accommodating a new radar incorporating Iranian parts and technology and reportedly based on a Russian design - Kopjo. It is clearly a proof-of-concept and reverse-engineering demonstrator rather than an operational aircraf.

Brigadier General Arasteh stated in April 1997 that the "production line of this aircraft will begin work in the near future." Iranian officials announced in September 1997 that Iran had started mass producing its first locally-designed fighter-bomber. In February 1999 commander of the Air Force Brigadier-General Habibollah Baqaei offered a report on the achievements of the air force. He said the Air Force had made great progress since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in the operational, technical, educational and research fields and in manufacturing fighter planes of Azarakhsh and training plane of Tondar as well as radar receivers and is strong enough to defend the air-space of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In June 1999 it was reported that Iran had begun series production of the Azarakhsh. By mid-2000 four aircraft were said to have been undergoing operational tests and a production of about ten aircraft per year was foreseen to fulfil an order of 30-35 aircraft, which it seems never materialised. As of 2000 series production was expected to start in 2001. As of 2001 there were said to be six in inventory, with a production schedule established for 30 aircraft over the following three years. This did not happen. Some 30 were ordered, but only 6 to 9 were actually built and it is not clear whether they are in service.

According to the Air Force's Gen. Safari, head of the OIC, this establishment had so far produced the Azarakhsh fighter-bomber aircraft, a reverse-engineered version of the F-5E. The second prototype of the Azarakhsh was reported to have flown in mid-February 2001 [contradicting other reports], together with the first prototype of another Iranian jet trainer design called the Tondar. Other OIC accomplishments include the rebuilding of 17 American-built fighter aircraft heavily damaged during the war with Iraq.

Azarakhsh was said to have 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-5 (7?) air-to-air missiles and bombs. The General Electric J-85 engines were uprated with higher thrust.

The IRIAF was forced to abandon production plans for the Azarakhsh, as it was an almost exact copy of the F-5E Tiger II. Consequently, Owj Industries designed the Sa'eqeh-80, which first flew on 30 May 2004. 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 April 2008.

Azarakhsh - 2000

In March 2000 Jane's Defense weekly reported that Iran's indigenous Azarakhsh (lightning) fighter was a scaled-up U.S. Northrop Grumman F-5f Tiger, incorporating Russian avionics. The two-seater multirole aircraft was previously believed to have been an assembly of an existing Russian or Chinese fighter with modifications. Quoting Iranian sources, Jane's suggested that the resulting derivative was about 10 to 15 per cent larger than an F-5F and was intended primarily for air-to-ground operations. Iran, it said, had yet to publicly release photos of the fighter, which so far had only been shown at a distance on Iranian television. The weekly believed that only four examples of the Azarakhsh may be in existence and that series production may not start until 2001.

Azarakhsh was said to feature shoulder mounted air intakes. It is said to be 10-15 percent larger than the F-5. It was said to incorporate an Iranian-designed radar, but some of the avionics modules were actually of Russian design. The Azarakhsh was said to use an upgraded version of N-019 Topaz (N-019ME) radar. In 2001 the Azarakhsh (Lightning) fighter was reported to resembles a 10-20% scaled-up version of the two-seat Northrop F-5F Tiger II with an 8,000kg (17,700lb) maximum take-off weight. It was thought to be powered by two Klimov RD33 engines (the same as the RSK MiG-29 Fulcrum, which is in Iranian service) and equipped with Russian systems and avionics including the Phazotron Topaz radar.

This appears to have been a paper airplane and was never seen in public.

Azarakhsh - 2007

On 18 July 2007 Iran's Defence Minister Brigadier-General Mostafa Najjar said the defence ministry and military would hold joint military exercises "within next month." He told reporters on the sidelines of a Majlis session that new weapons would be introduced in the military maneuver. The Defence minister said that Azarakhsh fighter planes would be introduced in the exercise.

In August 2007 the Fars News Agency reported that Iran had successfully performed a test flight of the Azarakhsh fighter. The test flight was performed in Isfahan where a number of high-ranking military officials including the Defense Minister were present, an Iran's Air Force official has said. Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar had earlier announced that Azarakhsh would be used in a forthcoming wargames.

Iran had successfully tested its new Azarakhsh (Thunder) fighter, Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar said on 06 August 2007. The Azarakhsh was said to be the fifth generation of Iranian aircraft and it was developed in Isfahan by the Iranian army, Defense Ministry, and aircraft-manufacturing company HESA. Iran is also working on a second type of Azarakhsh aircraft called the Saqeh (Lightning).

On 06 August 2007 Iran showed off for the first time a new fighter jet said to be modelled on the American F-5 but built using domestic technology, state media reported. The "Azarakhsh" (Lightning) jet - one of the first to be home-produced by Iran - made a successful flight in the central city of Isfahan in a ceremony attended by Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and other officials. The fly-by in Isfahan appeared to have been the first time the Azarakhsh jet had been shown in public. "The success of this domestically developed fighter plane is another example of the technological achievements of our country," said Isfahan governor Morteza Bakhtiari, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. "At a time when the United States is selling its arms to its allies in the region, our country's specialists are taking big strides every day towards self-sufficiency in defence," he added. The development of the plane was first announced in September last year, when military officials said that it was "comparable" to the US F-5 fighter jet. Iran had also developed another homemade war plane named "Saegheh" (Thunder) which it has described as similar to the American F-18 fighter jet.

The aircraft had been manufactured in cooperation with experts from the Army, Defense Ministry and HESA aircarft manufacturing industries in the central province of Isfahan, the minister told reporters. "The Azarakhsh fighter plan is now at the stage of industrial production and its mass production will start in the future," said the minister. He added that the fighter's successful test would lead to plans for "manufacturing of the fifth generation of Iranian aircraft." Army and Defense Ministry experts were working on the second type of Azarakhsh fighters called Saeqeh (alternately translated as Thunderbolt or Lightning), which would be also tested in the near future, Mohammad-Najjar added.

The Azarakhsh prototype seen in 2007 featured a double tail, new afterburners and bigger air inlet indicating exchange of engines. The Azarakhsh air inlets were rectangular, as in the F-4 Phanton. The Azarakhsh also had an modification in the area of the wing next the air inlet.

On 23 September 2007 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inspected three models of jet fighters -- Saeqeh, Azarakhsh and Tazarv -- Iran Air Force unveiled on the anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980. He attended the Air Force Base 1 in Southern Tehran to appreciate the technical teams involved in manufacturing the Iranian made jet fighters. Saeqeh and Azarakhsh jet fighters manufactured jointly by the Ministry of Defense and Logistics of the Armed Forces and the Air Force of the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran are for military missions and Tazarv (pheasant) is for training. President Ahmadinejad expressed pleasure with success of Iranian technicians in manufacturing the planes.

Azarakhsh - 2008

The "Azarakhsh" serial final version seen in 2008 had finer lines, a ram air inlet aft of the wing [common to all F-5s but in evidence on this variant] and leading edge extension (LEX) "teeth" in the wings. The most visible feature is that the basic layout of the plane has been changed from a low wing aircraft with air inlets above the wing to a mid-wing aircraft with inlets below the wings. The wings were probably set higher to allow wider choice of munitions.

The high performance of modern fighters such as the F/A-18 in air combat manoeuvers is due in large part to its aerodynamic shape, and in particular, to the effect of the sharp, highly- sweptback leading edge extension (LEX) that extends forward from each wing root. At angles of attack typical in air combat manoeuvres, each LEX generates a large vortex above the aircraft. The lifting forces due to the LEX vortices give the aircraft its manoeuvring capability. The manoeuvrability does not come without penalty, however. The centerline core of the LEX vortex can undergo the phenomenon of vortex bursting or vortex breakdown. This occurs when smooth, steady airflow along the vortex core suddenly breaks down and becomes disturbed and unsteady. The core also expands considerably in diameter. Under air combat manoeuvring conditions the unsteady flow downstream of the vortex burst position impacts on the fins and tailplane of the aircraft, causing high dynamic loads on these surfaces. Severe structural vibration results, with consequent detrimental effects on the fatigue life of the aircraft structure.

Survivability and structural requirements in advanced aircraft require cooling and thermal management of aircraft and propulsion structures. Additionally, some applications of aircraft technology, particularly those applications on supersonic aircraft, require sources of cooled, high pressure air. Conventional methods for propulsion system cooling in current aircraft engines typically employ either engine fuel, or air from one of the various sources in the propulsion system as a coolant. Among the traditional sources of cooling air are ram air from the inlet. A characteristic of fixed area inlet configurations is that the ducted air speed generally increases with vehicle speed and higher speeds generally improve the rate of convective heat transfer from the heat generating component to the ducted air. Low ducted air temperatures also improve the rate of heat transfer.

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