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HESA Saeqeh (Thunderbolt)

Lightweight Multirole Fighter Aircraft

HESA Saeqeh (Thunderbolt)

Lightweight Multirole Fighter Aircraft


The HESA Saeqeh appeared on global media radars in July of 2004 and is nothing more than a Iranian take on the American F-5 Tiger.
National Flag Graphic
YEAR: 2014
STATUS: Active, Limited Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (IAIO) / Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA) - Iran

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the HESA Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 52.13 feet (15.89 meters)
WIDTH: 26.67 feet (8.13 meters)
HEIGHT: 13.12 feet (4 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 9,700 pounds (4,400 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 19,842 pounds (9,000 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x Afterburning turbojet engines (most likely related to the General Electric J85-GE-21 turbojet line).
SPEED (MAX): 1,056 miles-per-hour (1700 kilometers-per-hour; 918 knots)
RANGE: 1,864 miles (3,000 kilometers; 1,620 nautical miles)
CEILING: 52,493 feet (16,000 meters; 9.94 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 34,400 feet-per-minute (10,485 meters-per-minute)


2 x 20mm M39A2 Gatling-style internal cannons.

Seven external hardpoints (including wingtips and fuselage centerline) for air-to-air, air-to-surface guided or drop munitions including missiles, bombs, rocket pods, and fuel droptanks.

Series Model Variants
• Saeqeh - Base Fighter Designation
• Sa'eqeh - Alternative Name
• Saegheh - Alternative Name
• Saeqeh-80 - Alternative Designation
• Saeqeh-2 - Updated variant with two-seat configuration; modernized avionics and equipment set.


Detailing the development and operational history of the HESA Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) Lightweight Multirole Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 11/5/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Islamic Republic of Iran has benefited greatly from their associations with both the United States (pre-1979 revolution) and the Soviet Union/Russia to the point that their indigenous arms industry has finally begun to show the fruits consistent with decades of operation and re-engineering of various weapon systems comprised of assault rifles, main battle tanks and aircraft. Iran fielded the simple, export-minded American-made Northrop F-5 Tigers in its war with Iraq during the 1980s as well as the Grumman F-14 Tomcats and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs. Along with these aircraft came the base technology within - modern avionics, afterburning turbojet engines and guided missile technology. At least 140 American F-5 Tigers were delivered to the Iranian Air Force with some 60 or so still believed to be operational today.

The Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) is a joint development effort concerning Iranian Ministry of Defense and the Iranian Air Force to produce a budget-minded local multirole aircraft platform displaying modern systems, qualities and capabilities of her contemporaries worldwide. The initial Saeqeh prototype was first flown on May 30th, 2004 and showcased to the Iranian public on state-run television in July of that year and is known to have participated in the August 2006 wargame. At least three prototypes were also featured in a follow-up September 2007 military parade. The aircraft was formally introduced into service with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) on September 22nd, 2007.

Outwardly, the Saeqeh is of a conventional design and layout, appearing as something of a slight cross-breed consisting of the American-made Northrop F-5 Tiger and the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. It is more in the class of the former, however, due to Iranian experience in the operation of the F-5 from decades prior. The cockpit is situated in the forward fuselage which consists of a long nose cone housing a radar system. The cockpit is covered over in a large canopy and only the rear view is covered by the fuselage spine - the rest of the views out of the cockpit are unobstructed. Wins are low-set monoplane assemblies fitted to amidships. The fuselage is straddled by a pair of intake ducts that run three-quarters of the fuselage length and aspirate the two engines. Each intake features a smallish rectangular opening at the front and exhausts through a pair of circular rings at the rear. Instead of the F-5 Tiger's single vertical tail fin, the Saeqeh fields a pair of outward canted vertical fins similar in scope to the F/A-18 Hornet. The undercarriage is of a conventional tricycle design made up of two main legs and a nose leg. The main legs retract inwards towards centerline while the nose leg retracted forward, under and ahead of the cockpit floor. The twin engine arrangement and twin vertical tail fins are the key differentiating features of the Saeqeh when compared to the F-5.

Due to the lack of available published information, some technical aspects of the Saeqeh are either assumed or estimated - some even based on the capabilities of the F-5 itself. The aircraft will most likely feature a modernized digital cockpit with avionics and armament systems that allow it to compete on the modern battlefield. Her armament stable will most likely be largely Russian in origin and include access to the latest in guided-missile and bomb technology. Her defensive suite is said to be entirely locally-produced within the Iranian military complex, negating the need to procure expensive or limited-function systems from foreign parties. The Saeqeh is not a 5th Generation design by any scope and does not incorporate any known stealth technologies as may be found in the American F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II series of jets or the upcoming Russian Sukhoi T-50. In fact, the Saeqeh may be nothing more than a modernized, highly-modified indigenous version of the American F-5E Tiger II and thusly showcase similar agility and only limited multi-role qualities. While Iranian authorities compare the Saeqeh favorably to the United States Navy's F/A-18 Hornet mount, its true capabilities remain to be seen. To date, at least five Saeqeh aircraft have been known produced by the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company with a further 24 to be expected. The first squadron to field the Saeqeh has already been created.

The Saeqeh fighter has also been seen in nomenclature as the "Saeqeh-80". Three distinct versions were shown on Iranian television on September 23rd, 2007, each being "inspected" by President Ahmadinejad, and are known respectively as the "Saeqeh", "Azarakhsh" and "Tazarv".


August 2013 - It was announced that the Saeqeh would see official introduction in 2013. It has since been granted operational status in the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force with an initial batch of 24 aircraft planned. The Saeqeh-2 - an upgraded two-seat form - joined the line in 2015 and features more modern systems as well as a training capability. First operator is to become the 23rd Tactical Fighter Squadron of Tabriz/Shaheed Fakouri TFB-2.

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 1100mph
Lo: 550mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (1,056mph).

    Graph average of 825 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the HESA Saeqeh (Thunderbolt)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Supported Arsenal
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an aircraft Gatling-style rotating gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft external fuel tank
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.