Iran received the first of its Northrop F-5 "Freedom Fighter" aircraft from the United States beginning in February of 1965 and these joined the Iranian Air Force at an operational level in June of that year. The original A- and B-model stocks were then sold off to make room in inventory for the F-5E and F-5F models ("Tiger II") that followed. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 eliminated any further deliveries of American-originated military equipment and forced a reliance other export nations friendly to the new regime or a decided evolution of current Iranian aero-industry prowess.
With the valuable experience in operating the F-5 line, the country eventually took to reengineering the F-5 line for its own purposes, producing all-new modern variants to fit ongoing over-battlefield requirements. One development was the HESA "Saeqeh" ("Thunderbolt") which appeared in 2007 for the fighter role (and is detailed elsewhere on this site). Twin, outward-canted vertical tail fins clearly differentiated this model from the original American design. Before this version was debuted, Iranian industry put together the foundation for what became the HESA "Azarakhsh" ("Lightning"), a strike fighter-minded off-shoot of the same F-5 Freedom Fighter / Tiger line.
While performance specs remain largely under wraps, it is assumed that the Iranian aircraft displays some of the same numbers encountered with the original design. It is also assumed that the series still makes use of General Electric turbojet engines rated at about 5,000 lb thrust each with afterburner (3,500 lb thrust dry) which leads to a maximum speed of 1,050 miles per hour (Mach 1.6), a ferry range out to 2,300 miles, and a service ceiling up to 51,500 feet. Rate-of-climb may very well exceed 34,000 feet-per-minute.
American-made F-5E models were completed with Emerson Electric AN/APQ-153 and -159 series radars as well as AN/AVQ-27 Laser Target Designator Sets (LTDSs). Sources indicate the Azarakhsh to be of 2nd or 3rd Generation Fighter quality/capability (work on a possible 4th Generation Fighter form is unknown) and could carry these fits even today or an alternative, locally-derived radar fit instead.
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Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (IAIO) / Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA) - Iran Manufacturer(s)
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