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Secret Stealth Fighter: The Elusive Aircraft That Has Remained Hidden from Public Eyes

The IAIO Qaher-31 is a planned Iranian single-seat stealth fighter aircraft that was publicly announced on 1 February 2013.

A press presentation about the project was made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi on 2 February 2013, as part of the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies. Independent experts have expressed significant doubts about the viability of the aircraft.

Design and development

According to Iranian government sources, the F-313 Qaher was designed and is indigenously produced in Iran by the Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO), a division of the Ministry of Defense, and IRIAF. The project manager is Hassan Parvaneh.

The aircraft design is a canard configuration. It is described as a stealth fighter built with advanced materials, a very low radar signature and with low-altitude operations capability.Qaher can carry either two 2,000-pound (910 kg) bombs, multiple smaller smart guided missiles, or at least 6 PL-12 type air-to-air missiles.

It features a downward wingtip device which Flight Global noted vaguely resembles the Boeing Bird of Prey prototype, but with a more faceted design similar to the 1970s-era Lockheed Have Blue that was developed into the now retired F-117 Nighthawk. Flight Global also said, “given the apparent small size of the aircraft and its single engine design, the Qaher 313 could be powered by reverse engineered variants of the General Electric J85 turbojet that Iran is known to have in its possession.”

Iran has General Electric J85s as well as a dozen other jet engines as a result of old Northrop F-5s and other American aircraft in its inventory from pre-1979 as well as newer engines from Russia and China. Iran also builds various turbine engines like the Toloue-4 and Toloue-5 for its UAVs. Iran claims they have designed the aircraft using CATIA three-dimensional interactive design software and tested it using simulation software including Gambit numerical grid generation software, fluent flow analysis and simulation software, CFD models and that they have additionally tested the aerodynamics using small sized jet and propeller flying models.

The aircraft was reportedly designed with extra stability and so does not need a fly-by-wire (FBW) system.

A prototype version of the Qaher-313 was portrayed to have test-flown at some point before the presentation.  According to the head of the design team, two sub-sized models have been created and tested. One of the models uses a propeller engine while the other uses a small micro jet engine.  The models were shown in a video clip (along with descriptions by the head of the design team) the same day.

According to Haaretz, the “blurry video published by the Iranians purporting to show the Qaher 313 in flight seems to show not a manned fighter jet but a small radio-operated drone” which agrees with what the designers said about the videos at the Qaher-313 introduction ceremony.

On 10 February 2013, the Iranian Minister of Defense said the claims made by the foreign media about the project are inaccurate and that the engine used by the design had been successfully tested. He also confirmed that the aircraft had not yet been flown, but that taxi and flight tests will occur in the near future.

On 5 March 2017, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan stated that the Qaher-313 was ready for flight testing. It was described by the Fars News Agency as a “logistic aircraft for short distances” and a “light fighter jet used for military and training operations”.

On 15 April 2017, the prototype Qaher-313 conducted taxi tests. This prototype, designated “08”, introduced a number of changes over the models previously showcased, most notably an enlarged cockpit, dual jet exhausts, and a FLIR turret in the nose.