This is the Qaher-313 "Vanquisher," Iran's brand new, domestically produced, highly advanced, stealthy multi-role strike aircraft. Or at least, that's what Iran is telling everyone. Here's what Iranian Defense Minister says about the plane, which is about the extent of the information that's available:
"Qaher-313 has been completely designed and developed by Iranian experts. It has a unique design. It can evade radar. It's also capable of flying at very low altitudes and is designed for short field takeoff and landing... [and] is comparable with the most advanced planes in its class."
So why are we skeptical? Well, some smart people over at FlightGlobal have been taking a look at pics of this thing (you can see them all in our gallery), and have some rather pointed concerns:
- The aircraft is tiny. There doesn't seeem to be room for a radar system in the nose, much less anywhere to store the fuel or weapons that a combat aircraft would presumably require.
- The engine is equally tiny. It's covered up (or perhaps not even installed) in the pics, and coupled with the small exhaust and even smaller air inlets on the sides of the cockpit, an afterburner seems unlikely, and supersonic performance seems even less likely.
- The plexiglass canopy is of such poor quality that it's hard to imagine anyone actually flying this thing and not crashing (there's a good pic looking through it in the gallery).
- The cockpit is bizarre. There's no heads-up display, a lot of the instrumentation doesn't seem to be connected to anything, and if you look very closely the airspeed indicator redlines at 250 knots, which is less than 300 mph. Also, the interior looks rather a lot like moulded fiberglass with no structural components.
Our guess is that the aircraft on display doesn't actually fly. It's a mock-up. So then the question is, does Iran have one of these things that does fly? The only evidence we have is in the video below, which reportedly shows the Qaher-313 doing some fly-bys, but it's suspiciously small and suspiciously dark and suspiciously blurry and suspiciously far away with a suspiciously loud engine. So we're suspicious. What seems a bit more likely is that Iran has this full-size mock-up along with some flight test models including sub-scale remote-control versions, which is what they're showing off in the video, with some sound dubbed in. We're not experts, of course, but Iran has done this sort of thing before, so when we see something like this pop up out of nowhere our instinct is to wait for further evidence to present itself.
By the way, for your aircraft fans out there, if those downswept wings reminded you of something, it's probably this:
This, of course, is Boeing's Bird of Prey prototype aircraft, which definitely (still) has an ultra-futuristic look going for it, even though its very first flight was back in 1996 and its very last flight was only three years later.
One reason I'm personally skeptical about the Qaher-313 is that it looks just a little bit too much like Iranian designers went back through the catalog of cool combat aircraft, picked out some of the coolest bits, and just stuck them all together to make a new airplane with a badass look about it. Like, "hey, downswept wings are pretty nifty! And canards! And an angular fuselage and outswept tail fins! Yeah, just stick it all on there, why not!" The Qaher-313 may fly, or maybe not, but one thing's for sure: it's certainly looks awesome and dangerous.
As long as you don't look too closely, that is.