Defense experts deride Iran’s ‘new fighter jet’

The fighter jet called Kowsar was fully domestic made and capable of bombing targets. (Courtesy Tasnim News Agency)
Updated 21 August 2018
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Defense experts deride Iran’s ‘new fighter jet’

  • It is a fourth-generation fighter, with ‘advanced avionics’ and multi-purpose radar
  • The plane was first publicly announced on Saturday by Defense Minister Amir Hatami

LONDON: Iran on Tuesday unveiled what it claimed was its first domestically built, powerful fighter jet — to widespread derision from defense and military experts.

State TV showed President Hassan Rouhani sitting in the cockpit of the new “Kowsar fourth-generation fighter” at the National Defense Industry exhibition in Tehran.

The warplane had “advanced avionics” and multi-purpose radar, and was “100-percent indigenously made,” Iranian state media said.

However, suspicions were raised when live footage of the plane taxiing along a runway ended before it actually took off. Analysts were reminded of 2013, when Iran trumpeted the “domestically built Qaher 313 fighter jet” — which turned out to be a plastic model that never flew.

“Iran’s so-called ‘indigenous Kowsar-88’ fourth-generation fighter is not fourth-generation and is not truly indigenous,” security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, told Arab News.

“This jet is a Frankenstein’s monster for optics only. The aircraft’s frame is an American Northrop F-5F Tiger II slapped together with various accoutrements.

“This Iranian production is similar to the Qaher 313 a few years ago, another so-called fourth-generation fighter that could overtake America's F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“At that time, it was plainly obvious that the Qaher 313 was a slapped together mock-up for international propaganda purposes. Now we have two optical illusions.”  

Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, also said the “new” Iranian jet was a carbon copy of an F-5 Tiger, first produced in the US in the 1960s.
“It’s a very small, lightweight fighter with very small engines,” he said.

“While you might put in a modern radar, or modern avionics — by Iranian standards —it is still going to be subject to all the limitations of the F-5 airframe.”
The plane was first publicly announced on Saturday by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who had said it would be unveiled on Wednesday.

He gave few details of the project, focusing instead on Iran’s efforts to upgrade its missile defenses.
Hatami said the defense program was motivated by memories of the missile attacks Iran suffered during its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, and by repeated threats from Israel and the United States that “all options are on the table” in dealing with the Islamic republic.


Egypt begins vote on extending El-Sisi’s rule

Updated 20 April 2019
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Egypt begins vote on extending El-Sisi’s rule

  • El-Sisi cast his ballot at a polling station in the eastern suburb of Heliopolis in the Egyptian capital
  • Supporters argue that El-Sisi has stabilized Egypt and needs more time to complete crucial economic reforms.

CAIRO: Voting began on Saturday in Egypt in a referendum on proposed constitutional amendments that would extend President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's rule.
El-Sisi cast his ballot at a polling station in the eastern suburb of Heliopolis in the Egyptian capital, state television showed.  

Supporters argue that El-Sisi has stabilized Egypt and needs more time to complete crucial economic reforms. Critics say they fear that the changes will further limit the space for dissent. 

An amendment to Article 140 of the constitution extends the presidential term to six years from four. An outright bar on any president serving more than two terms will change to a bar on serving more than two consecutive terms. An additional clause extends El-Sisi’s current term to six years from four currently since his election victory in 2018, and allows him to run for a third term in 2024. 

The amendments provide for the creation of a second parliamentary chamber known as the Council of Senators. It would have 180 members, two-thirds elected by the public and the rest appointed by the president. 

Article 200 of the constitution on the role of the military is expanded, giving the military a duty to protect “the constitution and democracy and the fundamental makeup of the country and its civil nature, the gains of the people and the rights and freedoms of individuals.” 

The amendments also create the post of vice president, allowing the president to appoint one or more deputies. 

They task the president with choosing head judges and the public prosecutor from a pool of senior candidates pre-selected by the judiciary. They further create a quota setting women’s representation in Parliament at a minimum of 25 percent. 

Who is behind the amendments? 

The amendments were initiated by the pro-government parliamentary bloc known as Support Egypt, and according to the Parliament’s legislative committee report, 155 members submitted the initial proposal. On Tuesday, 531 out of 596 members of Egypt’s overwhelmingly pro-El-Sisi Parliament voted in favor of the changes. Parliament speaker Ali Abdelaal has said that the amendments were a parliamentary initiative and that El-Sisi may not even choose to run again. 

“This suggestion came from the representatives of the people in gratitude for the historic role played by the president,” the legislative committee report said. 

Proponents of the changes have argued that El-Sisi, a former army chief, came to power with a huge mandate after mass protests in 2013 against President Mohamed Mursi’s one year in office. With macro economic indicators improving, they say El-Sisi deserves more time to build on reforms. The legislative committee report said religious, academic, political and civil society representatives expressed strong overall support for the changes during a consultation period ahead of the Parliament’s final vote. 

What do opponents say? 

The legislative committee acknowledged some opposition to the amendments from members of the judiciary and two non-governmental organizations. Just 22 members of Parliament voted against the amendments. They and other opposition figures say a central promise of the 2011 uprising that toppled then-President Hosni Mubarak is at risk: The principle of the peaceful transfer of power. They say the amendments were driven by El-Sisi and his close entourage, and by the powerful security and intelligence agencies. They also fear the changes thrust the armed forces into political life by formally assigning them a role in protecting democracy. 

“If you want your children and grandchildren to live in a modern democratic country with peaceful transition of power, I do not think this is the amendment we would want,” one of the opposition MPs, Haitham El-Hariri, told Parliament this week. 

While Abdelaal said a wide range of views were given a hearing during the consultation period, opposition figures and activists say genuine debate on the amendments was impossible due to a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent. 

Egyptian officials deny silencing dissent and say that Egyptians from all walks of life were given a chance to debate the amendments, adding that all views were factored into the final proposals. Abdelaal also denied that the amendments prescribe a new role for the military. 

He told Parliament that the armed forces are the backbone of the country and Egypt is “neither a military or a religious state,” state-run Al Ahram newspaper said. “This is part of (El-Sisi’s) consolidation of power,” said Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent US-based think-tank. “From an institutional perspective, Egypt’s counter-revolution is largely complete.” 

What happens next?

Egyptians abroad start voting on Friday, while the vote inside Egypt begins on Saturday, meaning Egyptians have less than four days to read and discuss the changes following their approval by Parliament. Election commissioner Lasheen Ibrahim, who announced the dates of the referendum on Wednesday, did not say when the votes will be counted or the results announced. More than a week before Parliament’s final vote, posters and banners sprung up across the capital Cairo urging people to “do the right thing” and participate, some calling directly for a “yes” vote.