Irandeployed its first locally-manufactured fighter bomber plane on Wednesday during large-scale military exercises, state-run television reported.

"The bomber Saegheh or lightening is similar to (the American) F-18but more powerful. It was designed, optimized and improved by Iranian experts," the report said.

The report said the Iranian air force had commissioned Saegheh after many test flights in the past year.

Television footage showed the takeoff and flight of the airplane. It launched two rockets. "Saegheh is capable of launching both rockets and bombs," the report said.

General Karim Ghavami, commander of Iran's Air Force, told state-run television that the war-games were being held "to show the trans-regional forces that we are ready to defend our country up to the latest drop of our blood."

The Islamic republic, which views the United States as a foe, is concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan .

It also has expressed worry about Israeli threats to destroy its nuclear facilities, which the West contends could be used to make a bomb but which Iran insists are for civilian uses only.

During maneuvers dubbed "The Blow of Zolfaghar," which began in August 19, Iran test fired short range surface-to-surface, sub-to-surface missiles, new air defense system and laser bombs.

Iran's military test-fired a series of missiles during large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf in March and April, including a missile it claimed was not detectable by radar that can use multiple warheads to hit several targets simultaneously.

After decades of relying on foreign weapons purchases, Iran now says it is increasingly self-sufficient in its military equipment claiming it annually exports more than US$100 million (euro81 million) worth of military equipment to more than 50 countries.

Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane, the government has said. It announced in early 2005 that it had begun production of torpedoes.