TEHRAN, Iran – Iran has begun industrial-scale production of its first domestically manufactured fighter jet, state-run television reported Monday, part of Tehran's efforts to become militarily self-sufficient.
The plane was first tested in 2006 and was derived from the reverse engineered components of U.S. combat aircraft.
"The airplane, Azarakhsh, was made by Iranian experts, and it has already reached the industrial production stage," the television quoted Iran's defense minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, as saying.
According to previous reports, the Azarakhsh, or Lightning, was designed for close air support.
After decades of relying on foreign weapons purchases, Iran has said it is increasingly self-sufficient, claiming annual military exports of more than US$100 million to more than 50 countries.
Najjar announced Monday that Iran plans to produce even more advanced aircraft, according to state television.
"By successful test of the Azarakhsh, planning for production of fifth-generation airplanes began," he was quoted as saying.
The report said fifth-generation fighters are built using sophisticated engineering, such as composite materials, stealth technology and advanced radar.
Outside experts have expressed doubts about many of Iran's past announcements heralding new military development.