TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Air Force announced the first Saeqeh (Lightning) fighter-jets capable of conducting long-range air missions would be delivered in 2009.
Officials said the indigenous Lighting featured an operational range of 3,000 kilometers. They said the aircraft was modeled partly on the US Navy’s F-14 and F/A-18 fighters.
“They will arrive within a few months,” Iranian Army commander General Ataollah Salehi said.
Salehi said the air force planned to launch a major exercise during the current fasting month of Ramadan. The exercise, titled “Defenders of the Sky,” was believed to have been scheduled for the first week of October. The air force was said to have a fleet of 230 combat jets.
“Iran has made great achievements in manufacturing anti- aircraft missiles and various jet fighters over the past two years,” Salehi on Sept. 2.
Officials said the Defense Ministry has succeeded in installing external fuel tanks to the Lightning fighter-jet. They said the external fuel tanks could be displayed in the forthcoming exercise.
In July 2008, the air force reported the production of Lightning, said to contain stealth capabilities. The air force also said it was upgrading its F-14 fleet, procured in the mid-1970s.
Iran has been reinforcing its military build-up and equipment since the US and Israeli regime intensified threats against the Islamic Republic.
Speculation that Israel could bomb Iran has mounted since a big Israeli air drill last month. In the first week of June, 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters reportedly took part in an exercise over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece, which was interpreted as a dress rehearsal for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.
Iran has, in return, warned that it would target Israel and its worldwide interests in case it comes under attack by the Tel Aviv.
The United States has also always stressed that military action is a main option for the White House to deter Iran’s progress in the field of nuclear technology.
Iran has warned it could close the strategic Strait of Hormoz if it became the target of a military attack over its nuclear program.
Strait of Hormoz, the entrance to the strategic Persian Gulf waterway, is a major oil shipping route.
Israel and its close ally the United States accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Both Washington and Tel Aviv possess advanced weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear warheads.
Iran vehemently denies the charges, insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.
Iran insists that it should continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.
Intensified threats by Tel Aviv and Washington of military action against Iran contradicts a recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies which endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear plans and activities.
Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions or launch military attack on Iran seems to be completely irrational.
The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.
The UN nuclear watchdog has also carried out at least 14 surprise inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites so far, but found nothing to support West’s allegations.
Following the said reports by the US and international bodies, many world states have called the UN Security Council pressure against Tehran unjustified, demanding that Iran’s case must be normalized and returned from the UNSC to the IAEA.
Meantime, a recent study by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a prestigious American think tank, found that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities “is unlikely” to delay the country’s program.
The ISIS study also cautioned that an attack against Iran would backfire by compelling the country to acquire nuclear weaponry.