Iran has unveiled its latest drone—the bloated aircraft resembles an orange whale and stealth technology experts need not pick up their clipboards.
Before assembled reporters, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) pulled the covers from the domestically developed pilotless “wide-body” Khodkar (“Automatic”) in a showcasing event meant to coincide with celebrations building up to the 11 February 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Republic, Tasnim News Agency reported on January 31.
The IRIAF says the Khodkar marks a significant shift in Iran’s capabilities in developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The Khodkar is equipped with two cameras, one mounted on the front and another below the main body. The drone is powered by a J-85 turbojet engine, utilises "phased" array antennae and is capable of recording visual data.
It is also furnished with antennae to receive signals from the American GPS and Russian GLONASS global navigation satellite systems, as well as transmitter antennae that work in two wavebands, air force officials said.
Rehashed US jets
Iran has long been known to rehash 30-year-old US jets before presenting them as locally developed “new aircraft”. However, the country usually and almost instantaneously gets ridiculed by eagle-eyed foreign experts who notice the planes’ pre-revolutionary American origins.
Indeed, TheDrive website on February 1 reported how the Iranians themselves have already conceded that the Khodkar is a modified Lockheed T-33 jet trainer, which, its article said, “is certainly not a wide-body aircraft by any realistic description”. The plane, known as the Shooting Star, first flew in 1948 and was derived from the F-80 Shooting Star, which made its own first flight before the end of World War II.
Iran unveiled its first "made-in-Iran" fighter jet last August, with state media outlets all carrying video or photographs of President Hassan Rouhani sat in the cockpit.
Days before the unveiling of that manned jet, Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami said Iran's military had mounted a locally-built defensive weapons system on one of its warships for the first time.
Iran's military had a 2017 budget of $14.1bn, or 2.5% of the country’s GDP, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) figures show. That compares to the $610bn, or 3.1% of GDP, spent by the US on its defence budget in that year.