Iran’s Faux Stealth Fighter Makes Embarrassing Second Appearance
In February 2013, Iran unveiled what it claimed was its first radar-evading jet fighter prototype—the F-313 Conqueror.
Angular and painted matte black, at first glance the F-313 certainly looked the part. But closer inspection revealed that the Conqueror was a fake. And not even a very good fake.
The plane’s first public appearance was in photos snapped while the F-313 was on the ground. A video accompanied the snapshots claiming to show the Conqueror in flight, but the vehicle depicted was obviously a small-scale model.
Now Iran’s, ahem, “stealth jet” has made another appearance, in a photo purporting to show the F-313 being prepped for taxi tests. But the Conqueror is no more a real warplane in its second public display than it was in its debut.
It‘s still too small, for one. The cockpit probably could not fit a normal-sized human being. And the engine lacks a nozzle, meaning that sustained flight would likely melt the back end of the plane in mid-air.
The layout is still all wrong. “The aircraft sports fixed canards and air intakes a bit too small to feed a modern jet plane’s engine,” aviation expert David Cenciotti points out. “They are located above the wing meaning that at high AoA — angle of attack—the intakes would get turbulent or no air at all for the engine.”
And owing to the limited surface area, a reasonable weapons load-out would be impossible without attaching a bomb to the top of the fuselage, meaning the jet would have to roll upside down in order to actually drop the munition.
Alfred Wong, a model-maker with Fantastic Plastic who created a build-it-yourself scale F-313, thinks he knows how Tehran pieced together its fake stealth fighter.
“When I was examining the photos of the prototype/mock-up, I guessed that they actually cut up an old MiG-17’s wings for it—the wings have a very distinctive plan shape,” Wong explains. “So for the pattern I bought a 1:72[-scale] MiG-17 and cut up the wings in the same manner—and it was indeed a perfect match!”
The Conqueror’s recent appearance is merely the second act in a uniquely Iranian military theater production. China at least builds loopy warplane prototypes that actually fly, even if they aren’t viable candidates for mass production.
But Tehran seems content to merely pretend to design new warplanes … and to put on an unconvincing show of its supposed engineering prowess.