Iran’s F-5 Knockoff Fighter Now At Squadron Strength

So, Iran’s second locally-grown fighter jet, the Saeqeh has officially become operational with the Iranian air force at the squadron level.

This may be a big deal for Iran but not so much for us. As you can see in the grainy photo above, the Saeqeh is in many ways a reverse-engineered F-5 Freedom Fighter. You know, Northrop’s 50-year old design for a cheap and easy to fly light-fighter that the U.S. could sell to its Third World allies during the height of the Cold War. One of those (then) allies was pre-revolutionary Iran, which bought about 125 of them in the 1960s and 1970s. The Saeqeh is based on the F-5 body with Russian weapons and canted tails, among other “upgrades.” Tehran insists that the Saeqeh is on par with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18  Hornet. One thing’s for sure, Russia and China probably don’t need to worry about the Saeqeh competing with their latest fighter designs.

Here’s Iran’s semiofficial FARS news agency’s announcement of the plane’s entry into operational service.

Via Alert5.

  • Ben

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but I can’t wait till somebody knocks Iran’s teeth out. They go around touting how advanced and well-equipped they are, but everyone knows when push comes to shove, it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel.

  • Steven R.

    What a Statement haha. There is no way that this thing is just as good as a hornet or even a super hornet for that lol.

    • GySgt Salt USMC Ret,

      Or even an “Old F8 Crusader Rabbit” Semper Fi

  • Joshua

    That gave me a great laugh.

  • Dobbs

    I take it that the blue angels paint scheme is what gives the planes the performance of an F-18? Hilarious.

  • sdog

    almost as good as the wooden assault boats they said could threaten our carrier groups

  • Stan

    There are obviously very few pilots that post here.

    I would take a good pilot flying one of these planes than an average joe flying a Hornet. The better pilot will always come out ahead. Fact.

  • @7thwave

    All these comments on here are short sighted and foolish…especially when our forces may or may not come up against anything like these in numbers in the foreseeable future. See, laughable as it may seem, it can take just one shot from these sub-USA standard aircraft to knock down a F35 or F18E…..if the pilot was lucky enough to get one off. Or how bout this….a wooden hulled speed boat fitted with a torpedo, rockets, or explosives sinking ships 10x bigger than its size? (PT Boats anyone?) See, no matter how arcane an adversaries technology is, it can destroy our technology 10 fold…and technology is our Achilles heel,seeing this from the way we depend on it to fight wars we are losing now, today.

    • Ben

      Sure, we may take some losses, that’s war. But I can guarantee you it’ll be NOTHING compared to the losses we inflict on them if we ever came into conflict. We don’t go in guns blazing without knowing our enemy and how to combat him, not when it’s a uniformed army.

    • TLAM Strike

      “Or how bout this….a wooden hulled speed boat fitted with a torpedo, rockets, or explosives sinking ships 10x bigger than its size? (PT Boats anyone?)”

      You do know that in the whole history of the PT boat only once has it sunk a capital ship? The SMS Szent Istvan in WWI. Not exactly a shining example of low end vs high end!

    • Brian

      I’m sure our missiles are cheaper to build then these planes, so there is no quantity vs quality issue

    • B Rad

      lol, all the technology. But you have to remember, behind the tech, pushing the buttons and pulling the triggers is a sole warfighter, concentrating on his objective with pride. No some dupped up gamer trying to get a fix and only beliving what his puter’ tells him….

    • STemplar

      Except that the air bases these things fly from would be pock marked with craters and the hangars they are parked in smoldering ruins.

    • STemplar

      Your view of an air campaign against Iran sounds like an Xbox game, not how it would actually be waged. In point of fact most Iranian aircraft will be destroyed on the ground in their hangars before the Iranians even know what is going on. There won’t be some grand air to air battle in the skies. Honestly air to air combat has never really decided anything in war.

    • Ron

      I remember during Vietnam, a cousin told me that the Viet Cong rigged a truck spring in the fork of a tree and fired a 6-foot wooden arrow into the side of a Huey and brought it down. So much for technology in “backward” parts of the world.

  • Mark Pyruz

    You’re reading too much into that Fars article. What they’re really saying is that the Saegeh is participating in the ongoing air exercise, nothing more. (Their English isn’t that good, particularly in uses of military terminology.)

    Previously, I think a couple of years ago, they claimed the Saegeh was operational at “squadron strength”; for them being about six aircraft.

    Personally, until I see one of these modified F-5s in paintwork other than Blue Angel copycat, I classify them as demonstration aircraft.

    -Mark Pyruz

  • Joe Schmoe

    I loved how Iran also toted these F-5 knockoffs as “Stealth Fighters”.

  • Han Solo

    I like the F5, very nimble, easy to fly.

    We should have used more of them as close air support role.

  • MCQknight

    Yeah, comparing it to the F/A-18 is a joke. It might (emphasis on might) have performance charachteristics similiar to the Northrop YF-17, which was developed from the F-5 and went on to serve as the basis for the larger F/A-18A, but being able to almost match a mid-70’s American jet fighter prototype isn’t exactly impressive.

    • @7thwave

      Was not comparing the F35 or F18 to the Iranian aircraft. How ever, even our touted technological superiority, and better trained pilots are still able to be shot down by some country flying arcane technology like this Iran made F5 knock off. And like I said, that is where our problem lies…we think that our armed forces are the best trained, and best equipped….and those who do must be smoking crack. All it takes is one dedicated person with the will,and the best becomes cannon fodder.

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    I wonder what’s the optimum operational capabilities and strengths/weakness of this particular bird?

    The nose cone looks small…wonder what kind of rader it is packing.

    Finally, i wonder is it an effective fighting night bird too.

    A bit retro 70s/80s these iranian birds are though. No disrepect here from me for all other retro birds cos they rock.

  • Lois

    I guess that’s why the Aussies need F-35s then. :) (J/K)…

  • Mark

    Northrup came out with the F-20 Tigershark hotrodded version of this aircraft. I believe it had the F100 in single engine configuration. I had a hugely upgraded avionics system and longer range. The people it was designed and built for wanted the F-15 et al and viewed the F-20 as an insult. As memory serves, this plane gave everyone a run for their money even without an experienced Experten at the stick. If an experienced F-5E driver at Red Flag/Top Gun could rip the visiting students in their megabillion kill em all jets a new one, what would they have done with 2X the power and all the other upgrades. Too bad, half the engines, half the maintenance, super high thrust to weight, just didnt have the F-14D, F15C, FA18c/e and F16 publicity.

  • Nadnerbus

    Anyone here know how many F-5/20 type airframes are still in service with the US air arms? I was up in the woods in Sierra County (north of Tahoe) today and saw a couple of birds fly over in loose formation, that I suppose could have been F-16s but the silhouette looked too long.

    • PacificSentinel

      Don’t forget the “Northrop T-38 Talon”, it’s still the USAs primary trainer.

    • Mastro

      Didn’t we buy about 50 Swiss F5’s a few years back? I think the Marines fly them.

  • William C.

    This thing couldn’t hope to match the F-20 Tigershark, let alone any variant of the F/A-18 family.

  • Enrico

    I think that most people are forgetting one thing: Americans and Russians developed ICBM starting from the German V2, just being capable of copying someone’s technology is a first step; Iran recently announced that they can manufacture carbon fibers (, overall their military technology is improving with little external help.

    Actually I’d like to know which avionics (especially radar) this aircraft is using, does anyone know something about it?

    • blight

      Likely local tech, using what was top-notch pre-Revolution in the Iranian military as a starting point. The Shah was attempting to modernize his country, and probably was in the process of buying foreign machinery a la Meiji Restoration (a mission that likely continued through the Revolution, Iraq-Iran war and GW1). The US spent a lot of effort trying to deter F-14 parts purchases, which in turn shows the Iranians had a large procurement network out there buying “useful” machinery and technology.

      Against a local power without a fully integrated military they might do a little better than we think. Against the present Iraqi military they are likely to do pretty well. Their military is better equipped than the martyr brigades of old, and the Iraqi military no longer is as fully mechanized with full stocks of chemical weapons. It might be interesting to see if the air situation would reverse itself in any new Iraq-Iran war, as the Iranians had air superiority back then…and now the Iraqi Air Force is smaller, but might be eventually equipped along American lines with export-grade technology.

      Kind of doubt Iran will openly provoke the United States into an invasion, but Saddam was playing a bluff game, sponsored no Al Qaeda activity in the ’90s and still paid for it. When the right administration is in place they will bend heaven, earth and truth to destroy ideological enemies.

    • Roger4129

      I say happy hunting to any country that can out smart the Zionist running are country including the President lets forget get the bull shit and hear the fact we lost over $350 billion of research and 20 years of development in the RQ-170 the Iranian got it by taping are satellite and now have three to four back doors to get back in into are G.P.S system just like we looked at the end of the second world war and did not know what a jet aircraft looked like you will piss in your pants in the next generation of future aircraft coming out of Iran and by the way I love my country America but am not stupid and if you saw the underground factories under the mountain you will even if the war with Iran last 50 years we will lose and the winners will be China and Russia as eastern America die from duty Radio active bombs and yes as we drop atomic bombs on Iran, and kill 20 to 40 million people the hole Middle east will also be dead to the world as for me at age 74 I pray to God we dont get suck into war because that will be a win for Russia and China

  • pacifico

    Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) and Azarakhsh (Lightening), so let’s add a little rock and roll and all sing along …Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening me
    Gallileo, Gallileo,
    Gallileo, Gallileo,
    Gallileo Figaro - magnifico

  • Jsmith

    It may as well have a second wing, trying to use that antique as a fighter in the 21st century.

  • JSCS

    F-5 carried (2) M39 20mm gun sets. Do they have something similar tucked in the nose?

  • roland

    Looks like a modified F-5.

  • Benjamin

    Does anyone know how it’s performance differs from an F-5? Slower? Faster?

    • Zap

      Better low speed handling , take-off and landing , that’s what the twin tale is for

  • lizzieb_23

    Ummm…arrogant much? This is their ENTRY into the field. And, the laws of physics haven’t changed in the last 50 years. Sure these planes won’t compete with the latest and best that we have - but then again, they’re spending less than 1/100th of our military budget too.

    • Joe Schmoe

      Ummm.. revisionist much?

      In their own announcements they claimed that this would more than match any American/Israeli threat and is stealth.

    • Guest

      Please. South Korea’s ENTRY in the “field” (I guess you mean fighter jets?), the FA-50 Golden Eagle, could give this Iranian POS a good spanking any day.

    • Carl G.

      And they get what they pay for. They are substituting Nukes for a modern air force. Cheaper, but not realistic, as the west found out to its pain in the 60s-80s. They are targets.

      • Nick

        Guys, remember who we are talking about here. Iran isn’t exactly a modern western power. Look at what happened to Iraq in the first half of the gulf war. Largest army in the middle east, modern equipment, An airforce that had relatively new migs and they lasted a whole 100 hours. Now things have changed for sure, but I’d put my money on an F 18 anyday against one of these flying bullseyes. Regardless of weapons and sensors they might carry.

    • parsa


  • Spaceman Spiff

    Hey lizzie, since you obviously love the iranian nutjobs so much, why dont you move there? That way, you can pilot one of those swarms against our obviously inferior Navy as you so elequently put it… Or you can join the non-Iranian backed hez cowards… See how far that gets you… what an idiot…

  • killo

    iran just gives our air force more targets to shoot at lol.

  • Jayson

    I agree it’s almost on par with an F 18 … in looks only at certain angles … and and some creative imagination.

  • drball

    I think that the new (old) fighter is a very creditable threat that should not be ignored. Why, because this fighter will be exported to any country that can afford them. Remember the U.S . Navy bought a few Swiss Airforce F-5’s and had them compleatly rebuilt….At a a cost of 6 Million per aircraft….Also with the new vert design might fix a long standing problem with the F-5 the horizantal stabs have a very low service life due to cracking of which could be due to the old design and air flow issues like the resaon the F-18 C/D has a LEX spolier and the F/A-17 did not…

    • jhm

      yeah, bought the f5s for what? exactly man, not for front line service. oooh, i fear this plane so much now. NOT!!!

  • George

    Well since they are in the copying business they might as well be copying the Phantom. This thing is close to useless. They don’t have the package to make it a viable air-to-air platform and it can’t carry the payload for air-to-ground. They’d be much better off with a Skyraider knock-off for air-to-ground but then again these are the Iranians - they are in love with showing-off and now they have their own pet jet!

  • John Moore

    one day Iran will open their mouth one time too many and someone is going to close it for good. I don’t think the US will do it, but the country that has the six pointed star may be the one to do it.

  • Lance

    The F-5 is a good dog-fighter the Navy still uses them for aggressors at NAS Oceania. Can it drop bombs and dogfight a F-16 sure it can. But taking on a F-15 or F-22 it stands no chance.

  • CEP

    Yep, of course we can’t underestimate any enemy….You can bet if they get to far along with their nuclear and other options, or send any of their IED’s into that country, ISREAL will do another “pre emptive strike…flying F 35’s probably ( or French Dassaults!) You may “count on it!”…Meanwhile, American made electronic components ( from our greedy, unpatriotic, mutinational corporations).. are being sold, knowingly to Iranian “front companies” and “appearing in IED’s in Afghanistan and Iraq! Just like the technology that enabled the Soviets to make MIRV ( multi warhead) ICBM’s…you can bet the Iranians and Russians know how to “deal” with traitors!

  • Karl

    Remember-the U.S. underestimated the abilities of Japan and got their butts kicked for a while (and that was before the atom bomb)! Overconfidence and arrogance has felled many a champion, and currently, the U.S. is teetering on shakey ground.

  • JimBo

    Ive liked the F5 from the first time I saw one…….. on a barge in the Med. being delivered way back in 1965-66. The F20 is really killer… So this Saeqeh is an updated F5/F20 it will still fly the pants off many aircraft around that part of the world.

  • Nadnerbus

    So what is the 411 on the design and manufacture of this F-5/20 knockoff? Are these old US made airframes that have been rebuilt with a little local know-how? Are they made entirely in-country? The engines? Help from the Chinese or Indians?

    Obviously they aren’t anything for the west to get their panties in a twist over, but depending on how much of them is designed and built at home, it might be kind of impressive that a religious dictatorship with a massive international embargo against them came up with this.

  • Richard Kocher

    It’s a good lookin’ little jet. The idea that saying your weapons are scary actually makes them scary has always amused me. We took out Saddam’s forces, at the time considered by far the most powerful in the Middle East, practically in our sleep. The Iranians are full of crap and need a good knock in the head to sober up. I will say, though, that the Iranian people I have met in my life seemed to be real good folks. It’s those bozos running the show over there that need a lesson. Our warriors rule!


    When does Top Gun 2 come out? This thing looks like a movie prop.

  • DDPorkchop

    You my friend are thew idiot. Lizzie just making a statement about the way thing s are or may be. She shows no sigh of defending or favoring Iran. THINK before you leap off the cliff.


    Saw an F-5or what ever we call it in Charleston SC about 2months ago.
    Wow an F-5, remember people the F-117 that was cutting edge in 1990 was really designed and built in the late 70’s.

  • mark

    when was stationed at Topgun fm ’82-’85, we hosted an f-20 for a couple days for our pilots to check out. that was when Topgun was shopping for an alternative adversary a/c. we even fielded a proposal fm a company in tx i believe to sell us Indian made mig-21’s to use as adversary a/c. i was disapointed that chuck yeager didnt come along with the f-20 but i do remember several of the instructor pilots raved about its capabilities and would have loved to have had it. i guess the downfall was unit cost as no foreign powers lined up to buy any. since the air force didnt buy them noone wanted to pay a higher cost per unit for small purchases. it certainly was a beautiful plane!

  • jhm

    was? ich bin Americanish und kann nicht

  • Kski

    Everybody relax. If Tom Cruise could down American F-20s, then some guy in any of our current fleet. Air Force, Navy, Marines. Could probably destroy double or triple that. With as always the rest being destroyed in pretty explosions on the ground. Some guy on the radio will say “Bandits 12 o’clock, I mean correction, there Iranian F-20s, sorry.” At most they’ll be real live targets. I feel a Top Gun 2 coming. Top Gun 2: Massacre of the Iranian F-20s. Now that would be worth money to go see.

  • Carl G.

    Agreed Saheeb ! While the Iranian AF may even cause a few losses (at a tremendous Kill/loss ratio and mostly with the F-14s) to the infidel poopies, their air force will not be able to stop or seriously influence a pre-emtive attack by US and Israel (assuming our current admin has the guts). Their Russian air defense systems will be a much greater threat to our strained and absurdly reduced air power. Allah Ackbar !?

  • Neil Cooper

    These things are probably super cheap for Iran to make compared to buying in anything from a foreign power.
    It seems they’ve already planned for their only viable tactic to deal with encountering anything relatively modern, which is sheer numbers and high but relatively cheap losses.

  • Killjoy

    Their “upgraded” F-5 might be a considerable adversary for a P-51. Might be.

  • danial

    I guess Iran should grow up and make a fool out of yourself. Regardless of this combat aircraft, its just no more than an F-5 Freedom Fighter is a bolt on tail. If they were to develop similar to what Northrop did to the F-5 family, like the F-20 Tigershark, then its something, otherwise, its nothing more as capable as those 50s Jets. If you were to add AA-11 and AA-12 then its something the opposite pilot need to be worried about.

  • NVSpartan

    Why would anyone take a perfectly good F-5, and “improve” it by putting a vibrating vortex sensitive pair of canted twin vertical stabs on it? Hell, they had to retrofit the F-18’s in the mid-80’s with beefed-up hardware and extra surfaces because the vertical stabs were cracking at the connection to the airframes due to vortex generation from the LEX. Hell, even the Beechcraft V-tail Bonanza had empennage failure due to cracks in the airframe/tail surface connections because of excessive vibration of the stabilizers.

    Sheesh! If you ask me, this is a merely a propaganda aircraft, a cheap attempt to inflate Iran’s military status, and nothing more.

  • NVSpartan

    They must have spent a fortune modifying their F-5’s to look like that. Except for the twin tails, the birds look exactly like the F-5’s I worked on when I was in VFA-127 at NAS Fallon in the late 80’s!

  • NVSpartan

    This is just like putting a T-tail on an A-4 Skyhawk and then claiming it’s a new, modern design!

  • german

    hey spaceman caome hear i want to show…….somthing can you eat it???? ahmadinejad fuck your obama