On May 17, Iran’s state-owned news outlet Press TV tweeted a video showing a fighter jet taking off and flying, along with this description: “Iran's domestically-manufactured Fighter Jet Simorgh as it performs its test flights.”
That caption is misleading, in several ways.
Iran’s Simorgh fighter jet is not exclusively a product of “domestic manufacturing” but rather a variant of the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter, which the United States exported to Iran prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when it was still ruled by the Shah.
Iran is believed to have purchased 200-300 F-5s prior to the revolution, and they were inherited by the Islamic Republic along with other weapons systems from the United States and other Western countries.
The Simorgh fighter debuted in 2005 at an air show held on Kish Island, a special commercial zone separated from Iran’s mainland. After 2005, Iran sought to upgrade some of the Simorghs to the two-seat F-5B variant, by cannibalizing parts from other aircraft and rebuilding the cockpit section to accommodate the second seat.
Thus, Press TV’s description of the Simorgh as being “domestically-manufactured” is misleading. It is also unclear what kind of “test flights” the fighter jet in the video was performing, given that such aircraft have long been in Iran’s inventory, or exactly when this footage was recorded.
This is not even the first time Iran has promoted a modified F-5 as a “domestically produced” fighter. In 2004 another variant with two tails, as opposed to the usual one, was put on display.
While the Simorgh is simply a converted U.S. Cold-War-era F-5, at least it flies, which is more than can be said for the F313 Qaher, which Iran promoted in videos as a domestically-produced “stealth fighter.” Videos appeared in 2017 showing the F313 taxiing around a tarmac, but eagle-eyed observers determined it was a non-flying mock-up.
The Iranian regime, and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have repeatedly spread disinformation claiming possession of new, domestically-produced weapons systems. In 2008, the IRGC released a doctored photo of missile launches, and in 2012 Iranian state media passed off pictures of a Japanese drone as an Iranian-produced one.