Iran Unveils Its Kowsar Jet Fighter

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Iranian President HASSAN ROUHANI waves to pilots at the launch of the Kowsar fighter jet
Iranian President HASSAN ROUHANI waves to pilots at the launch of the Kowsar fighter jet

IRAN has unveiled its first domestically designed and manufactured fighter jet, named ‘Kowsar’, at a defence show in Tehran. The aircraft conducted its first public display flight during Tuesday’s ceremony in the presence of President Hassan Rouhani, Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami and other senior military officials. President Rouhani sat in the cockpit to order the flight.

Tasnim news agency reported that the fourth-generation Iranian fighter jet is equipped with ‘advanced avionics and fire control systems’ and can be used for short aerial support missions.

It also uses digital military data networks, multi-purpose digital monitors, ballistic calculation computers and smart mobile mapping systems.

The jet has an advanced radar system, enabling it to detect enemy targets. It is also equipped with a head-up display or HUD, which promotes precision targeting. The plane can be manufactured in both single- and double-cockpit types, the latter of which can be used for advanced pilot training missions in addition to its combat capability.

The new defence achievement was unveiled on the eve of Iran’s National Defence Industry Day.

Over the past years, Iran has made major breakthroughs in its defence sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing military equipment and hardware despite sanctions and economic pressures on the country. The Islamic Republic maintains that its military power is solely for defensive purposes and does not pose any threat to other nations.

• Iran has removed the US dollar from its official currency rate reporting platform and replaced it with China’s yuan in an effort that commentators in Tehran say could be a key step toward ditching the greenback in trade. As of Monday, the dollar was taken off Sanarate.ir – a website affiliated to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) used to display the average rates of the country’s most tradable currencies such as the dollar, the euro and UAE’s dirham. Searches in the archives of the website would also show the yuan instead of the dollar.

The rates are the average trading figures obtained from licensed currency exchange shops across the country in different intervals of the day. In their reports over the move, Iran’s media said the CBI had removed the dollar from Sanarate.ir after the prices of the hard currency on Sunday exceeded those of the euro – what they said was an ‘unreasonable’ phenomenon as the dollar used to always be sold at rates below the euro.

In Sunday’s trading, the dollar in Sanarate exceeded rials 102,800 while the euro stood at around rials 93,880. Nigeria sold yuan at its first auction of the Chinese currency last month while Russia and China said on Tuesday they backed using national currencies in bilateral trade.

The average price of the yuan in Monday trading in the same platform was put at rials 11,688.

In February, Iran announced that it had stopped using the dollar as the official reporting currency and instead switched to the euro. This was seen to be in line with efforts to reduce the impact of returning US sanctions against Iran that included restricting the country’s access to the greenback among other sanctions.

Iran moved a step closer to a plan to ditch the dollar in its trade activities by announcing that purchase orders by merchants that are based on the greenback would no longer be allowed to go through import proceedings. Iran has taken several other measures to reduce its vulnerability to US economic sanctions specifically the depreciation of its rial.

Earlier this month, the government of President Hassan Rouhani unveiled a much-awaited package of policies to strengthen the rial. The package, which was unveiled by the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnasser Hemmati during a live televised interview on Sunday evening, most importantly comprised mechanisms to control the US dollar rates through a recently launched ‘secondary currency market’.

The package started to show immediate effects after the rates of the dollar that had gone as high as rials 120,000 over the weeks prior to the unveiling of the package started to slide to as low as rials 90,000 and stood around the same level for several succeeding weeks.

• China has reportedly started to use Iranian ships to transport crude oil to its refineries to avoid the impacts of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Chinese buyers of Iranian oil had created mechanisms to use the ships of the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) for nearly all of their imports to keep supply flowing amid the re-imposition of US sanctions.

The sources said the state oil trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp and Sinopec Group, Asia’s biggest refiner, had activated a clause in its long-term supply agreements with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) that allows them to use NITC-operated tankers. The price for the oil under the long-term deals would be changed to a delivered ex-ship basis from the previous free-on-board terms, meaning that Iran would cover all the costs and risks of delivering the crude as well as handling the insurance, the sources said.

‘The shift started very recently, and it was almost a simultaneous call from both sides,’ a senior Beijing-based oil executive was quoted as saying. ‘This is not the first time companies exercised the option … Whenever there is a need the buyers can use that,’ said another senior Beijing-based oil executive.

China has rejected a US demand to cut Iranian oil imports despite Washington’s attempts to bring down the Islamic Republic’s oil sales to zero. Last month, the media in New Delhi reported that Iran was providing ships as well as insurance cover for oil shipments to India so as to continue exporting the strategic fuel to its second largest buyer in light of the reimposition of US sanctions.

In July, all 17 tankers chartered to carry oil from Iran to China were operated by NITC, according to shipping data. In June, eight of 19 vessels chartered were Chinese operated. Last month, those tankers loaded about 23.8 million barrels of crude oil and condensate destined for China, or about 767,000 barrels per day (bpd). In June, the loadings were 19.8 million barrels, or 660,000 bpd.

In 2017, China imported an average of 623,000 bpd, according to customs data.

• Iran has resumed electricity exports to neighbouring countries, including Iraq, after riding out much of the baking summer heat which saw the mercury hit 50 degrees Celsius in some cities.

Mahmoud Reza Haqqi-Fam, spokesman for Iran Power Transmission, Generation and Distribution Company (Tavanir), said on Tuesday that exports had resumed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan 10 days ago.

‘As soon as we secure the electricity supply, we will increase exports, but our priority is to supply power to domestic customers in different seasons of the year,’ he said. Consumers across Iran cranked up their air conditioners amid a brutal heat wave this summer during which power consumption record was shattered three times, with the grid’s all-time peak of 57,097 megawatts set in mid-July.

According to Haqqi-Fam, a drop in temperatures this week has reduced air conditioning use by 4,000 megawatts. ‘In recent days, which coincided with the holidays, consumption dropped to 47,000 megawatts but that will reach between 51,000 and 53,000 megawatts on working days, meaning we will not have any electricity supply problem,’ he said.

Iran, the official said, will continue to export its surplus capacity that has ‘economic and political benefits for the country.’ ‘We are now exporting 200 to 250 megawatts of electricity to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan which we will increase to levels agreed in our contracts with those countries,’ he said.

Iraq is the biggest importer of electricity from Iran. It needs more than 23,000 MW of electricity to meet domestic demand but decades of war and blockade following the US invasion have left its power infrastructure in tatters and a deficit of some 7,000 MW. Iran cut off electricity supplies to Iraq in July as rolling blackouts and water shortages in the southern Khuzestan province in the face of sizzling temperatures touched off a series of protests.

Baghdad has built up an outstanding debt of $1 billion from years of electricity imports from Iran.

Baghdad has just cleared another $50 million of its $1.2 billion debt which has accumulated over years to Iran, Deputy Energy Minister Houshang Falahatian said. The Arab country sent its Electricity Minister Qassem al-Fahdawi to Tehran to persuade Iran to resume supplies amid protests in Iraq, spurred by anger over unemployment and inadequate public services, including power and water shortages.

As talks broke down, Saudi Arabia waded into the row, reportedly offering to sell electricity to Iraq at a discount. The kingdom reportedly offered to build a 3,000-megawatt solar plant in Saudi Arabia and sell electricity to Iraq at a quarter of what it paid Iran for the imports. Iraqi officials have dismissed the report, saying nothing had been decided.

Iran and Iraq have forged close political, economic and cultural ties after fighting an eight-year war launched by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. On Monday, Iran exported $55 million worth of goods to Iraq, setting a daily record in their trade exchanges, secretary of Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce Hamid Hosseini said.

Iran exported $40 million worth of goods a day on average in the first quarter of the Persian year which began in March. According Hosseini, Iranian exports to Iraq totalled $2.5 billion during the period, a year-on-year rise of 23%.

The two neighbours are also working on the supply of Iranian gas to Sadr, Baghdad and al-Mansuriya power plants through a 270-kilometre pipeline and to Basra near the Iranian border via a separate pipeline.