According to the Jerusalem Post, Iran has begun series production of its "new" Lightning close-air-support fighter.
We placed that adjective in quotation marks for obvious reasons. Standard definitions of what constitutes a "new" aircraft don't necessarily apply to Iran. By Tehran's loose standards, the "Lighting" is new; by everyone else's definition, the aircraft is simply a re-manufactured F-5 Freedom Fighter that Iran purchased from the U.S. more than 30 years ago.
We've written about Iran's F-5 effort--and other boastful defense programs--over the past year. In every case, the "efforts of Iranian experts" fail to match Tehran's claims of some sort of defense break-through. The Lightning (or Azarakhsh, in Farsi) is simply an enlarged F-5 with a second vertical stabilizer and marginally better avionics. Various intel assessments indicate that Iran has about 50 F-5s left in its inventory; there are no indications as to how many of those airframes may be re-built as "Lightnings."
In terms of performance, the "new" fighter is still, essentially, an F-5, based on technology that is at least 40 years old. In a close-air-support role, the Lightning has a limited payload and loiter time--certainly, nothing on the order of an AH-64 Apache helicopter, or U.S. Air Force A-10. Iran claims that the Azarakhsh can drop a laser-guided, 2000-pound bomb; but test video released by Tehran showed the aircraft firing only a pair of rockets. In other words, the fire support offered to ground troops by the Iranian jet is modest, at best. ...