A few days ago, Iran announced a new indigenous stealth fighter: the Qahar 313.
Theaviationist.com has covered the plane in quite a bit of depth. The prototype of the F-313 was presented to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then displayed publicly. The FARS News Agency provided a large number of photos of the jet, showing many of its features.
Iranian television showed videos of the plane, both on display and flying. Starting at 1:48, some computer screens showing the software used to design the F-313 appear in this video.
Do you recognize the programs? The Iranian MEHR News Agency confirmed that the F-313 was designed with CATIA CAD software, and Fluent CFD software.
There are some talented CATIA engineers in Iran. You can check out some of their work at GrabCAD. Still, I’m pretty certain that neither Dassault Systemes nor ANSYS supplied their software products to the Iranian Ministry of Defense—nor to anyone else in Iran—with the intention that it be used to develop military systems. (The U.S. and France are members of a variety of multilateral nonproliferation regimes which likely constrain the export of such software.)
Funny thing though: by all appearances, neither CATIA or Fluent were actually used by Iran to design a new stealth fighter. Rather, they were used to design a non-functional mock-up, and a radio-controlled scale model.
Look carefully at the pictures of the F-313. Even if you’re not an aeronautical engineer, you can see some problems. Size and proportions are wrong. Landing gear are wrong. Cockpit is wrong. Canopy is wrong. There are no service access plates. No nozzle on the jet engine. Too small air intakes, positioned wrong. And the entire plane appears to be made out of plastic (or fiberglass.) In forums around the web, people have been pointing out undeniable signs that the plane shown in the pictures is a mock-up that, as designed, could never fly.
What of the videos showing the F-313 flying? Look carefully. Does it look like a real plane, or a scale model?
The thing that I get the biggest kick out of is this still, from the above video:
Notice that the model is made up mostly of flat non-aerospace surfaces? And notice that the feature tree is all in English? Seems curious to me: Why would Iran design a plane in English and even cover it with English language signage? I don’t have a good answer, other than to guess that the entire project was an exercise to impress people who speak English.
While I am having a little bit of fun with Iran, I’m of the opinion that, if they wanted to actually design and build a jet fighter, CATIA and Fluent would be good tools to use. As a start. But they’d not be enough. Along with other software tools (and a lot of people and process), they’d need some manufacturing equipment that they don’t have, and can’t easily get. To learn more, read The Machines that made the Jet Age, by Tim Heffernan.