Iran’s armed forces have moved one step closer to self-sufficiency after unveiling the final prototype of its homegrown trainer jet.

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) Air Force recently welcomed the second  “Yasin” advanced trainer jet in a ceremony held in the capital Tehran, with Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammadreza Ashtiani leading the inauguration of the aircraft’s production line.

According to state media, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Yasin is an indigenous aircraft built to help IRI pilots learn basic flying and combat skills, including air- and air-to-surface action and close air support.
Among our main concerns is training fighter pilots because the process is of paramount significance and requires training aircraft in different classes,” Ashtiani said at the launching ceremony.

The homegrown characteristics of the training jet make it suitable for close-air support of military aircraft” against hostile targets, the Brigadier General added.

The locally developed trainer jet weighs around 5.5 tonnes (5500 kg) and has a range of up to 1,200 kilometers (746 miles), capable of performing a wide range of missions such as close-air support (CAS). It has a take-off speed of at least 200 kph (124 mph). The aircraft measures 12 meters (39 ft) in length and 4 meters (13 ft) in height.

Moreover, state media says that the second prototype of the Yasin aircraft had been significantly improved over the first prototype, with locally produced ejection seats, avionics, engine, and landing gear. A homegrown airborne weather radar has also been fitted on its radome.

With the cutting-edge additions of the trainer jet, Ashtiani hopes that pilot training will be significantly shorter while improving quality, which has been causing issues and accidents due to inefficient and poor training equipment.

Built by HESA, an Iranian aircraft production company, the homegrown training jets has been designed for the IRI Air Force, with its first prototype introduced in October 2019.

Based on the released photos, there appear to be two versions of the Iranian trainer jets: 1) the “Owj,” which features an afterburner for the Kowsar jet, and 2) the Yasin, which has no afterburner.

Some military observers speculate that last-minute additions such as mounted weapons and the like will be installed to trainer jets as production begins.

Training for Future Russian Jets

In recent years, the IRI Air Force has been working on updating its aging fleet, particularly its four-decade-old aircraft, which lately has been involved in several crashes.

As part of its fleet modernization, Iran has reached out to Russia to acquire the latter’s advanced Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets. As confirmed by the UN to Semafor on Thursday, the arms deal was reportedly completed over the weekend. However, no further information has been disclosed.

This heightens the significance of Yasin’s arrival; combined with possible upgrades to the trainer plane’s features, it would be a suitable platform for pilots to fly Iran’s future Su-35 fighters.

Moreover, the trainer jet allows pilots to learn basic tactics and techniques before they get behind the flight controls of its current strike aircraft, including Soviet-built Sukhoi Su-24 and Mikoyan MiG-29, Dassault Mirage F1 of France, Chengdu F-7 of China, and (believe it or not) the American F-14 Tomcat—which Iran managed to buy before the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Through training that Yasin is expected to provide, Iran hopes to reduce the frequency of crashes, which have happened quite often in recent years. The most recent incident occurred on May 24, 2022, when two of its Chengdu J-7 planes crashed east of Isfahan, killing both pilots. Prior to that, on February 21, a fatal accident took place. This time, its F-5F, plunged into a school in a city in northwestern Iran, killing its crew and a civilian on the ground.

Basically, Iran is losing both pilots and warplanes due to inefficient flying.

The question now is, would the Yasin be enough to prepare Iranian pilots for the sophisticated Su-35?

Some experts say that given the dimensions of Yasin, its trainer jet most likely falls into the same category as India’s HAL Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), which is commonly used in Stage II flight training before proceeding to Stage III using BAE Hawk.

Meanwhile, IRI Air Force trainees will almost certainly progress from Stage II to the frontline squadron jet. That means flying solo into the Su-35, a more complex aircraft with a single-seat configuration.

Unless Iranian pilots and technicians are sent to Russia —or Russian pilots are flown in to train the new Su-35 operators— insufficient training may spell disaster for Iran’s billions-worth state-of-the-art fighter jet investment.

After 13 long years, the UN arms embargo ended in October 2020, and Iran almost immediately went on a shopping spree to ramp up its deteriorating military strength. Since then, despite protests, particularly from the West, Tehran poured funds to ensure their nation’s security will be improved, including its naval and aerial fleet, as well as missile power—hinting at restarting its halted nuclear missile program.

Moreover, officials have reportedly become increasingly firm on its modernization, emphasizing that the country’s “defense capabilities will never be open for negotiations.”

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, has repeatedly called for efforts to maintain and improve Iran’s defense capabilities, criticizing enemies for questioning the country’s missile program.