Zolfaqar is a second generation of Iran's main battle tank (MBT). The test prototypes of the tank were evaluated in 1993. Six semi-industrial prototypes of the tank were produced and tested in 1997. The tank has a distinctive box-shaped, steel-welded turret of local design. Zolfaqar combat weight is reported to be 36 tons and has a 780 hp diesel engine; the tank has a 21.7 hp per ton ratio. Zolfaqar is operated by a crew of three personnel. The automatic loader is believed to be the same one from the T-72 tank.
The Iranian Zulfiqar (also written Zolfaqar) main battle tank is believed to be pieced together or developed from major components of the Russian T-72 and American M48 and M60 tanks. This tank, which is claimed to be in production in Iran, is said to be similiar in configuration to the M-48 and M-60. Other reports suggest that it bears a close resemblance to the American M1 Abrams.
One of the features of the Zulfiqar tank that has drawn the attention of the Defense Ministry is that indigenously-made parts have been used in it. Prototypes of the tank were tested in 1993. Six semi-industrial prototypes of the tank were produced and tested in 1997.
The Iranian tank is armed with a 125mm smoothbore gun fitted with a fume extractor, which may be fed from an automatic loader. It is known that the Zulfiqar uses suspension like that fitted to Western MBTs such as the M48/M60 MBT. The diesel engine is not taken from the T-72 since this has a distinct exhaust outlet on the left side of the hull. This feature is absent on the Zulfiqar.
In April 1997 Acting Commander of the Ground Forces of the Iranian Army, Lieutenant General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani announced that the mass production of Zulfiqar tanks, which began in 1996, was still in progress. He stated that the manufacture of 520 different kinds of tank parts, 600 artillery parts, repair of 500 tanks and armored vehicles had been carried out. In late July 1997 Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani of Iran formally inaugurated a production line for the domestically manufactured Zulfiqar main battle tanks and Boragh tracked armoured personnel carriers. The facility, the Shahid Kolah Dooz Industrial Complex, would also produce the BMT-2 personnel carrier identified.
The most recent T-72 is the 'S' version. The T-72S MBT weighs 44.5 tonnes and is armed with the latest stabilized 125mm smoothbore 2A46M gun, 1A40-1 computerised fire-control system (FCS) with laser rangefinder and day/image intensification night sighting system. As well as firing the normal types of 125mm separate-loading ammunition (projectile and charge), the T-72S can also fire a Svir 9M119 (NATO designation AT-11 'Sniper') laser beam-riding guided projectile to a range of 4,000m. The T-72S is powered by the V-84MS diesel engine, which develops 840hp and, with a combat weight of 44.5 tonnes, a power-to-weight ratio of 18.87hp/tonne is obtained. For greater cross-country mobility, the suspension has also been upgraded and mine protection improved.
In February 2013, Iran unveiled what was said to be a new version of the Zulfiqar tank, with an improved fire control system and gun stabilization system. The suggestion from the reports was that the tank was not yet in mass production, still awaiting approval from the office of the chief of the general staff of the Armed Forces. At the same time, Iran displayed a tank referred to as Samsam, which appeared to be based on American M48 and/or M60 tanks, suggesting that the Zulfiqar might be limited to components from the T-72 series instead of both series as initially believed.
The Zolfaqar-1 uses a fire control system which enjoys a 'fire-on-the-move' technology. The Zolfaqar mounts a laser-warning pod on the turret. Its design enables the tank to use an Iranian-made package of reactive armor. Zolfaqar-2 is a prototype tank used as a test bed. The Zolfaqar-3 also features considerable upgrades to the fire control system, chassis, engine and main gun, with a 125mm autoloader. On 05 February 2013 the army unveiled an optimized version of Zolfaqar and Samsam tanks on the occasion of the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies, celebrating the victory of the Islamic Revolution back in 1979.
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