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Army Modernization

Over the years, Iran purchased army equipment from many countries, including the United States, Britain, France, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Italy, and the Soviet Union. By late 1987, Iran had diversified its acquisitions, obtaining arms from a number of suppliers. Among them were the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), China, Brazil, and Israel. The diversity of the weapons purchased from these countries greatly complicated training and supply procedures, but, faced with a war of attrition and a continuous shortage of armaments, Iran was willing to purchase from all available sources.

The IIGF operated almost 1,000 medium tanks in 1986. Although a large number were British-made Chieftains and American-made M60s, an undetermined number of Soviet-made T-54 and T-55s, T-62s, and T-72s and Chinese Type 59s were also part of the inventory, all captured from the Iraqis or acquired from North Korea and China. There was also a complement of fifty British-made Scorpion light tanks. Several hundred Urutu and Cascavel armored fighting vehicles from Brazil joined American-made M113s and Soviet-made BTR-50 and -60s. An undetermined number of Soviet-made Scud surface-to-surface missiles were acquired from a third country, believed to be Libya. In November 1986, the United States revealed that it had supplied the Iranian military with MIM-23B I-HAWK surface-to-air missiles and BGM-71 TOW antitank missiles via Israel, a part of the Iran-Contra scandal. Iran subsequently worked to reverse engineer the BGM-71 missile, developing a derivative known as the Toophan. Iran has also shown a capability to maintain and potentially produce a derivative of the MIM-23B.

Iran proved adept at finding ways, either through purchase of components abroad or reverse engineering domestically, to keep equipment of Western origin operational. All Iranian military services also cannabilized portions of existing equipment in order to keep other portions operational. While the operational readiness of certain vehicle fleets was of continual debate by Western observers, Iran continually displayed various Western weapon systems during parades and in exercises.

In 1989, Iran bought armoured personnel carriers, multiple rocket launch systems (MLRS), and 100 T-72 MBTs. In 1993, Iran went into negotiations with Russia for 400 T-72 MBTs, and the necessay training and equipment, and 500 BMP Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicles (AIFVs). During FY92, Iran procured 150 BMP-1 AIFVs (WZ-501) and 30 Chinese 152mm Type 83 towed artillery. Iran's indigenous APC, the Boragh, incorporated many components of the BMP-1/WZ-501 series acquired from China. Iran also has reported local production of a surface-to-air missile system similar to the Chinese HQ-7, named the Shahab Thaqeb.

Iran eventually became the third country in the Middle East to build main battle tanks (MBTs). Until recently, Israel was the only country in the area able to build an MBT, with its Merkava. Egypt had also begun building the US General Dynamics Land Systems M1A1 MBT. As of 2008 Iran license produced the Russian T-72S MBT, as well as the BMP-2 IFV, and had also developed and fielded an upgrade package for its T-54/55 and Type 59 MBTs. This package, various referred to as the T-72Z or Safir-74, replaced the main gun, fire control components, and added Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) to the vehicle's turret and hull.

Iran's push for self-sufficiency in military capability following the Iran-Iraq War generally involved license production of systems from friendly nations, primarily China, North Korea, Ukraine and Russia. It also involved significant reverse engineering of systems obtained under the Shah to extend their service lives or otherwise maintain their functionality. During the 1990s, for instance, Iran developed two self-propelled artillery systems, both based on the locally produced Boragh APC, one fitting a turret derived from the 2S1 122mm self-propelled howitzer of Russian origin, and the other with a turret derived from the M109A1 155mm howitzer of American origin. Both vehicles incorporated guns in their respective calibers of Iranian manufacture.

While Iran produced tanks and other armored vehicles, light and heavy infantry weapons, and a variety of artillery systems, the largest number of systems in any one class generally surrounded rockets. Iran produced rockets, mainly derived from foreign types, in 5 sizes, not counting domestically produced variants of older Soviet-type battlefield support rockets. It also produced a wide variety of launching systems, including variants designed to be carried by trucks and other light vehicles, or be man-portable for special operations or irregular warfare.

With the exception of battlefield support rockets, Iran's ground weapon systems have been produced by the state-run Defense Industries Organization, specifically by the Armament Industries Group and the Vehicle Industries Group. These state-run companies also offered most of the equipment for export. Iran sold a number of types of ground equipment to the armed group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran also reportedly sold APCs to Sudan in 2002 and SAMs, as well as patrol boats to Sri Lanka in 2005. Iran was also accused in 2006 of supplying equipment to the Madhi Army and other anti-coalition groups in Iraq.

In December 2015 Commander of Iran's ground forces Ahmad Reza Pourdastan said that ties between the Iranian military and Russia's military supply sphere "had been established and that Iran plans to buy the T-90 tanks." But Pourdastan said on 02 February 2016 that his desire to purchase a shipment of T-90 tanks from Russia has not found support among the country's military leaders. "We informed the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces that the T-90s are in our interests. However, considering Iran's possibilities, the issue of buying the T-90 tanks was taken off the agenda. We intend to produce our own tanks." Iran can autonomously reproduce old models, but it cannot create contemporary machinery. Tank construction is not a simple field, and India has not produced a decent domestic tank. Maybe they'll buy some technologies from China. China believes that today it is in the condition to produce the best tank in the world.

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Page last modified: 11-02-2016 19:50:58 ZULU