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. The Zulfiqar Iranian main battle tank (MBT) was conceived by Brigadier General Mir-Younes Masoumzadeh, deputy ground force commander for research and self-sufficiency of the armed forces. It is named after Zulfiqar, the legendary sword of Ali, the first Shiite Imam.
The tank has a distinctive box-shaped, steel-welded turret of local design. The suspension is modelled on the M48 /M60 Patton tanks supplied to Iran by the U.S. The SPAT 1200 transmission also seems to be a local development of that of the M-60. Zulfiqar-1's combat weight has been reported to be 36 tonnes with 780 hp diesel engine; giving the tank a 21.7 hp per ton ratio. Some sources see resemblances between the Zulfiqar design and the Brazilian prototype Osório.
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 Zulfiqar is operated by a crew of three personnel. The automatic loader is believed to be the same one from the T-72 tank. The tank is armed with a 125 mm smoothbore gun 2A46 derived from the T-72, which is fitted with a fume extractor. Its secondary armament consists of a 7.62 mm coaxial and a 12.7 mm machine gun. For the Zulfiqar/T-72 fleet, the Ammunition Group of the Iranian Defense Industries Organization mass-produces a standard high explosive 23 kilograms (51 lb) propellant charge which fires the 3 kg warhead at a muzzle velocity of 850 metres per second (2,800 ft/s).
The Zulfiqar-1 is based on the M60 Patton model acquired under the pre-revolution era. The Zulfiqar-1 was first revealed in public in 1994. A total of six prototypes were completed and field tested in 1997. The Zulfiqar-1 is protected by a welded steel hull and the turret is reinforced by a composite armor. Its design enables the tank to use an Iranian-made package of reactive armor. The Zulfiqar-1 is armed with a 125mm Smoothbore gun taken from a T-72. 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. The Zulfiqar-1 uses the Slovenian EFCS-3 fire control system, the same model used on the Type 72Z ("Safir-74"), providing 'fire-on-the-move' technology.
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.
The Zulfiqar-3 is the most advanced variant of the Zulfiqar family, and the only production MBTs of the whole series, were derived from the Zulfiqar-2. Although similar in many ways, the turret is modified, smoke mortars added, the fire control system is considerably upgraded, as well as the chassis, engine and main gun. 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. It features considerable upgrades to the fire control system, chassis, engine and main gun. The new variant is equipped with the 2A46 125 mm smoothbore cannon with an autoloader, a laser rangefinder and a new fire control system. It is also fitted with a reinforced turret and the wheels are covered by an armored panel. As many as 100 to 250 may have been produced by 2017.
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