Sunday, December 27, 2009

Qom Missile Facility

Qom Missile Facility Image Analysis

The Qom missile facility, it's actual name unknown, a sprawling array of bunkers and firing zones north-east of the city of Qom and on the border between the Qom and Markazi provinces and is only about 3 kilometers west of the Tehran-Qom Highway. The facility is enormous, much larger then the facilities at Kermanshah, and larger even then the more famous Imam Ali Missile Base near Khorramabad. The imagery of the area, unfortunately is very old, from August 2005.

The complex is roughly around 150 square kilometers, and unlike the Kermanshah, or Imam Ali centers, is not based in canyons, but rather around a series of individual hills into which bunkers are dug. Other then that, it is very similar to its counterparts on the western border, with large ammounts of hardened bunkers, above ground, launching sites as well as underground zones with launching ramps at their entrances.


There are multiple types of distinctive bunker types of this facility. The first an smallest are about 12 meters long and 7 meters wide. These are serviced by dirt roads and have no concrete ramp leading up to them, indicating that they must be moved to pre-determined launch zones. These are found mostly in the south and south-easterly zones.


The next type is the most common and are the same kind as those found at the other missile sites on the western border. They are about 20-25 meters long and 15 meters wide. There is a trapazoidal concrete ramp in front of each bunker about 15 meters long and 10 meters wide at its longest base. These can be found all over the base. There are also a number of bunkers that are the same, but with different ramps in front, 20 meters wide, by about 8 deep.



The third type looks to be a development of the second type, they are also definitely newer. They are also slightly larger at 25 meters or over, though still the same width. The main defining feature though is the concrete ramp leading up to it, it is square, about 10 by 10 meters, rather then trapazoidal, and has an 8-meter long "side-path" leading off from it. Its use can only be guessed at, though its inclusion on newer generation bunkers indicates that it does have some purpose.


In the middle of the Eastern compound, there is an interesting feature. There is a set of 11 bunkers surrounded by a very large fence and checkpoint, off considering its already within a secure compound. These bunkers are also odd because instead of being covered with the brownish earth characteristic of the area, they are covered by a sandy colored earth or even perhaps solid concrete. The bunkers dimensions are not remarkable, measuring about 20 by 12 meters. There is also the presence of 3 large unidentified buildings that could possibly be fueling stations. There is also possibly a launching pad, that would appear anywhere else to be a parking lot. Taking all this into account could possibly point to a Shahab-3 battery, while extremely sensitive, and powerful, it would still need the fueling facilities.


There is another set of extremely curious types of bunkers on in the eastern compound. These are very wide, at around 25 meters, but relatively short, at 20 meters. This points to a large door, this is interesting because none of the known systems requires this. It almost looks like a hardened aircraft shelter, though this option should obviously be discarded due to its location and adjacent facilities. There is also the pronounced rectangular shape rather then the preferred tunnel shape of all other bunkers, in addition to this the ramps in front are equally wide, but shallow, and additionally has twin ramps leading up the side.


As with the other complexes throughout the country, there are are extensive underground facilities that can be described as psuedo-silos, in this case, in the western portion of the compound. That is, missiles are stored, and prepared there, but must be driven outside in order to fire them. Though it is possible, though extremely unlikely that the small building on top of the hill conceals a hidden launch tube. There are also buildings adjacent to the entrances, although of indeterminate use, its undoubtedly connected to the nearby pseudo-silos.


There is also a second complex of the same nature, also with twin entrances, this time in the south western sector. This particular "pseudo-silo" is still under construction with its second entrance still being excavated, although by now it has undoubtedly been finished.


The launching zones within this complex are much as they are elsewhere, protective dirt berms about 40 by 40 meters. One distinguishing feature is that lots have been converted either to storage, or in the case as those in the eastern sector, into protected construction zones, with buildings within the perimeter of the berms. As of 2005 there were 5 completed or semi-completeted buildings with foundations laid on 10 others. There are also a small ammount of stand alone concrete launching slabs littered throughout the facility.




Administrative facilities exist as well, with the main locus being on the far end of the eastern sector, though with new consturction on the eastern most edge of the western sector.





Other notable features in the immediate vicinity is a small military airport due north about 5-6 kilometers. The only presence visible at the airport are 7, likely 8, small short-range turboprops. Located next to the airport are the remains of a SAM battery, possibly HAWK, or possibly even a Skyguard site. However it has severely degraded since 2003 and clearly isn't in use.


Speaking of air defence, there is a notable lack of proximate air defense positions. This is not that unusual given their absence at all the other missile facilities. However with the Qom site, they are relatively well protected as they are located at the heart of the overlapping SA-5 zones from Esfahan and around Tehran. There is also a SA-2 battery near Qom providing some closer protection. As with the other locations, it relies heavily on the inherent protected nature and is likely, at least to some degree, protected by mobile or semi-mobile systems.

More December Updates

I've decided to take a major steps in this blog. That is the deletion of the "Palestine" section. This comes as a result of gradual decline in effort being directed toward it, for the foreseeable future I couldn't see myself writing any posts for that section. Also, I felt the course of this blog is changing, I am becoming more and more focused on the Iranian military, specifically, viewing it analytically and assessing it, at least in theory, without bias. The "Palestine" section is anything but this, it contains my personnel opinions presented in an extremely vitriolic medium, something I feel negatively effects the credibility of the blog as a whole.

Maybe I will create a separate blog specifically for my thoughts on Palestine, but it wont be The Arkenstone. It ultimately depends on the direction of this blog and how much time and effort I end up devoting to it.
Along the same lines, if anyone wants a copy of any of the posts within the deleted section, I still have them and would be happy to send anyone a copy of them.

Another change I am thinking about is an analysis section. Up until this point I have been doing mostly reviews of weapons systems and image analysis, while this wont end, its work that could be done by anyone with Google Earth and a search engine. I hope to be including more actual analysis of the Iranian military, such as critiques of the effectiveness of current air defense doctrines, or perhaps analysis of what a war between the US and Iran would look like.

This is the last major change to the format of this blog I see happening for awhile. But then again, as Donald Rumsfeld famously once said "...there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know." Meaning there might be some unforeseeable change I have to undertake.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Qom Nuclear Site

Qom Nuclear Site Image Analysis

**As Always, click images to enlarge**

Though a little late, the "newly" discovered nuclear site is a good candidate for image analysis.
The nuclear facility is located about 20 kilometers north of the city of Qom and is nestled in a small mountain range just south of the Qom salt lake, a testing ground for many of the weapons in the IRIAF arsenal. In fact the greater area around Qom is a hotbed for IRI military activity, just west of the nuclear facility is an extensive missile storage facility (subject of my next post), and just north of that is what is likely a military airport.

The imagery for this area is surprisingly new, coming from October 4th 2009. The site was nearly non-existent in the previous imagery, in mid-2005. Compare the latest images available from Google Earth to commercially available images from January 2009 we can see that construction is progressing at an extremely fast pace, so even the images from October (at the time of Posting, Christmas Eve 2009) are fairly out of date. Of course we do the best with what we get.
This image below is an overview of the complex. Red lines indicate border's, whether dirt berms or security fences. Blue dots indicate possible air defense sites (all detailed below). Green boxes show 'built-up' areas, anywhere with buildings of any sort, whereas the red dots indicate main entrances to the nuclear facility itself (detailed below).


The facility itself, as mentioned above, is located in a mountain range going east-to-west. The burying of the facility within the mountains at this specific location makes it an extremely hard target to attack. The mountains themselves not only provide an incredible amount of protection by sheer virtue of 'being under a mountain', but unlike the more prominent facilities at Bushehr, it makes attack profiles more difficult because the mountains reduce the risk from low-flying cruise missiles, although of course the risk is not eliminated 100%.

Installed defences, in comparison to other facilities are unsurprisingly, slim. It's a facility in construction, and was supposed to be at least, a secret installation. In the northern corner of the fenced in compound, there is at first glance what appears to be the makings of an SA/HY/Sayyad-2 SAM site, it does after all match the dimensions perfectly, about 210-220 meters in diameter. However there are a profuse amount of these circles in the surrounding plains to the west, this means its probably just another berm. The close proximity to the missile storage as well as the abundance of berms of all sorts outside the compound indicate that it could likely be a relic of former rocket testing grounds. However the fact that it was purposefully included within the compound and has obviously new roads leading up to it indicate that it could be in the process of being refurbished into an AD position.
There is also the question of the hardened shelters. Their size (about the size of missile storage bunkers) means they're not likely to be carrying sensitive nuclear components, but rather, possibly mobile anti-air systems such as the Pantsyr, TOR-M1, or SA-6.
Other defenses are about the same, there is a perimeter fence, dotted with watchtowers, covering the majority of the western and northern side of the facility while the north-eastern and south-western edges are covered by layers of multiple dirt berms. The rest of the mountains provide protection for the southern flanks. However when the facility is complete we should expect a more complete perimeter.


Moving onto the actual underground nuclear facility. There are eight main entrances to the facility, four facing north-west, then two more staggered along the same face but farther up the slope, and the last two are 'back-door's', smaller entrances on the opposite side of the mountain.
Entrance numbers 1 is acutally composed of four large tunnels leading into the mountain side, these are exceptionally large, having openings of about 10 meters. Entrance number 2 and 3 is interesting, while it has two separate smaller entrances, they both apparently connect to the same larger tunnel, one likely explanation to this is to prevent the effectiveness of air strikes aiming to "close off" the complex by collapsing the entrances. Entrance 4 is the most visible of the nuclear complex facilities, its a subterranean building about 40 x 120 meters. While now ceiling-ed off, back in January the insides were visible to satellites, and we can identify what are likely centrifuge facilities with massive structures inside this building. Moving up a row we get to entrances 5 and 6 which are much smaller, being only "single-wides" (like each of the two making up 2 and 3), that being said, they're also much deeper, going into the steepest sides of the mountain making them well protected. The last two entrances, 7 and 8, are the back-door exits existing most likely only has emergency or supply routes. The real meaning of theese doors though is the proof that the facility extends completely under the mountain rather then simply bunkers being dug into the side of the hill. It would after all, be illogical to build these self-contained facilities on opposite ends of the mountain.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Air-to-Ground Weaponry

The information in the section is currently being reviewed and updated and should not be taken as being 100% accurate. - October 9th 2010

Iranian Domestic Air-to-Ground Weaponry


As Always, images are able to be viewed full size by right clicking then 'view-image'

Zoobin
Developed midway through the Iran-Iraq war, Zoobin, or ‘Arrow’ in Farsi,
is also known by its designation, AGM-379/20 and as such belongs to the first generation of Iranian PGM’s (1) The Zoobin is rocket powered, possibly by the mk. 58 Hercules used on the IRIAF’s stock of AIM-7’s, or possibly the TX-481 from the AGM-65’s. Of course, neither can be confirmed.
The bomb itself is built around the body of the M117 general-purpose bomb. This explosive is located midway through the missile body, bolted to the four main wings.(2) I believe this is possibly supplemented by an additional amount of explosive, likely a shaped charge located forward of the M117 body in the nose of the missile, the large nose being significantly larger then what is required for the seeker. Of course this entirely depends on my estimations on where the body of the M117 ends and the “AGM-65” section starts, something that cannot be certifiably determined.
The guidance unit is a standard daylight TV seeker taken from the AGM-65 Maverick and is located visibly in the nose of missile. Control surfaces are located on the four rear fins; the larger forward wings are static, providing only lift.
The Zoobin has been tested on the usual F-4E ‘bomb-truck’ platform used by the IRIAF as well as the F-5. The missile has a launch ceiling of anywhere from 300-30,000 ft, the max height being the same as the AGM-65 Maverick. (3)

Here is the Zoobin, located behind the Kite-2000 Chaf/Flare dispenser



Qadr
The next bomb of interest is the Qadr, or the GBU-67. Developed around the same time as the Zoobin, the Qadr derives its name means ‘Force’. (4) The Qadr is no doubt based off the original GBU-8 of which the US supplied documentation of to Iran during the 1970’s (5)
The Qadr is built around the body of a 2,000 lb mk. 84 genera purpose bomb, but as with the Zoobin, may or may not include an additional amount of explosives in the nose of the bomb. Four long, but shallow glide fins run the length of the bomb from the beginning of the guidance unit back to the directional fins at the rear.
Like the Zoobin, the Qadr takes the guidance unit, a daylight TV seeker, straight from the AGM-65 missile, and controls the flight of the bomb through four directional vanes at the tail.
One distinguishing feature from the Zoobin is that while the Zoobin is rocket powered, the Qadr is an unpowered glide-bomb with only the control vanes at the rear to control its fall.
The Qadr has been used, both on the F-5 as well as the F-4. (6)
First here is a good shot of the Qadr on parade


Close-up of the Qadr Seeker head, from a 2002 show.


“ZooQadr”
I am using this mashup of the terms “Zoobin” and “Qadr” to describe the mystery missile being fired from an F-4E over the Qom Salt Lake in the 1990’s. (7While at first glance it appears to be a Qadr as it lacks the distinctive mid-section wings. However at second glance, the rocket motor and the fact that the body is the 750 lb M117 of the Zoobin make one question if its not the Zoobin. The question is an interesting one, which bomb is it, because it bears similarities to both. The answer is probably neither, because, as I said, it bears similarities to both and ultimately rests simply on ones own interpretation of what makes a Qadr a Qadr and what makes a Zoobin a Zoobin.



Yasser
Not much is known, the only information coming from the same mock-up that is seen on yearly parades. However we can tell that the Yasser is not so much a missile as it is a large rocket, no sensor in the nose is visible as well as a complete lack of steering fins.
The business end is the 750 lb M117 bomb that forms the head of the rocket, the same as the Zoobin.
The rocket however forms a good two-thirds of the length of the rocket, considerably larger then its counterpart on the Zoobin or the “ZooQadr”. Given its appearance, it is likely the rocket motor is a direct conversion from, or a derivitive of the motor on the AIM-23C, otherwise known aas the HAWK SAM. The main explanation for this is likely that the rocket serves to extend the range of the bomb near exponentially as well as give it deeper penetrating power. Combined, the factors of lack of guidance as well as the extreme long range and penetrating power, we can conclude that the Yasser is likely used in attacking static facilities, the rocket enabling a greater stand-off distance.


Yasser at the TAB 4 Airshow in 2008



Sagheb
Along the same lines of the Yasser, is the Sagheb. The Sagheb is another conversion kit for the M117 bomb, and like the Yasser, its an unguided rocket system 4 static fins in roughly the same style. However unlike the Yasser, it’s a considerably smaller system, the rocket portion a bit shorter then the warhead portion. It likely fills the same role, just simply a smaller missile.

Sagheb on parade




Sattar-1

The first member of the Sattar family, the Sattar-1 closely resembles the AGM-65 Maverick. However the one key difference is the conspicuous lack of the traditional TV guidance unit in the front of the missile. The next possible explanation for this is that it’s a dumb rocket in the same manner as the Yasser or the Sagheb, but clearly evident are the Maverick-style control fins at the rear. Of course there exists the ever present possibility that this is simply a mock-up existing as part of psyops warfare. Piggybacking along with this idea is the possibility that it was only ever a prototype ot a general concept that was passed over in favor of other systems.
Regardless of its status, there is some information we can glean from its outward appearance. First among these is that is appears to be rocket powered due to its similarity to the AGM-65. There is also a signigicantly larger gap between the static wings and the guidance fins then in the original AGM-65, indicating a larger rocket motor, and consequently longer range. In addition to this, the shape of the nosecone, sharper, more in the style of the AIM-54 then in the more circuler required for the TV seeker of the AGM-65, indicates that it has not merely been obscured for public showing.
This leaves us with the most-likely scenario, judging from the rest of the Sattar series which are laser-guided, we can guess this is the case with the Sattar-1. However the problem here is that in every picture we have seen of it, it is lacking the traditional laser tracker mounted on the ubiquitous gimbal mount. However this is most likely due to the fact that we are being shown the same mock-up every single time rather then seing the full range of Sattar-1's produced, i'll emphazise the fact that these are simply mock-ups, not operational rounds such as the Kh-29 or Kh-58 training rounds often shown.
It has been said that the Sattar-1 weighs 1,000 kg, roughly 2,200 pounds which sounds approximately correct for a missile that size given that the Qased is also 2000 pounds.
In the same report, it was mentioned that the Azarakhsh was specially strengthened in order to fit the “Sattar-1/2 laser and electro-optical precision guided munitions.”(8) Of course he never cites this information meaning its questionable at best.
The Sattar-1 has been canceled in favor of newer projects.
Sattar-1 in an old parade, the Sedjeel is front while the Sattar is in the background




Satter-2
The Sattar-2 remains outwardly the sane as the Sattar-1, bearing a rough similarity to the original AGM-65. However in the one picture we have seen of it, the laser tracker is visible so we can at least give a shaky confirmation to the guidance of the Sattar-1. It is unclear exactly what this new tracker is though, it would definitly be an improvement over the 1st model though.


Sattar-3
The Sattar-3 is a derivative of the Sattar-1, maintaining the original body. The most noticeable change to the system is of the configuration of the fins, stead of going with a configuration like that on the AGM-65, they instead went with a system reminiscent of the KAB-250L, though I’m not indicating there is any connection between the two projects, they merely look alike. This shifts the control fins from the back of the missile to the front.
The next change is in the guidance mechanism, while the system on the Sattar-1 is unclear, it is clear that the Sattar-3 is laser guised as indicated by the gimbal on the front of the nose. The laser designator in question is the TLS-89 that is fitted on the F-4 Phantom.
At roughly the same size as the Sattar-1, it would weigh the same and contain many of the same components such as the amount of explosive as well as the possible existence of rocket propulsion.
Sattar-3 on parade - Sacred Defence Week 2009, also visible is the laser designator. Although the numbering says "76" indicating it might be something new


A better view of the gimbal on the front.



Sattar-4
No information available as it has not been seen.



Qassed

The Qassed, otherwise known as the AGM-78, is one of the newer generations of Iranian munitions, being announced recently in 2006.
The Qassed can be seen as a successor to the Qadr, that is, a large PGM derived from the mk. 84.
Specifically, as mentioned, the 2,000 lb mk. 84 general purpose bomb forms the body of the Qassed. This is complemented by the same AGM-65 seeker on the front of the missile that graces the vast majority of other Iranian PGM’s. Bridging the two parts are four large static strakes that serve to provide lift and stability. Meanwhile the control mechanism is in the back, located behind four large wings are the control fins, identical to those found on the Qadr.
One item is of note with regards to the seeker, immediately below the seeker head is an unknown indent into the missile, and within this indent is a small black object that may or may not be some type of lens or tracker, unfortunately it is only visible during a poor-quality video so its impossible to be sure of what it is.
Some have called it laser-guided but I find this unlikely, first is the clear shot of the TV seeker in the head which is similar to the one seen on the Qadr and the AGM-65. Second is that in the video released of the test it clearly showed the US of a TV scope for guidance. However in addition to this, it has been announced that it uses "thermal imaging" instead of the original daylight-only television sight used on the Zoobin and the Qadr. (9) While not visually apparent, this is entirely plausible given the evolution of targeting mechanisms. To place this in context, the sighting would be roughly equivelent to AGM-65F. This is a valuable development as it allows night-time bombing instead of being restricted to daytime.

Also like the Qadr, it is unpowered, as is evident in the video released of the tests.
It bears a significant similarity to the US GBU-15 series, though this is less likely to be a case of reverse engineering of stolen material as some have cried, but rather when building the same type of weapon, getting the same result, as well as not trying to reinvent the wheel so-to-speak. In other words, when you make an unpowered 2000 lb, optically guided smart bomb, there are only so many designs you can or should choose.




Qassed-2
The development has been announced as recently as March 2010, indicating testing is only just beginning. Nothing yet has been revealed beyond an increase in precision, destructive power and range. As with most of Iran's military announcments this is horribly vague. One possibility is the addition of a rocket booster, a common 2nd generation upgrade. Also, there is the possibility of replacing the original TV seeker with some kind of IR seeker that would give it an a night fighting capability. (10) But at this point, it remains nothing more then conjecture.


Footnotes
(1) “AGM-379/20 Zoobin”. Global Security. 10-07-2008. http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita...ran/zoobin.htm
(2)“Iran Reveals Combat-Proven PGM Family”. Jane’s Information Group. December 4th 2002 http://www.janes.com/aerospace/milit...1204_1_n.shtml
(3) ibd Janes Information Group
(4) “GBU-67/9A Qadr”. Global Security. 10-07-2008 http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita.../iran/qadr.htm
(5) “Iranian PGMs”. ACIG Forums.
(6) ibd Janes Information Group
(7) ibd ACIG Forums
(8) “US vs Iran vs Hybrid War” Dr. Abbas Bakhiar. Global Geopolitics Net. January 1st 2007. http://globalgeopolitics.net/arc/010...ar-Iran-US.htm
(9) "Iranian Air-Launched Missiles" Iran Defense Forum
(10) "Iran to Test Fire Optimized Smart Bombs" Fars News Agency. 2010-03-01 http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8812101508

Monday, December 14, 2009

Identifying Units of the Iranian Armed Forces - ORBAT - Artesh

The information in the section is currently being reviewed and updated and should not be taken as being 100% accurate. - October 9th 2010

First off, this is primarily a first draft and is not in its finished state. There will be modifications to it in the future.

**Note** As always, click images to enlarge

Infantry Divisions

28th Infantry Division
Based out of the Kermanshah province in western Iran, not much is known about this division.

64th Infantry Division
The 64th infantry division is based out of Tabriz in the East Azerbaijan province in northern Iran. The 64th is truly an "average" division within the Iranian army. They wear new woodland BDU's and carry G3A4 rifles (the collapsible stock model, not to be confused with the domestic bullpup G3 by the same name). One distinguishing feature is that they tend to wear a yellow neck scarf on parade, though by no means is this universal.

Now is a good time to examine what an "average" infantry division looks like. Unfortunately there is no information on the actual breakdown of brigades like there is with the commando division, though with several differences. Here are some ideas, though I have to emphasize that they are unconfirmed.

Note: I'm comparing the divisional troops to the commando division because they're the only firm base of reference for size and composition of the forces that we have.

- Larger overall size: abundance of conscripts that don't have to go through the specific commando training means it is much easier for each brigade to be much larger then its counterpart, meaning the divisional elements are also larger. On the other side of the coin, these additional troops are the benchmark for training within the IRI rather then the "elite" commando units.

-Less mobile: First off, the larger size inherently means they're not going to be moving as fast as a smaller, more agile force, thats all there is to it. Second is equipment choice, the few transports evident within parades indicate they aren't placing as much emphasis on nimble forces as in their commando. For instance, there are no motorcycle teams, but rather a preponderance of heavy troop transport trucks.

- Infantryman: The basic unit within the division, they wear woodland-pattern US BDU's and carry the G3 rifle and wear the M1 steel pot helmet. Body armor has not made it this far down into the ranks beyond special operation troops. Support weaponry is provided by the MG3 and PKM machineguns as well as the RPG (though we can assume there are ATGM troops deployed within the units) at the squad level.

-Artillery: Artillery within the Artesh varies widley and is by no means uniformly standardized, the most common being the D-30 and M-46 towed artillery as well as the self-propelled M109 howitzer and the 122 mm Grad (locally called Arash rocket, fired from the HM-20). Numerous other types exist as well, the vast majority being either towed or MLRS type. Mortars are often widespread and integrated directly into each unit.

- Air Defense: Zu-23-2's are integrated directly into infantry units, both towed as well as being mounted onto vehicles, the same holds true for MANPAD's such as the Misagh. Dedicated air defense battalions traditionally use SAM's such as the Rapier or HAWK

-Transport: Most common are large soft-skinned troop transport trucks that also serve as towing platforms for artillery as well as SAM's and AAA. Jeep's are also widespread, though they have almost entirely been replaced by the newer, indigenous, Safir, though for all intents and purposes, it can be considered identical to a regular jeep. These also serve as platforms for machinguns, mortars, recoilless rifles, a ATGM's . Along the same line as the Safir are light trucks that sere the same purpose



30th Infantry Division
Much like the 64th, the 30th is an "average" division. From what is available however, we can tell that they use the newer Safir’s rather then the older Jeeps. Artillery support is given by M-46 towed gun.




77th Infantry Division
Based near Mashhad, the 77th wears woodland fatigues and carries G3 rifles. However they can be identified to an extend because they often wear orange neck scarves on parade. This division also has a number of M-47 tanks to act as support, the exact number is not known, but I estimate it to be less then 50. This division uses more motorcycle troops then other regular army divisions. BTR-60's are used, likely in support of the few M-47 tanks in much the manner as a self-contained armored section.





Commando Units

Specific commando units are easy to distinguish from other units due to their use of the "duck hunter" camouflage that, with only a few exceptions, isn't in use with any other unit. Also notable is their tan beret which is also unique to commando units

58th Commando Division
The 58th division Based out of Dezful, and is unique in the sense that they are a full division, rather then being orgazines at the more common brigade level. Armour is not apparent beyond the simple steel helmet most often covered by a camouflaged cover and less often, netting. Support weaponry at the squad level is the MG-3 and RPG. The individual rifle is the AK-47 as with all the other commando units.
The 58th is highly mechanized making extensive use of the BTR-60’s in Iranian service. The same holds true for, trucks, jeeps and motor cycles, the latter often deployed from helicopters.
We know that the 2nd brigade of this division has the following composition:
- 3 Infantry commando battalions
- 1 Air defense battalion
- 1 Artillery battalion
- 1 Instruction battalion
Another fact we know is that Iranian divisions tend to be ‘light’ in the sense that they’re usually smaller then their western equivalents. Given this, we can extrapolate this data to the rest of the division, and it is likely that the rest of division looks something like this:
- 9 Infantry commando battalions
- 3 Air defense battalion
- 3 Artillery battalion
- 3 Instruction battalion


45th Commando Brigade
Based out of Dezful, the 45th can easily be confused with the 58th due to their close proximity. One interesting feature is that they use both the G3 rifle as well as the Ak-47. They may also be deployed with BMP-2 IFV's, or they might have merely been acting in close support with the 92nd armored division, it is unclear.



Zahedan Commando Brigade
Actual unit designation is unknown, but a commando presence has been confirmed, being seen on parade in Zahedan and during the 2006 Blow of Zolfaqar games, wearing the tan beret, and commando patch associated with the independent commando units. They also had used the AK-47 and duck-hunter camp in the same manner as the 58th commando division. Their beret, appears to be of a slightly lighter color then some of the other commando units, although this might easily just be a trick of the light. It can also probably be assumed that their organization is similar to each of the individual brigades within the 58th division.


Gorgan Commando Brigade
Same as the Zahedan brigade, nothing is known beyond that they are equipped in the same manner as the rest of the commando units.


Tabriz Commando Brigade
Same as the Zahedan brigade, nothing is known beyond that they are equipped in the same manner as the rest of the commando units.


4th Commando Unit
Located in Tehran, literally, nothing else is known, beyond its rumored existence.

23rd Commando Division
Based out of Tehran, they are perhaps one of the most elite organizations in the Artesh, they are also one of the more elusive, and they are rarely ever seen except for on parade a few times per year. This division is almost entirely volunteers, with no conscripts ensuring a high degree of professionalism. They are identifiable by their top-notch equipment by Artesh standards, notably, desert dominant safariflage, body armour, Kevlar helmets, and newly manufactured G3 rifles. They do have a distinctive patch on the upper right arm, though unfortunately it is never visible enough to give proper identification, it is possible there is a parachute on the patch indicating that they are an airborne division, but at this point, due to the image quality, that is no more then a stab in the dark. Equipment wise, as mentioned above they are never without full body armor, as well as collapsible stock G3 rifles. As far as support weaponry goes it is most commonly RPG’s and PKM at the squad level. Use of motor bikes is the only proven vehicle use as of yet



55th Airborne Brigade:
The 55th airborne brigade is based out of Shiraz. Identifiable via the duck hunter camo, a black beret and two distinctive patches on the right upper arm, visible below. They are occasionally visible wearing body armour. They are armed with G3 rifles. They jump, most likely out of the C-130H’s seen in Shiraz.


65th Airborne Operations Brigade:
Another famous unit, they are visible due to their use of safariflage DPM pattern camouflage. They wear a tactical vest and a green beret. The patch of the 65th is a dagger and golden wing superimposed over a green parachute and is located on the left shoulder. As for weapons, the MPT-9S (collapsible stock MP5) is standard, replacing the older uzi. Assault rifles are extremely rare, occasionally using a folding stock AK-47. Support weaponry, specifically the PKM, is equally rare.




Armored Divisions

Armored divisions within the Artesh deal with extreme non-uniformity with regards to type of armor used. While this might be a nightmare for logistics managers, its convenient for us who try to discern information about the armed forces of Iran, that is, divisions are organized by type of tank meaning whenever we see a vehicle, we can guess where its from just from the type.
The tanks are supported by mechanized infantry, generally recognizable by the red berets and scarves visible on parade (a theory I'm not entirely sure I buy, but as of yet, its the best explanation advanced).

92nd Armour Division
The 92nd armour division is one of the shining features of the conventional Iranian arsenal. This is evident, if only by its stationing in Ahvaz, the crucial town along the southern border with Iraq. In comparison to the hodge-podge nature of Iranian armour elsewhere, the 92nd has fared relatively well, being at full divisional strength rather then the ‘light’ divisions found elsewhere.
The division itself frequently conducts war games and exercises indicating a high level of training within the division. Luckily for us that mean that there are also lots of good images to analyze.
The armour itself is composed of T-72 tanks painted in a stripe brown pattern. The T-72’s used are probably T-72S’s, rather then the lower quality T-72M1’s, but there is no way of confirming this as the Iranians have added ERA to both models obscuring the defining features. These tanks are supported by BMP-2’s painted in a similar manner as well as a very small number of BMP-1’s, though it is possible they have been completely phased out by now. M60 tanks also appear to be deployed in this division, but when they are, they are deployed as second-line armour, usually only in the infantry support role rather then as armour.
Speaking of infantry, there appears to be a very large infantry portion of this division, likely due to the fact that there is not a dedicated infantry division located immediately adjacent to them. They wear US-style woodland BDU's and M1 helmets, normally without covers, though sometimes with netting and more recently, painted in camouflage, often garishly like, though not quite rivalling, the paint on the Tosan, Zulfiqar, and Safir. Individual weaponry includes both the AK-47 and the G3, though by far the latter is most common and is regulated by unit. Squad support weaponry is most likely the PKM, though not much information is available on it, it is most likely deployed at a lesser rate then to the. Recoilless rifles and 107 mm rockets are deployed fairly frequently; often in conjunction with Jeeps. The infantry are occasionally supported with M113 and BTR APC’s, both with and without TOW’s. Overall quality of the equipment within the infantry support seems to be lower then of those within the dedicated infantry divisions, for instance, their rifles tend to be older models, their uniforms are second hand and they use older Jeep’s instead of the Safir.
Like other armored divisions, they also make use of the BTR-60 for mechanized infantry support.
Artillery support within the division is provided the M109, note, most likely not the Raad-2, also used are the towed M-46 130 mm artillery piece and Grad or Arash 122 mm rockets.
MANPAD’s such as the newer Misagh-2 and older Misagh-1 as well as zu-23-2’s, both towed and mounted on trucks, provide embedded anti-aircraft support, though there are dedicated air-defence battalions existing, utilizing, at minimum, the HAWK system.
These are divided into three brigades, but it is unclear how it is divided further.



81st Armour Division
Based out of Kermanshah. No further information can be confirmed, but it is likely that they use the M-60A1 tank as its MBT (compared to the 92nd who use it as a 2nd line asset). The number of M60's left in service has been estimate at around 150-160. If this is true, and we attribute 30 or so to the 92nd division, that leaves the 81st with around 120-130, an extremely light division. But this is keeping in line with contemporary assessments of Iranian armor.

16th Armour Division
Based out of Qazvin, base is located north of the city, about 3-4 km. The 16th division likely uses the Chieftain tanks. As with the 81st division, this cannot be confirmed, but it is likely. The number of Chieftains left is commonly cited as around 100. Although all sources inevitably trace back to Anthony Cordesman, who has a history of underestimating Iranian strength and misreporting figures, these numbers are then tossed around and have a way of becoming generally accepted as true. For instance, he reports 422 T-77's in service, this number has become the de facto accepted number even though a 5-minute research reveals it to be around 500.

Regardless, the 16th is still a light division of Chieftains. However the Chieftain has been undergoing series of modernizations with the Mobarez program for several years as with the Safir-74 program. While the entire stock has not been converted (there is every so often a regular Chieftain on parade) most likely the majority have assuming a rate roughly comparable to the Safir-74 program.


88th Armour Division
The 88th armoured division, based out of Zahedan in the south-east of the country is definitely the runt of the litter when it comes to Iranian armour. As its stuck defending the sparsely inhabited Sistan-Baluchistan Province near Pakistan instead of the Iraq border or Tehran, it receives the worst of the equipment and participates in less training exercises per year. As such it is stuck with about and 50 M-48A5’s and an unspecified number of M-47M’s, It is likely the number is somewhere around 60-80 out of the remaining 100 M-47’s, with the remainder being stationed with the 77th Infantry division near Mashhad, though it is impossible to confirm the exact numbers.
This would mean that it would be an extremely light division, being only around 130 tanks total.
Extrapolating this further we only get, two half-strength tank battalions. This is extremely week for an entire division, but keep in mind that this units main enemy are poorly armed Sunni-rebels. The terrain also is extremely rugged, unsuitable for large armoured formations.
Infantry support within the division is much like that in the 92nd, generic army infantry with woodland camouflage uniforms and G3 rifles, MG-3’s and RPG’s.
Mechanization is provided by trucks as well as M-113's and BTR-60's like the rest of the army as well. Fortunatly, we do see the use of a different camouflage pattern. Instead of the tan/dark brown scheme we see elsewhere, at least on their APC's, we see the use of a black/olive green pattern.


Note that this picture is extremely old, it was taken in 1998 when Iran was preparing to invade Afghanistan.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Zelzal TBM

Zelzal Tactical Ballistic Missile
***Updated: Friday, March 19th, 2011***
***The Following is an Excerpt from "Iranian Military Capability 2011"***

The Zelzal family of rockets is another development of the attempt to build a FROG-7 equivalent. It is a later development then the Nazeat and is considerably larger. The project was started in the early nineties, though it is unclear in exactly what year. They are sometimes called “Mushak”, which simply means missile.

Zelzal-3/3B TELs (Fars News)
The launch platform is the same as the Nazeat, a 6x6 Mercedes-Benz truck with elevating launch ramp. Though now, the Mercedes 2631 trucks are becoming more common (foreground, pictured right). Though rarely used, the Zelzal is also able to be launched from the ZIL 8x8 TEL used with the FROG-7 system. Most recently, specifically, September 2009, a new configuration was tested, mounting three missiles on a single static launch ramp. The fact that it is static is surprising given that mobility is often seen as one of the key attributes of the system. One explanation for this is that the static launch is just for testing, this is backed up by early pictures of the Fateh-110 (separate entry) being tested on a similar static mount.

Zelzal-3 spin stabilization (Mehr News)
The rocket is considerably larger then the Nazeat and comes in several versions, the Zelzal-1/1A/2/3/3B. The most commonly seen is the -3/3B with the earlier versions becoming harder to spot. The Zelzal-1 is then shortest of all the variants, has a bullet shaped nose and lacks the distinctive spin stabilization nozzles of the later models. The Zelzal-2 also has a bullet nose and appears extremely similar to the Zelzal-1. However, it features the spin stabilization nozzles just below the warhead. The Zelzal-3 and -3B both have conical warheads, the latter with a smaller warhead that begins to taper off almost immediately after the stabilization nozzles.

The Zelzal-2 is often seen in conjunction with the Zelzal-3 TEL (which is labeled as such) which has led to confusion over the identity of the Zelzal-2 and 3.

All variants are single-stage, solid fueled, unguided and fin stabilized by four rear non-moving fins. They are also spin stabilized by jets just below the warhead which fire at launch giving it a distinctive profile. They are usually equipped with unitary HE warheads, though can be equipped with sub-munitions or CBRN payloads.

Supposedly, production halted or at least slowed down in 2001. This may or may not be true, it is also possible that it only referenced a specific generation of Zelzal. At any rate, if it was true that the Zelzal program was at one time canceled, it appears to have been revived following the renewed focus on asymmetrical deterrent weapons like TBMs. Or maybe, the stocks are just so large that, while production has in fact stopped, they are still maintained as keystone part of the strategy. The possibilities are near endless with one guess nearly as good as another at this point.

Some have claimed that the latest versions of the Zelzal have inertial and terminal guidance. The fin configuration however rules this out. This may be a reference to the Fateh-110.

Specifications: Zelzal-1 *

Configuration: Single stage, solid fuel
Weight: 2,950 kg
Length: 8.3 m
Diameter: 601 mm
Max Range: 125-130 km
Warhead: 600 kg
Guidance: none
* = Only information available Global Security, a historically unreliable site for precise information on Iranian programs


Specifications: Zelzal-1A**
Configuration: Single stage, solid fuel
Weight: 2,950 kg
Length: 8.3 m
Diameter: 601 mm
Max Range: 160 km
Warhead: 500 kg
Guidance: none
* = Only information availnle via Global Security, a historically unreliable site for precise information on Iranian programs

Specifications: Zelzal-2**
Configuration: Single stage, solid fuel
Weight: 3,450-3,545 kg
Length: 8.3-8.46 m
Diameter: 601 mm
Max Range: 300 km
Warhead: 210-600 kg
Guidance: none
* = Only information available via Global Security, a historically unreliable site for precise information on Iranian programs

Specifications: Zelzal-3
Configuration: Single stage, solid fuel
Weight: 4,000 kg
Length: 9.58 m
Diameter: 616 mm
Max Range: 200 km
Min Range: 180 km
Warhead: 900-950 kg
CEP: <1000 m
Guidance: none

Specifications: Zelzal-3B
Configuration: Single stage, solid fuel
Weight: 3,600 kg
Length: 9 m
Diameter: 616 mm
Max Range: 260 km
Min Range: 235 km
Warhead: 600 kg
CEP: <1300 m
Guidance: none

December Updates

It absence of any real posts in November (and October for that matter), i figured a reorganization of the side menu would suffice. I split up the menu into three distinct sections, 'Image Analysis', 'Weapons Systems', and 'Other Military', whereas before it was simply just "Iran Military".

Other updates include a new article that will be appearing soon, written, not be me, but by a 'guest author' who has expressed willingness to learn about the Iranian armed forces, who may or may not become a regular. Also i'd like to include that i've been working off-and-on for awhile on the order of battle (ORBAT) of the Iranian military (excluding IRIAF and non-marine IRIN). From the get-go its been plagued by setbacks, namely completely false information on "Global Security". Regardless, i think i've gotten that more-or-less figured out and i should be releasing a preliminary draft sometime next week, or maybe this weekend if i'm lucky.

-Ayyash