Sunday, April 24, 2011

Zulfiqar 3 MBT

Zulfiqar-3 Main Battle Tank 

***Working Copy***
The Zulfiqar-3 is the successor to the Zulfiqar-1 and Zulfiqar-2 tanks developed by Iran. The tank is a radical redesign compared to the earlier Zulfiqar-1 prototypes; most strikingly, it superficially resembles the US's M1 Abrams. The hull has been lengthened though is still largely based off of the M-48/60; the turret now closely resembles that on the M1. The driver sits front and center of the hull with the engine compartment at the rear with the fighting compartment in the middle with a two-man turret; the commander on right and the gunner on the left.

This article makes significant reference to a previous article on the Zulfiqar-1.

fig. 1 (M-ATF)
fig. 2 (M-ATF)
The Zulfiqar-3 was preceded by the Zulfiqar-2 which is identical to the later model save for slight differences in the storage racks and a lack of side-skirts. It is more then likely the Zulfiqar-2 and 3 are actually one-in-the-same; the original Zulfiqar-2 prototypes merely having side skirts added to them. It was reported by Jane's that the Zulfiqar-3 finished development and was entered into production in 1999.(1) Unfortunately the original reference documents talking about it in the Iranian press cannot be found at this point. Assuming that the development started in 1995 (when the Zulfiqar-1 development finished), that would give an initial timeline of four years for basic development. However, most serious Iran watchers assume that it did not enter production at this time. The three protortypes were first publicly displayed in 2003 during the Sacred Defense Week parade in Tehran. They would later emerge at yearly parades after 2003 though only two were ever seen. The next official update came in May 2010 when it was announced by Brig. Gen. Pourdastan that, despite problems with the fire-control system, the Zulfiqar had been updated and was ready to be displayed (it never was). (2) Finally, during Army Day 2011, we were given our first glance at a supposedly working model of the Zulfiqar which was based off of the third Zulfiqar-3 prototype, not the two that have been paraded for the last several years. These were also visible at this event, without the finished appearance.

There are three known Zulfiqar prototypes. The first model can be identified by its aluminum road wheels and engine exhaust grilles styled after those on the M-48A5/M-60A1. The second model has steel road wheels, engine exhaust at the center of the rear of the hull, and a different style of engine access doors. These two models have been seen for the past several years on parade in Tehran without any visible changes besides their paint scheme. The third model hadn't been seen since 2003 until it showed up again at Army Day 2011 in a theoretically operational capacity. 
fig. 3 (Various Sources)
Configuration - Hull
The hull of the tank is very similar to the hull of the Zulfiqar-1; welded plates join together to form a boxy structure with a distinctive pattern aesthetically similar to the M1's hull. It is longer then the Zulfiqar-1 hull, with seven road wheels rather then six. The added length can be found in a reshaped glacis. This translates into an aggressively sloped upper glacis and a large lower glacis welded from two plates. Since the only place enlarged was the forward section of the hull, this begs the question 'what is the purpose of the increase in size if it didn't correspond to increases in size in either the engine or fighting compartment'? One explanation might be that this was an attempt to increase armor protection on the frontal arc by better sloping the armor and allowing additional LoS thickness. Another explanation might be that it was in an effort to decrease ground pressure, and that the overall lengthening was really only a side effect of adding more track and a set of wheels.

Mounted on the front of the top glacis plate are two sets of headlights; the same type as those found on the Zulfiqar-1 as well as a set of towing/lifting eyes. Another set of towing eyes can be found on the lower glacis. It's unclear, but the exhaust from the crew compartment heater may be visible, however photographic evidence cannot confirm this for sure. No indication at this time on how the drivers compartment is configured beyond the fact that it sits at the center of the hull. The spaces on either side of the driver may hold reserve ammunition as per the Patton and T-72.

On the side of the hull is roughly the same running gear and suspension set up as that on the Zulfiqar-1. Seven steel or aluminum road wheels from the M-48A5/M-60A1 are mounted on a torsion bar suspension and are driven by a drive sprocket at the rear of the hull. Five track-return rollers along the top and an idler wheel at the front complete the circuit. In other words, almost exactly the same as on an M-48A5. The only difference is in the total length. The Zulfiqar-3 has a protective side skirt of several-mm-thick steel plate running the length of the track.

Despite appearing dimensionally larger, the power-pack at the rear of the hull also closely resembles that on the Zulfiqar-1. The majority of the extra "bulk" at the rear of the hull on the Zulfiqar-3 comes from the rather large storage bins that run the length of the tracks on top of the fenders. These might not even be storage bins, as evidenced by the lack of fasteners for the lids. They may be spaced armor components like on the Chinese Type 99. Another possibility is that they could be fuel panniers. One feature from the Patton series that disappeared on the Zulfiqar-1 but then reappeared on the Zulfiqar-3 is the towing pintle mounted at the lower-rear of the hull. The Type 3 prototype which was shown in 2011 had a secondary metal plate, about the same thickness as a side skirt, attached to the rear of the hull. Since the armor value of such a small plate is negligible, there appears to be no valid explanation beyond visual modification. Another difference is the absence of covers for where the drive sprocket meets the hull (I apologize for not knowing the technical term for this part).
fig. 4 (M-ATF)

Because it is roughly the same size as the engine compartment on the Zulfiqar-1, and because they share similar exhausts, it's reasonable to assume that the engines - the AVDS-1790 - are the same. However this doesn't preclude the rumored 1,000 hp engine associated with the Zulfiqar-1. Different exhaust routing systems indicates that, at the most basic level at least, that Iran has been fiddling with the internal arrangement of components which actually does provide some credence to the explanation that Iran has uprated their AVDS engines. The fact that the exhaust system has had its configuration modified in some way may point to the existance of turbochargers which aligns perfectly with the '1,000 hp' claim. Predictably, the air intakes louvres are located on top of the hull, running parallel to the engine.

However if the engine was the old AVDS-1790-2 with 750 hp then there an obvious problem since the Zulfiqar-3 is a larger tank then the first generation and would logically be underpowered. While the exact weight is unknown, it's reasonable to assume that the tank weighs somewhere between 36 and 50 tonnes, more then the Zulfiqar-1 (36 tonnes) but less then the maximum capacity of the Babr-400 tank transporter (50 tonnes); unfortunately this isn't a very narrow range. (3) Welded, rather then cast construction (compared to the Patton-series tanks), as well as the potential use of composites would serve to reduce weight; however the fact that the tank is longer and has a larger turret would likely tip the scales the other way.

Configuration - Turret and Fighting Compartment
The turret and the rest of the fighting compartment is located in a conventional manner at the center of the hull. This is easily the most intriguing part of the tank so far because a) we know so little about it, and b) it's easily the most important when talking about the overall battlefield-effectiveness of the tank.

Part of the reason we know so little about it is that it's not based off the M-48A5/M-60A1 design like the hull is. Aesthetically, it's quite similar to the design on the M1 with angled, flat slaps on both the turret face and sides. The storage bins and turret bustle are also dead ringers for the basic M1 configuration. To say that Iranian engineers probably drew inspiration from the American design would be an understatement. Some have suggested that Iran may have gained intelligence on these tanks during the early days of the occupation of Iraq. However the Zulfiqar design predates this event by quite a few years.
fig. 5 Basic profile of the Zulfiqar-3 turret (Google Sketchup)
The above picture is based off of the original Zulfiqar-3 prototypes (Type 1 and 2) with the rather large, though apparently non-operational hatch on the tank commanders position. As the diagram illustrates, the hatch is actually located directly behind where the gun breech would be and directly in line with the autoloader, something that hasn't been seen since WWII. However, this is no longer found on the final prototype (Type 3) so it was most likely just a peculiarity in the mock-up. Otherwise, anytime the commander wanted to have a look around the tank he'd have to clamber over moving parts of the autoloader. Not a fun prospect to consider!

The primary concern surrounds the fitting of an autoloader to the 125 mm main gun. This was reported in the same article that mentioned the 1,000 hp engine. However, like the 1,000 hp engine, this didn't turn up in the Zulfiqar-1 prototype which was fitted with M-48A5/M-60A1 style ammunition racks. It's also possible that the autoloader in question isn't based off the T-72 carousel design, but is instead of unknown, possibly indigenous origin.
fig. 6 Eagle-eye  profile illustrating provisional turret configuration with carousel autoloader (Google Sketchup)

At the rear of the turret is the bustle, visually similar to the one the M1 (unsurprisingly). However, unlike the M1's bustle, the one on the Zulfiqar is actually relatively small - just over half a meter tall. Combined with the fact that the tank likely uses an autoloader there is little chance that this would serve as the tanks primary ammunition storage. However the presence of communications equipment is likely given the configuration of the Zulfiqar-1. Pictures also indicate the presence of a turret ventilator like on the Zulfiqar. It's also possible that the bustle serves as reserve ammunition storage. This would make the tank more vulnerable by increasing the chance of a direct hit on rounds by placing them above the level of hull. However bustles can more easily be fixed with blowout doors which redirect the blast away from the crew compartment and the ammunition carousel for the autoloader. There is no indication at this point whether or not the Zulfiqar-3 has this feature or not.

Tank Commander's Station
fig. 7 Commanders periscope (M-ATF)
One thing that is known for certain is that the commander sits to the right of the turret. Most of the Zulfiqar-3 models on parade had the distinctive 'trash can' lid which was presumed to be non-operational, however the third type paraded in 2011 featured a high-power periscope mounted in the hatch roof (not in a cupola). This, combined with the absence of any similar vision blocks or periscopes on the left-hand turret ring points to the commander sitting on the right. It is unclear if this is the commanders only target acquisition devices or if there are other conventional unit power periscopes mounted out of view in a static or traversable cupola. This is unlikely to be the case because the hatch-mounted periscope sticks so far down into the turret when the hatch is closed that it would be impossible to use additional periscopes or vision blocks if they were conventionally mounted on the hatch. This configuration would severely restrict the tanks situational awareness since the commander, who is primarily tasked with target acquisition, would be restricted to a limited FOV with a setup that is very unergonomic for long periods of observation when eye-strain becomes an issue. The tanks fire-control-system (detailed below) is said to include a commanders control panel. While details are unknown, it's not unreasonable to assume that it would include the typical range of controls for the TC including control over turret alignment and target designation.

The commander is armed with a 12.7 mm DShK machine gun in a traversable cupola mount. It is possible the commander may also operate the DShK mounted semi-coaxially in a remote weapons station (RWS).

fig. 8 KAT-72 gunners sight (M-ATF)
Gunner's Station
One major difference in the Zulfiqar-3's development is that the gunner sits on the left side of the hull. This is indicated by the position of the gunners sight; in the Zulfiqar-1 it was in front of the commanders cupola but in the latest model of the Zulfiqar-3 the sight is located on the left side hatch. While this is somewhat hard to see in the parade photos, the shadow cast by the gunner's MG3 machine gun can be seen on the sight housing. (fig. 8)

The fact the gunner sits on the left of the turret and the commander on the right indicates that the loaders position has been removed and replaced with an autoloader. The reason this is the case is that when talking about any relatively-large caliber gun, such as the 125 mm, the loader needs the full half of the turret in order to move around and load shells from the various locations around the turret. Putting them in front of another station isn't really possible. It is worth mentioning that any gun using two-part 125 mm ammunition really should be equipped with an autoloader to maintain a steady rate-of-fire.

If the autoloader was imported from the T-72 this would give us further clues as to the internal configuration of the turret. While exact dimensions of the autoloader are impossible to find, some rough ones are avaible. The carousel itself is about 1.91 m in diameter and .46 m tall. The autoloader mechanism and breach form a box shape that is approximately 1 m high, .57 m wide and 2.51 m long. Of this, the breach comprises the front 1.5 m. With these dimensions, the autoloader could easily fit on the inside of the Zulfiqars turret, in fact, the length of the autoloader corresponds, more-or-less with the length of the turret without the bustle. (fig. 6)

The gunners sight in question belongs to the EFCS-3-55 fire control system produced by the Slovenian Fotona company. According to Fotona, Iran imported them during the mid-1990s, presumably for their Safir-74/T72Z program. However after sanctions were imposed on Iran by the Slovenian government Fotona broke all relations with Iran. Iran now manufactures the EFCS-3-55 under the name 'KAT-72' since at least 2005. According to Gen. Pourdastan, one of the major problems with the Zulfiqar-3 was in its fire control mechanism. What this may mean is that Iran was slated to equip their Zulfiqar-3s with these systems in the late 1990s (supposedly when development of the tank finished) but was prevented from doing so by the break in relations. Certain unknowns remain in this potential hypothesis, specifically: when relations were broken, just how far along was development and/or production techniques and tooling in 1999, and why, if the problem was fixed in at least 2005, we haven't seen any more development of the tank until just now - 12 years for reverse engineering of an FCS is a long period of time.

At any rate, the KAT-72 features a stabilized day/night sight. The daylight channel has 10x magnification and 6-degree field of view. The nighttime channel is a second generation passive image-intensifier type (which operates by measuring the radiation from sources like starlight which reflect off of objects.) It has a 7.5x magnification and a 7-degree field of view. It's also equipped with a laser rangefinder, a standard piece of equipment on any modern FCS. The LRF operates in the 1.06 micron wavelength which indicates it's a neodymium laser. It has a quoted accuracy of + 7.5 m and a range of 10 km. This, along with data such as air pressure and temperature, propellant temperature, and cross wind are input into the digital ballistic computer which then generates a firing solution. (4) It is unclear just how much of the entire fire-control process is automated and how much of it is done by hand.

This FCS is paired with the 2A46M 125 mm smooth-bore cannon, manufactured locally under the name HM-50. It fires two part shells, the propellant and the projectile. Available 125 mm ammunition includes HE-FRAG, APFSDS and HEAT rounds which are comparable to corresponding Soviet ammunition. However, Iran does produced a unique APFSDS design that is close to the BM-26 or BM-29 design. The gun is also capable of firing the AT-11 ATGM known as the Tondar. While this gun is still the largest caliber in widespread use across the world it remains insufficient for modern tank battles primarily because of the poor performance of available rounds. Guided missiles, while effective are prohibitively expensive from being deployed en masse. APFSDS-rounds are restricted to certain lengths by the demands of the autoloader and are usually held to less demanding standards then HEAT projectiles (though who knows if that's true in Iran). HEAT rounds on the other hand are effected less but are still fundamentally restricted by the size of the autoloader. In fact, none of the rounds used by Iran (except for ATGMs) can penetrate the frontal armor of the frontline MBTs of the GCC (>550 mm RHA equivalent).

A coaxial gun may be fitted to the left of the main gun (as it is on the T-72), but the picture is too unclear to know for sure. (fig. 9)
fig. 9 Possible Coaxial gun circled (IRINN/YT)
A possible alternative to the traditional coaxial gun is a DShK mounted in a RWS just behind the main gun on top of the turret. (fig. 10) Assuming that this is replacing and not merely augmenting the traditional coaxial gun this move would free up space internally as well as giving the crew another tool to enhance situational awareness. However, this gun would also be impossible to reload during combat, is far more exposed to damage then a coaxial gun and would require an operator which would distract either the gunner or commander from their primary tasks.
fig. 10 RWS mounted on the turret, note the TV camera on the right-hand side (IRINN/YT)

Like the rest of the tank, details on the armor composition of the Zulfiqar-3 remains limited at best. The defining feature of the tank, the slab sides, do shed some light on the tanks armor; many have interpreted the slab sides to mean that the Zulfiqar-3 uses ceramic or composite armor. This is some extent.

However from what I have seen, there is some confusion as to why this is the case. Early techniques of casting turrets was conducive to curved shapes like the needle-nose on the M-60, or the distinctive profiles of Soviet T-XX turrets. Laminate armor on the other hand, composed of many different layers of armor sandwiched together, is much harder to curve; this producds the flat faces we see on tanks like the M1 or Challenger. The logical conclusion with regard to the Zulfiqar-3 then is that it also most likely uses some form of laminate armor. Another, more cynical perspective would be that since the whole tank is obviously vismodded to look like the M1 Abrams, the flat faces don't really indicate anything substantial. 

It's not all that unreasonable to assume that Iran could design and manufacture the different materials required for a modern design. Early forms of composite armor were first used en masse in tanks like the T-64 and T-72 40+ years ago. Iran certainly appears to have a comparable industrial base and is capable of producing high hardness steel, various alloys and the different types of industrial ceramics used in armor (5) Of course, even with this established there are still a wide array of different materials that could be sandwiched together and in different ratios or configurations which would all produce wildly variable results, and until we cut open a Zulfiqar-3 it's unlikely we'll ever know exactly what we're dealing with.

One key component would be steel; the bread and butter of any tanks armor. This typically forms the majority of tank. Even if the Zulfiqar has ceramic or rubber inserts, steel would still be the material of choice for non-critical locations and general structural support; it's the best compromise of cost and strength.

[Armor section to be continued]

More details and conclusions as they come.

Works Cited:
(1) Jane's Armour and Artillery 2005-2006. Edited by: Christopher F. Foss, William Cook Defence.
(2) Iran to Unveil New Generation of Zolfaqar Tanks. Fars News. May 18th 2010
(3) Iranian Armour. ACIG Forums. User: "PeeD" on October 3rd 2003.
(5) I'll qualify this statement by saying I don't know much about this issue; Iran is a regional leader in steel production and appears to have a well-developed metallurgy infrastructure. Likewise, we know Iran is producing the usual types of ceramics associated with armor like Silicone Carbide (among others)

General Resources:
Vasiliy Fofanov's Modern Russian Armor Page.
Tank Net.
Jane's "The Technology of Tanks"
Paul Lakowski's "Armor Technology"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Highlights from Army Day 2011 Parade

Highlights from Army Day 2011 Parade

Every year on April 18th the Islamic Republic of Iran celebrates Army Day, or Rooz-e Artesh in celebration of their armed forces. Traditionally large parades are held across the country, the largest one taking place in Tehran.

The star of the show was undoubtedly the Zulfiqar-3 tank. After creating quite a stir in 2003 when it was shown during Sacred Defense Week, the original bare-bones prototypes remained virtually unchanged whenever they were drug out onto parade in later years. However this year, the tank, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the US's M1 Abrams, was shown with a full complement of equipment (at least externally). A more complete evaluation of this development will appear later. The two other Zulfiqar-3 prototypes were also shown, but without any of the additional accessories. 
Zulfiqar (M-ATF)

Also in the armor department, the relatively recent "Samsam" upgrade for the M-60A1 tank also made an appearance. This time around the "double-thickness Kontakt-3" ERA is organized more symmetrically compared to the earlier models seen on parade which looked as through the bricks had been thrown on and bolted on wherever they happened to land. That being said, there are still major gaps in the coverage, particularly at the front of the turret. Thankfully one mystery has been solved though; the mystery boxes on either side of the main gun on the front of the turret have been identified by a placard on the other side of the trailer as being IR jammers. I had suspected this might have been the case, but now it's confirmed!
Samsam (M-ATF)

A number of Zu-23-2s were also shown that were synced with remote weapons control. While they are not fully automatic, they do have an optical device and power elevation/traverse.
Air defense Boragh (M-ATF)

As one might be able to tell, one bonus to this parade was the wide range of camouflage patterns. Both the Samsam and the Boragh (above) as well as several other vehicles were outfitted in a black (or dark brown), white and brown "blob" pattern on a background of olive drab. A BTR-60 and another Boragh were fitted with a tan, brown and white vertical "striped/blob" pattern. There were a few other patterns, most slightly related to each other in some form or another. These patterns all applied relatively recently as evidenced by the fact that several of these vehicles were seen during Sacred Defense Week 2010 with older paint schemes. This would explain why many of the vehicles on parade appeared to be immaculate and without any "wear and tear". This brings up the question as to whether these patterns are going to be deployed elsewhere. More then likely they are just patterns applied to development or display vehicles as we've seen the same thing happen with plenty of other pain schemes (most rather horrendous) in the past.

Another surprise to many was the presence of two M113s in the all-white paint scheme of UN peace keepers. This is the second time that this happened, the first being at this time last year. This was coupled with an announcement by Brig. Gen. Pourdastan that the IRIA has a designated peacekeeping unit with the express purpose of engaging in UN peacekeeping missions. The general did specify however that they were not currently engaged in any operations. (1) According to the UN, Iran's peacekeeping contributions is currently limited to two "experts" in UMIS (United Nations Mission in Sudan). This is out of a total of 68 countries involved contributing a total of 10,445 peace-keepers. (2)

M113 in Tehran (M-ATF)

As many have observed, ATVs have been replacing motorcycles in their iconic role as modern-day dragoons. The interesting feature in this case is that the change isn't just visible on the parades in Tehran. This year, the use of ATVs has been seen by units in Ahvaz (92nd AD), Khorromabad (84th MID), Mashhad (77th MID), and Qazvin (16th AD).
ATVs in Tehran (Borna News)
There were a number of interesting BTR-60s on parade all across the country. Two were observed with pintle/ring mounted 12.7 mm DShK machine guns rather then the usual turret-mounted 14.5 mm guns. This may be an attempt to reduce weight, free up space in the troop compartment, or any number of other potential reasons which we can only guess at.
BTR-60PB in Ahvaz (Fars News)
BTRs from the 77th mechanized infantry division in Mashhad had M-47/Saeqeh ATGM operators sitting on top of the troop compartment with the roof hatches open. While this isn't remarkable as many APCs often have MANPATS stored internally it's still interesting to see exactly what type of missiles are used in this role.
BTR-60PB in Mashhad (Fars News)

In Isfahan an M109 was paraded equipped with an amphibious fording kit. The kit consists of four air bags on either side of the track and a wall erected around the top portion of the hull.
Amphibious M109 (Fars News)
For the second time, a T-72 belong to the IRIA was displayed in Mashhad. Since it's a local parade, it would only make sense for it to belong to the local 77th mechanized infantry division. Since T-72s are relatively recent newcomer to this region (which previously only relied on M-47 and M-48 tanks) this is one the pieces of evidence I believe indicates that Iran is probably producing T-72S at a low rate. Iran could simply be transferring tanks from one unit to another which is another possible explanation.
T-72(S) in Mashhad (Fars News)
Also in Mashhad, this parade offered a good look at the unit patch of the 77th MID, a subject which I've been interested in for some time as it relates to helping me organize Iran's order of battle. It features a golden-domed mosque on a black background with crossed objects, possibly rifles, in front of it.
77th MID patch on upper right shoulder (Fars News)
Another development in labyrinthine realm that is the Iranian military's uniform policy, the IRIN Marines are now being issued desert digital uniforms (similar to desert MARPAT/CADPAT). Previously they had only been seen with sage chocolate-chip safarflage or ACU-styled patterns. Marines in both Bushehr and Gilan, were seen wearing them. In Bushehr, the marines have been seen wearing a digital version of their traditional sage safariflage patterned uniform (not pictured).

IRIN Marines in desert digital patterns (IRNA)
Also in regard to uniforms, there is further evidence that the desert-dominant safariflage usually associated with the Artesh's 23rd Commando Division is now being adopted service wide as the standard pattern of the IRIA, replacing the older Woodland patterns based on the original US design.This year, it was visible on troops in Tehran, Ahvaz (92nd AD), Mashhad (77th MID), Tabriz (21st ID), Qazvin (16th AD), Ardebil (40th Ind. Inf. Brig.).
IRIA soldiers in Ahvaz (Fars News)
In Bushehr, a min-sub was seen for the first time. One is tempted to call this a large mockup like the kinds seen on parade in Tehran. However the fact that it has a working hatch as well as diving planes seem to suggest that there's at least the possibility it's a real submarine. If it does work, it's function would be to act as an SDV (swimmer delivery vehicle). A point supported by the presence of a military diver on the display next to the submarine. It would of course be designed to only operate for a short period over an equally short period of time.
Mystery submarine/SDV (Jamejam)
Meanwhile, in Mashhad, we got a rare glimpse of an ancient M-47 tank. These tanks appear to have remained largely as they were when the they rolled of the Bowen-McLaughlin upgrade plant in Khuzestan during the 1970s. However, some noticeable differences exist include a number of ERA bricks running alongside the fender on either side of the tank. The small number of bricks used, as well as their position on the storage bins makes one question the utility of such an upgrade. However more interestingly is what looks to be a security camera - the same kind used in mall parking lots across the world - mounted on a section of metal pipe coming out of the turret roof. Is this some kind of bizarre (albeit innovative) means of situational awareness? Perhaps Iran has a problem with people breaking in and stealing the stereos out their tanks at night?
M-47 with ERA and security-camera in Mashhad (Jamejam)
This year, a Raad-2 was also seen in Tabriz. The fact that a Raad-2 was displayed isn't remarkable in-and-of-itself, however the fact that we saw it deployed on parade in Tabriz indicates the location of at least one operational battalion equipped with them - the first one we've been able to nail down.
Raad-2 in Tabriz (Mehr News)
A proliferation of body armor and tactical vests has occurred in the past few years. This year, a particular kind has seen it's use skyrocket. Interestingly enough, a good number of them read "IRIAF" on the front-right shoulder strap - even the ones with no connection the IRIAF. Odd to say the least.
(YJC News)

(1) Iran Ready to Help UN with Peacekeeping Missions. Fars News. April 20th 2011.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Commanders of the IRGC

Commanders of the IRGC

***Working Copy***

Maj. Gen. Hassan Firoozabadi
Serves as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces from 1989 until the present. (1) Many criticize his appointment as political in nature thanks to his lack of any meaningful command experience or knowledge.

Maj. Gen. Gholamali Rashid
Served as a regional commander in the Qods force during the Iran-Iraq war and now possibly serves as the deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces. Unclear if either he or Maj. Gen. Mostafa Izadi hold this position, but at any rate, they both serve in the JCS. (2)

Maj. Gen. Mostafa Izadi
Possibly serves as the deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces. Unclear if either he or Maj. Gen. Gholamali Rashid hold this position, but at any rate, they both serve in the JCS. (3)

Brig./Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri (سرلشکر محمد باقری)
Serves as the Deputy Operations Chief at the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces. (4)

(center, right of TOW) (Borna)
Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi (5) (6)
Reported to have joined the Qods force in 1980, and then later appointed director of IRGC intelligence at an unknown time where he served until 1990. Since then, he was commander of the Lebanon Corps of the Qods Force from 1990-2005. He is widely suspected to have oversaw the 1994 bombing of an Argentinian Jewish Cultural Center in conjunction with the Lebanese group Hezbollah.(7) From 2005-2009 he served as the Deputy Minister of Defense, and then in 2009 he was promoted to Minister of Defense, replacing Gen. Najjar.

Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar (8) (9)
Served in Iranian Kurdistan in 1979 and 1980 and was later appointed  commander of the IRGC Middle East division from 1982 to 1985. In 1989 he was made head of the Armament Industries Group (AIG), a position which he served in for an unknown amount of time. From 2002 to 2005 he was head of the Ammunition and Metallurgy Industries Group (AMIG). He served as Minister of Defense under Ahmadinejad from 2005 to 2009 when he was appointed as the Minister of the Interior,  a position which he continues to occupy until the present.


Mohammad Ali Jafari (10)
Commander of the Ashura battalion and Najaf brigade during the Iran-Iraq war. From 1992-1995 was commander of the IRGC-GF and Sarallah corps. In 2005 he was appointed as the head of the Center for Strategic Studies. In 2007 he was promoted to the rank of Maj. General and appointed to the head of the IRGC. In this role he is a major player with regards to the development of Iran's asymmetric warfare doctrine as well as it's specific tactics against both reformist and anti-GOI protesters.

Brig. Gen. Ali Shamshiri
Appointed head of the counter-intelligence directorate for the Ministry of Defense in 2005. Current position unknown. (11)

Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi (12) (13)
Served in the 2nd artillery brigade in the IRGC during the Iran-Iraq war. From 1989 to 1997 he served as the Deputy Commander of the IRGC. In 1997 he was promoted to Commander of the IRGC. In 2007 he was appointed the position of military adviser to the Supreme Leader. Reported critic of the Khatami government.

Hossein Taeb
Rank Unknown. Commander of the Basij from July 2008-October 2009 when he was appointed as the Commander of IRGC intelligence, a position he still holds. (14)

(Fars News)
Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi
Deputy commander of the IRGCN from an unknown time until May 2010 when he was promoted to Commander of the IRGCN. (15) (16)

(Fars News)
Rear Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri
Commander of the 1st IRGCN naval district until 2010 when he was appointed to the position of Deputy Commander of the IRGCN, a position which he still holds. (17) He replaced Rear Adm. Morteza Safari in this role.

Rear Adm. Reza Torabi
Commander of the IRGCN's first naval district since June of 2010. (18)

(Fars News)
Vice Adm. Ali Akbar Ahmadian
Commander of the IRGCN from 1997 to 2000 and the Chief of the IRGC Joint Staff from 2000 to 2005. In 2005 he was appointed head of the Imam Hossein University. Currently he serves as the head of the IRGC Center for Strategic Studies, a post he has held since 2007. (19)

(Fars News)
Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh
Commander of the IRGC-AF. (20)

Works Cited:
**Note that several of the works cited here are extremely anti-IRI, i.e. of relatively dubious quality. However since ranks and titles are fairly concrete facts (vs opinion or interpretations), they're being included anyway***
(1) The Islamic Republic's 13 Generals. Iran Briefing. Feb. 3rd 2011.
(2) ibd Iran Briefing, 2011
(3) ibd Iran Briefing 2011
(4) ibd Iran Briefing 2011
(5) Ahmad Vahidi. Wikipedia.
(6) The Qods Force. Iran Terror Database. July 19th 2005.
(7) Ahmad Vahidi, Iranian Cabinet Nominee, Wanted In Bombing Of Argentine Jewish Center. The Huffington Post. September 21st 2009.
(8) Mostafa Mohammad Najjar. Wikipedia.
(9) Biography of Iranian Defence Minister Brig-Gen Mostafa Mohammad Najjar. Accessed via:
(10) A Hardliner's Hardliner. PBS. January 21st 2010.
(11) Iran’s Supreme Leader appoints new defence intelligence chief. Iran Focus. October 30th 2005.
(12) Yahya Rahim Safavi. Wikipedia.
(13) ibd Iran Briefing 2011
(14) Hossein Taeb. Wikipedia.
(15) Iran Watch.
(16) Commander: IRGC Preparing for Future Threats. Fars News. April 10th 2011.
(17) Tangsiri Appointed as Lieutenant Commander of IRGC Navy. Fars News. June 20th 2010.
(18) ibd Fars News June 20th 2010
(19) Iran Watch.
(20) Iran Shoots Down Several Foreign Spy Planes. Fars News. January 2nd 2011.

Commanders of the Artesh

Commanders of the Artesh

***Working Copy***

Maj. Gen. (Sarlashgar/سرلشگر ) Ataollah Salehi
Salehi at officer school graduation 2007 (Mehr News)
Commander of the Artesh, from 2005 to the present. Preceded by Gen. Mohammad Salimi. 

Brig. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi (سرتيپ عبدالرحيم موسوی)
Joint Chief of Staff for the Artesh from 2005 to the present. From an unknown period until 2008, he was the deputy coordinator for the Artesh. In 2008 he was appointed deputy commander to the Artesh and presumably still serves in that role. (1) (2) He succeeded Brig. Gen. Reza Ghiraei Ashtiani in this role. (3)

Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan (سرتيپ عحمد رضا پوردستن)
(Unknown probably Fars News)
Commander of the IRIA from 2008 until the present. He succeeded Brig. Gen. Hasssan Dadras in this role. (4)

Brig. Gen, Kiomars Heydari (سرتيپ کيومرث حيدری)
(Fars News)
Deputy commander of the IRIA from an unknown time until the present.

Vice Adm. Ali Shamkhani (دریابان علی شمخانی)
(Unknown, probably FN)
Commanded various IRGC units in the Khuzestan province during the Iran-Iraq war. He was promoted to the rank of Brig. Gen. in the IRIN in 1989. Between 1990 and 1997 he was commander of the IRIN and IRGCN, and from 1997 to 2005 he served as Minister of Defense under Pres. Khatami. During this period, in 1999, we was promoted to the rank of Maj. Gen. (aka, Vice Adm.). In 2001 he ran for president as an independent. From 2005 until the present, he served head of the Strategic Council for Foreign Relations. He also serves the head of the Center for Strategic Studies (it is unclear exactly which "CSS" he served as the head of as there are a number of them). (5)

Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari
Serves as the commander of the IRIN at the present time.

Brig. Gen. Hassan Shah Safi
Serves as the commander of the IRIAF at the present time.

Works Cited:
(1) Six New Appointments in Army. Accessed via:
(2) Army Commanders Reshuffled By Leader. Fars News. October 26th 2008. 
(3) ibd Shiachat 
(4) ibd Fars News, October 26th 2008 
(5) “علی شمخانی”. Persian Wikipedia. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Uniform Insignia and Patches of the IRIN

Uniform Insignia and Patches of the IRIN

Symbol of the Navy
Emblem of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) forces. Features an anchor of a background of waves with the characteristic stylized Allah surounded by red, white and green roundels. Text runs alongside the top of the patch. Worn sporadically by naval personnel and marines alike, typically on the upper left sleeve.

IRIN Aviation
Emblem of the IRIN aviation contingent. Features an anchor on a backdrop of waves and a winged ships wheel below a stylized Allah. Position on uniform in unknown but upper left or right sleeve is a safe bet.

IRIN Marines
(Eric Larson)
Emblem of the Iranian marines. Features a trident with a parachute canopy and a ship in between the prongs. Below this is a shark and lettering in English text that reads "I.R. Iran Marines". Along the top in persian lettering that reads "tofangdar-e dariai". Typically worn on either the upper right or left sleeve below tabs if present.

Marine Commando
(Eric Larson and Fars News)
Elite branch of the regular marines. Patch and tab similar to the one worn by regular Takavars in the ground fources. Red and black patch features an upward point dagger below Persian lettering that reads "Takavar daryai" or "Marine/Naval commando" which can also be found in English below. Known operational capability include naval assault and amphibious capability.

Special Boat Service
(Unknown and Unknown)
Not much is known about this commando unit within the Marines. The elite British SBS trained Iranian special forces during the days of the Imperial Iranian navy so it is possible that this legacy still exists in one form or another. Emblem features a parachute canopy, dolphin and crossed oars as well as an anchor and kayak. The inclusion of the kayak and crossed oars would imply that infiltration and airborne operations remain a key component of their doctrine. Typically worn on the right breast pocket.

Special Boat Service Two
(Unknown and Fars News)
Another Iranian SBS unit similar to the one above. This patch has similar features to the first with an anchor and kayak and dolphins. Worn on the left breast pocket.

(Eric Larson)
No Information about specific qualifications. Features an old-time diving helmet above an anchor and flanked by two fish. Three different versions, one-star, two-star, and three-star (pictured).

Hovercraft Pilot
Unknown if this is a pre- or post- revolutionary pin. Would be worn as a patch on field uniforms.