Monday, May 30, 2011

Preview: Shahed 285 Update

Here's a little graphical representation I drew up in Google Sketchup to illustrate the instrument panel configuration on two variants of the Shahed 285.

Monday, May 23, 2011

News - Iran Equips IRGC with Large Numbers of 'Qiyam 1' Ballistic Missiles - FNA

Iran Equips IRGC with Large Numbers of 'Qiyam 1' Ballistic Missiles

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Defense Ministry started supplying large numbers of 'Qiyam (Rise) 1' high-precision ballistic missiles to the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on Sunday.

The new missiles were supplied to the IRGC in a ceremony attended by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi and Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh.
Article Continued at: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9003016225


Photo Gallery at: http://english.farsnews.com/imgrep.php?nn=83010005

Brand new Qiams in 2011 (FNA)
More commonly spelled "Qiam-1", this ballistic missile was only recently unveiled during a test-firing in August 2010. During the delivery ceremony at least 10 missiles were visible in their storage configurations. This would seem to indicate that the current production rate is one per month which may or may not be the maximum potential capability.


The missile itself is reminiscent of Iran's other designs which are derivatives of the SCUD-family, specifically the Shahab-2/SCUD-C. The major difference was of course the "triconic" warhead and the removal of the four stabilizing fins at the rear of the missile. The implication to the latter is that the control mechanism/guidance is much more accurate which would have to account for the increased instability.

However the biggest debate so far over the missile has been about it's dimensions. While it is externally identical in most regards to the Shahab-2, some observers including the author have brought up the possibility that the missile is smaller then the Shahab-2/SCUD-C. My own calculations indicate a diameter of .7 m and a height of 8.63 m versus a diameter of .88 m and a height of 11.25 m for the SCUD-C. Both numbers correspond to 76-79% of the original SCUD-C dimensions.

However there are a number of "unknowns" in this equation such as the height of the people being used as reference points, the distortion caused  by looking up at the top of the missile, and the distortion caused by measuring objects that are in different axis. These all add layers of inaccuracy on the calculations above.


The image most often used to measure the Qiam (FNA)
Moreover, there's also a number of "logical" concerns about scaling down the missile, the chief among them being "why"? Scaling a Shahab-2 down 20% offers no readily apparent advantage over a design that's already proven and has established tooling and production lines.

At this point, it is the opinion of this blog's author that the Qiam may or may not be somewhat smaller then the Shahab-2 and that we, while we should keep our minds open to the possibility, cannot say with undeniable conviction that there is a dimensional difference.







For detailed discussions on the dimensions and other characteristics of the missile, readers are invited to visit the following sites:


Arms Control Wonk - Iran's Qiam Missile Comments (2010)

Iran Military Forum - Qiam-1 Missile Tested Successfully (2010)

Iran Military Forum - Qiam-1 Missile is now Being Delivered to IRGC (2011)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

News - Iran Starts Mass-Production of Powerful Anti-Armor Munitions - FNA

While I previously attempted a news section about this time last year it petered out after a month or so. Hopefully this new section will be more permanent and establish some semblance of a regular posting schedule for this site.

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Iran Starts Mass-Production of Powerful Anti-Armor Munitions

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran on Saturday started mass-production of anti-armor ammunition in an official ceremony attended by the country's Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony of the mass production of 125mm and 105mm shells for Saqeb Anti-Armor System here in Tehran today, Vahidi stated that production of the new ammunition is aimed at bolstering the Armed Forces' capability in ground battles and creating a wide range of anti-armor ammunitions.
Article Continued at: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9002310572

Photo Gallery at: http://www.irna.ir/Display.aspx?NID=030395338

The "Saqeb anti-armor system" are gun-launched armor-piercing-fin-stabilized-discarding-sabot (APFSDS) tank shells that rely on kinetic rather then explosive/chemical energy to penetrate the target. They have replaced HEAT as the preferred anti-tank round in most nations inventory.

There are two different types of APFSDSs that can be seen during the factory innaguration. The first of these is the 125 mm BM-22 which can be identified by its ring-type sabot and five large bore-riding fins at the rear of the penetrator.This was the easiest to identify as there was a cutaway poster clearly displaying the round and it's name. The BM-22 was the predominant round in the Soviet Army during the 70s and 80s and was the best APFSDS round Iraq had access to when they fought the US in 1991 and 2003; though by this time it was far too weak to penetrate the frontal armor of Western tanks. It's fins produce high drag and it's sabot style is generally thought to be inferior to more modern designs. (1)

The second type of round is the 125 mm BM-42 which can be identified by it's black color, funnel sabot and overall greater length though it still retains the high-drag fins of earlier designs.

No 105 mm APFSDS rounds were displayed.







 (1) Information about Soviet/Russian APFSDSs from: http://fofanov.armor.kiev.ua/Tanks/

Friday, May 20, 2011

Small Arms - Pistols and Submachine guns

Small Arms - Pistols and Submachine guns
***The Following is an Excerpt from "Iranian Military Capability 2011"***

PC-9
PC-9 (Diomil)
Iran's main service pistol, the PC-9 is a copy of the Sig Sauer P226. The gun competed with and eventually lost out to Beretta to provide the US's main service pistol. It has a reputation for accuracy, reliability and ease of use. The pistol is in service with the IRIP and all military branches.

Besides the PC-9, a small number of other handguns are in service with special units. For instance, bodyguards for high-level officials often use revolvers.

Specifications: PC-9
Cartridge: 9x19 mm
Length: 196 mm
Weight: 845 g
Muzzle Velocity: 335 m/s
Effective Range: 50 m
Magazine: 15 round


MPT-9
MPT-9 or MP-5A3, note the checkered handguard (Jamejam)
The MP-5 is one of the most well known submachine guns in the world and serves within the Iranian military in the IRIA, IRIN, IRGCGF and the IRIP.

The MP-5 is essentially a scaled-down G3 battle rifle. Iran produces the MP-5 domestically under the name MPT-9. The basic model features a collapsible stock, while the MPT-9S has a fixed stock. Iran also produces the MPT-9K, the compact SMG variety complete with a folding stock.

The MP-5 and variants in use by IRIP forces are used mostly in cities and CT units as border patrol units mostly carry AK-47's. It is also in service with IRIA units such as the 65th airborne brigade, certain naval marine units, and rare IRGC units.

Specifications: MPT-9
Cartridge: 9x19 mm
Length: MPT-9: 570 mm (500 mm closed), MPT-9S: 690 mm, MPT-9K (325 mm)
Weight: MPT-9: 3.08 kg, MPT-9S: 2.54 kg, MPT-9K: 2.2 kg
Muzzle Velocity: MPT-9/9S: 400 m/s, MPT-9K: 375 m/s
Effective Range: MPT-9/9S: 100 m, MPT-9K: 25 m
Magazine: 30 round

Uzi
IRIN Marine commando with Uzi (Fars News)
An Israeli submachine-gun, it has largely been replaced by the MPT-9, but still is used by select units such within the 65th airborne and some naval marines. One unique feature on pre-revolution Iranian Uzi's is a lion and crown imprinted on the rear of the gun as well as a stamped "IMI" and Persian lettering above the grip.

Specifications: Uzi
Cartridge: 9x19 mm
Length: 640 mm (470 mm closed)
Weight: 3.5 kg
Muzzle Velocity: 390 m/s
Effective Range: 100 m
Magazine: 20-50 round

PM-12
PM-12S (Fars News)
An Italian submachinegun manufactured by Beretta, the PM-12 is used by police forces throughout Europe. In Iranian service, the PM-12S is used by IRGC security forces, police, and some special forces.

Specifications: PM-12S
Cartridge: 9x19 mm
Length: 660 mm (418 mm closed)
Weight: 3.2 kg
Effective Range:150-200 m
Magazine: 20--32-40 round

Tondar-69 Tactical Ballistic Missile

Tondar-69 Tactical Ballistic Missile
***The Following is a Modified Excerpt from "Iranian Military Capability 2011"***

Tondar-69, 2009 (Mehr News)
The Tondar-69 is a conversion of the HQ-2 SAM to a guided surface-to-surface missile like the Fateh-110. The missile is likely a domestic production of the Chinese CSS-8 which is an HQ-2 adapted for the same role.

The system is mounted on a static launcher like the HY-2, though can probably be easily towed and a self-propelled platform like a 6x6 truck is not out of the question given the mounting of missiles like the Fateh-110. Some sources indicate that the liquid-fueled 2nd stage has been replaced with solid fuel, but this is unconfirmed.

Some sources list the CEP as ranging from 50 m – 150 m, while this is possible, there is no conclusive evidence. Moreover, such a small CEP is significantly better then that found on the Fateh-110 which should be assumed to use a comparable system because they’re roughly of the same generation and if the Tondar-69 carried a much more effective INS, it would logically find it’s way into the Fateh-110.

Specifications: Tondar-69/CSS-8
Configuration: 2-stage, solid and/or liquid fuel
Weight: 2,650 kg
Length: 10.8 m
Diameter: .65 m
Max Range: 150 km
Min Range: 50 km
Warhead: 190 or 250 kg
Guidance: INS

Fateh-110 Tactical Ballistic Missile

Fateh-110 Tactical Ballistic Missile
***The Following is a Modified Excerpt from "Iranian Military Capability 2011"***

IRGC Fateh-110 on HQ-2 style TEL (Fars News)
The Fateh-110 is a refined TBM, being a guided missile rather then a rocket like the Zelzal or Nazeat. The system emerged in May 2001 with full-scale production beginning at the earliest in late-2002 or 2003. There are three versions, the -110, and the -110A, and a yet unnamed third generation that was unveiled in August 2010. The program is likely directly connected with the Zelzal program as the basic dimensions between the two are nearly the same.

Some have asserted that it is a copy of the Chinese DF-11, but the dimensions of the two missiles make this unlikely. While the two share battlefield roles and it is plausible that the China used their experience with the DF-11 to lend assistance to Iran, there exists no concrete connection between the two projects that is apparent.

The Fateh-110(A) is mounted on a 6x6 truck similar to the Zelzal and Nazeat, though the TEL mechanism more closely resembles the SA-2 or Tondar-69 TBM (see below). Recently the missile was shown mounted on the exact same TEL as that associated with the Zelzal (1st picture under the Zelzal entry)

Guidance and control unit of the 3rd-gen Fateh-110 (Borna News)
The missile is externally very similar to the Zelzal, both are single-stage solid-fueled designs of the same size. Though there are several differences. First is the warhead, unlike the symmetrical warheads on the Zelzal or Nazeat, the Fateh-110(A)'s nose narrows sharply at the top. The next major difference is the configuration of the fins. The Fateh-110(A) features a set of four movable control surfaces mounted on the guidance unit just below the warhead, in addition to this there are four non-moving stabilizing fins at the rear of the missile with another set of four smaller static fins located just fore of the rear set.

The difference between the -110 and the 110A is unknown, though if the pattern of other TBM's is any indication, it relates to the size of the warhead and the corresponding range of the missile.

Gimballed gyro of 3rd-gen Fateh-110 (IRINN)
The third generation is also externally identical to the -110 though, according to DM Vahidi, it features improved accuracy and the ability to perform evasive maneuvers against ABM systems. This announcement was accompanied by a video of the impact from testing, a rarity among Iranian missile announcements; this lends at least some credence to the claim of improved accuracy. However this is by no means definitive. Video evidence suggests the missile uses a gimbaled gyro, most likely mechanical, for the INS guidance. The third generation is in production, with the first batch being delivered to the IRGC in time to coincide with Sacred Defense Week 2010. Later, during the same week, Fars News announced that the missile had a range of 300 km.

Some sources have claimed a combination of inertial and GPS guidance, however this is unconfirmed. Other sources have claimed EO terminal guidance, but this is not supported by the missiles appearance. Its poor CEP is attributable to its small control surfaces; instead of having regular jet vanes at the rear of the missile. The warhead may separate from the missile body in the terminal phase.

Specifications: Fateh-110
Configuration: Single-stage, solid fuel
Weight: 3,620 kg
Length: 8.76 m
Diameter: 616 mm
Max. Range: 250 km
Min. Range: 150 km
Warhead: 450 kg
CEP: <750 m*
Guidance: INS+??

* = at maximum range

Nazeat Tactical Ballistic Missile

Nazeat Tactical Ballistic Missile
***The Following is a Modified Excerpt from "Iranian Military Capability 2011"***

The Nazeat family of rockets was an attempt by Iran to develop a FROG-7 equivalent during the 1980's with considerable help from China. They are sometimes called “Mushak”, which simply means missile.

The Nazeat system can be mounted on several platforms, including the 6x6 Mercedes-Benz trucks that also carry the Fajr-series rockets such as the 2631 series.

The rocket itself comes in two variants, the Nazeat-6H and the Nazeat-10H. Both are single-stage, solid-fueled and carry HE warheads, though can be equipped with a variety of warheads including sub-munitions or even CBRN payloads. They are unguided and fin-stabilized by four rear fins.

Non-standard Nazeat-6H TEL (SMM)
Specifications: Nazeat-6H
Configuration: Single stage, solid fuel
Weight: 960 kg
Length: 6.29 m
Diameter: 356 mm
Max. Range: 100 km
Min. Range: 80 km
Warhead: 130 kg
CEP: <500m*





Nazeat-10H (M-ATF)
Specifications: Nazeat-10H
Configuration: Single-state, solid fuel
Weight: 1,830 kg
Length: 8.02 m
Diameter: 455 mm
Max. Range: 130 km
Min. Range: 110 km
Warhead: 230 kg
CEP: <650 m*

* = at maximum range

Fajr Rocket (MLRS) Artillery

Fajr Rocket (MLRS) Artillery
***The Following is a Modified Excerpt from "Iranian Military Capability 2011"***

Fajr-3
The Fajr-3 is a 240 mm self-propelled MLRS system originally derived from the North Korean M-1985. Some sources say mass production began in 1990 while others say it was first tested in 1996. This might be explained by the difference with producing a copy, and then later, testing a newer generation of the weapon.
Fajr-3 (Modlex)

The weapons system was first mounted on the original 6x6 Izuzu used by the North Koreans where the Mercedes-Benz 2631 has become the standard for newer generation models.

The MLRS itself consists of two banks of six tubes each. The rockets can be fired in a salvo, in 48-96 seconds, or individually. It is a safe bet that the same fire-control system used in the Fajr-5, described below, is also used in the Fajr-3.

The 240 mm rockets have a 90 kg warhead, usually HE, HE-FRAG, but can likely carry submunitions, incendiary, smoke and chemical payloads as well; they have a maximum range of 43 km. They are spin and fin stabilized, but unguided.

The inaccuracies inherent in an unguided rocket system combined with small number of rockets that can be launched in a salvo prevent the Fajr-3 from being a truly effective system in the tactical role.

Specifications: Fajr-3
Caliber: 240 mm
Weight: 407 kg
Length: 5.2 m
Max Range: 43 km
Warhead: 90 kg

Fajr-5
The Fajr-5 uses the same mount as the Fajr-3, with the newer generation using the Mercedes-Benz 2631 truck.
Fajr-5: Note the data-link antenna (Sejil.ir)

Also added is a networking system that enabled data-links within and between batteries. Another feature added is remote fire capability under which the command vehicle can link all Fajr-5's within a 20 km range.

However, most interestingly is the reported installation of a naval surface search radar which indicates Iran might use the MLRS in an anti-shipping role. At the very least, they appear to be able to link together with other anti-ship assets like the Noor or the Raad and share their targets.

The rockets have a 175 kg warhead, which can likely carry a variety of payloads including HE, HE-FRAG, incendiary, smoke or sub-munitions. They are spin stabilized, but unguided.

The inaccuracies inherent in an unguided rocket system combined with small number of rockets that can be launched in a salvo prevent the Fajr-5 from being a truly effective system.

Specifications: Fajr-5
Caliber: 333 mm
Weight:: 915 kg
Length: 6.48 m
Max Range: 75 km
Warhead: 175 kg

Specification: Fajr-3/5 Truck-Mounted Launcher
Length: 10 m
Height: 3.34 m
Width: 2.5 m
Max Speed: 60 km/h
Barrels: 12
Elevation 0 - 57
Traverse: 90 left - 100 right

Sunday, May 8, 2011

88th Armored Division

03/21/14: The following is an update to the original post.

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The Army Ground Forces' (NEZAJA) 88th Armored Division is based in the south-western Sistan and Baluchistan province and is subordinate to the NEZAJA's 'South-East Operations Headquarters', which itself is based in Kerman and commanded by Brig. Gen. 2nd-Class Nader Alidoost. As of April 2012, the division was commanded by Brig. Gen. 2nd-Class Haqiqat Fard. (1)
Organizational structure, provisional

Despite the fact that its constituent units have been transformed into independent brigades under the NEZAJA's Structural Reorganization Plan, the '88th Armored Division Operations Headquarters' remains.(2) This HQ shares a garrison with the 188th Independent Armored Brigade (IAB) in Zahedan, while the 288th IAB is based in Khash, and the 388th Independent Mechanized Infantry Brigade (IMIB) in Iranshahr. In addition, the 212th Armored Cavalry Battalion is found in Zabol.
Regional Overview
The 188th Independent Armored Brigade

Old & new garrison locations, Zahedan
The 188th IAB is based out of Zahedan, the capital of the Sistan and Baluchistan province. As of October 2013, it is commanded by Brig. Gen. 2nd-Class Houshang Assadi. (3)

Through the mid/late-2000s, the brigade's garrison could be found inside the city. However, the division has since relocated to a new site outside the city as part of the nation-wide effort to free up valuable urban land to promote economic development.


Historical Garrison:

Google Earth offers imagery of the historical garrison inside the city from 03/2007, 06/2008, 08/2008, 04/2009, 10/2009, 11/2010, 05/2011, 08/2011, 08/2012, 09/2012, and 09/2013. Bing supplements this by offering higher quality imagery from 05/2011.

Old Zahedan garrison overview
Located near the main-entrance, Wikimapia annotations identify the offices of the divisional-headquarters, whose placement and physical features (open or accessible front-arc, close proximity to entrance) are consistent with those observed elsewhere.

Adjacent to these offices is the garrison's meeting/prayer-hall. Although also described as such on Wikimapia, it is readily identifiable on its own thanks to its characteristic circular design and stylized roof & dome. This, and the surrounding buildings, are likely affiliated with the political/ideology department.

South-west of the meeting hall are 12 barracks, each with a footprint of approximately 550 sqm, which is consistent with the range of sizes usually encountered in low-rise, company-strength billeting observed across Iran.(4) Unlike many other garrisons, these barracks lack readily-identifiable and respective ancillary structures like bath/wash-rooms.

Wikimapia annotations identify the buildings north of the barracks as a a logistics/support warehouse. The buildings to the south-west are similarly identified as a maintenance and repair battalion.

Adjacent to the south-east corner of the parade-yard that dominates the center of the garrison, Wikimapia further identifies the cluster of four gabled, metal-roofed buildings as the 763rd Infantry Battlalion, and one of the buildings as the battalion's weapons company.

Similar to many other garrisons, the main cluster of buildings are ringed by various motor-pools, that give further clues to the division's (and brigade's) composition.

The pool in the westernmost corner contains light armor for the brigade's mechanized infantry. The 06/2008 and 08/2008 imagery shows six M113s, and 15x BMPs. The 10/2009 imagery shows five M-113s, six BMPs, and ten BTR-60s. Between 11/2010 and 05/2011, the AFVs disappear and their associated buildings and demolished, indicating that they had been transferred to the new garrison (see below).
Mechanized infantry bn, old Zahedan garrison
The next pool belongs to the brigade's tank battalion. Google Earths 10/2009 imagery shows at least 30 tanks organized into three companies. At least two of these are equipped with M-47s, while the third is equipped either with M-47s or M-48s. The difficulty in identifying the third company's equipment lies in the tendency for turrets to lose their definition when parked perpendicular to the sun's rays, rather than parallel to it (as the first two companies are). When the turrets are parallel to the sun, the M-47's narrow needle-nose turret, locked backwards over the hull in travel-configuration, are cast into sharp relief. Like the light AFVs, most have been relocated to the new garrison by 05/2011, though several have remained through 09/2013.

The nearly-empty pool now hosts a variety of soft-skin vehicles and trailers that may be the tank battalion's support vehicles that had been previously hidden by covered garages.

Tank bn, old Zahedan garrison
The next motor-pool contains equipment belonging to the division's engineering battalion, identifiable by their yellow paint scheme. At various times, visible equipment includes at least 10 heavy-trucks (7-8 m length), four bulldozers in the same class as the ubiquitous D9 (8-9 m length), two-three front-end loaders, a grader, and a bucket loader.
Engineering equipment, old Zahedan garrison
The next pool hosts the transport and logistic equipment, which can be identified by the presence of both tractors and their trailers. Trailer-types include both tank-transporters (identifiable by the shadows cast by their loading ramps) and conventional containers. These are supplemented by a number of trucks of varying size and make.
Transport/logistics equipment, old Zahedan garrison
The south-east motor-pools host the artillery forces. This includes upwards of 13 M-109 SPHs, recognizable by their large, rear-skewed turret, and barrel shadow. Adjacent to the guns are a corresponding number of ammunition resupply vehicles. The clearest imagery is from 10/2009, 05/2011 (Bing), and 08/2011. Between 08/2011 and 08/2012, these guns were relocated to the new garrison.

Nearby is a battalion of D-30 towed guns with a strength of 6-8 pieces. Sometimes they are shown in travel-configuration, but are typically shown deployed, and can be identified by their characteristic triple-trail. Like the M-109s, they were relocated prior to 08/2012.

Adjacent to the artillery pools is a large number of light wheeled vehicles. This includes 1 1/4-ton container-carriers typically associated with telecommunication shelters, as well as lighter 4x4s that are organic to infantry units and are used as command vehicles or weapon carriers.
SPH bn & towed gun battery; wheeled vehicles, old Zahedan garrison
' Shahid Sarlashgar Yaqoob Ahmad Bigi' Garrison:

M-47 gate-guard (via bike20.ir)
Planning the new garrison began in 2006/2007, and construction began in 2007/2008 at an estimated cost 200 billion rials (approx. $20 million USD at the then-current exchange rates). The first phase was completed in October 2009, and the second in February 2011. As of late-2013, the transfer has yet to be completed.

A full description of these phases, and their associated construction can be found in a post by the author at OSIMINT titled “The Iranian Army's New Garrisons”.(5)

Since writing the above article, Google Earth has updated their coverage of this garrison with imagery from 09/2013. New construction over this 12-month period includes ground-leveling in the garrison's south-west, the addition of service infrastructure (e.g power-grid), and work on the primary parade-yard and several more non-critical buildings such as a meeting/prayer-hall.

New Zahedan garrison overview
The new garrison – with it's highly ordered and rational layout – allows a clearer assessment of both the division's, and the 188th brigade's, force structure.

As noted in the OSIMINT piece, the clearest example of this is the use of 'battalion clusters': infrastructure for a single unit built on a standard template grouped together into a recognizable cluster. This comes with the caveat that it is unclear how rigid these administrative boundaries are. This is compounded by the fact that not all battalions are created equal; a tank battalion, for example, is likely to have a fraction of the personnel in an infantry battalion, thus requiring less infrastructure.

The three visible clusters share a number of common identification features. Each two-story, Y-shaped barracks has a footprint of ~900 sqm. Every two barracks is associated with an external bath/wash-room. Other buildings unique to each cluster include an armory (suspected), headquarters, 3+ warehouses, a dining-hall (suspected), a handful of outdoor classrooms, and a parade yard.
Battalion cluster, new Zahedan garrison
The first of these clusters was built during the first phase of construction, and is associated with the division's engineering unit. Since 08/2012, artillery – both the M-109 and the D-30 – have been seen deployed near the cluster's outdoor classrooms. The implication of this is unknown.

The second and third clusters are nearly identical, differing only in the number of barracks and storage. Unlike the first cluster, they both have a pair of unidentified Y-shaped buildings.

In both 09/2012 and 09/2013, the brigade's tank battalion is shown at their near-maximum strength of approximately 55 tanks. Given the apparent use of three companies/battalion, this would translate into 17-tank companies, and five-tank platoons. This approximates the 57-tank strength of US Army battalions in the 1960s.
Tank bn, new Zahedan garrison
The use of five-tank platoons has generally been superseded in most nations by the three or four-tank platoon. Although ungainly in maneuver, the structure may help to mitigate the obsolescence of the M-47 at the tactical level. With its 90 mm main gun, more of them are needed to approximate the firepower of a smaller platoon armed with 105/125 mm guns. Likewise, a five-tank structure makes it easier to replace inevitable losses that might not occur in a better protected tank. Whatever wisdom this organization may or may not have, it may just as likely be an artifact of an older era, rather than the product of a modern organization and doctrine.

Between 05/2011 and 09/2013, 15 BMP-2s (verified via parade imagery), and six M-113s are consistently observed, representing an under-strength mechanized infantry battalion of two companies with less than 9 IFVs each. Alternatively, the 15 AFVs are loosely organized into three companies of five IFVs each. The M-113s serve as company and battalion command vehicles. Given the shortage of AFVs, the weapons company is likely equipped with soft-skin carriers such as Jeep/Safir-mounted mortars and TOWs.
Mechanized infantry bn, new Zahedan garrison
The 10 BTRs observed in the historical garrison are nowhere to be seen. These either represent a full-strength infantry company, which would lend itself to a single full-strength battalion when combined with the BMPs described above, or perhaps part of a second battalion.
Parade imagery, Zahedan
The 288th 'Shahid Suleiman Hashem Zahi' Independent Armored Brigade:

Th 288th IAB is based in the city of Khash, more than a 100 km south of Zahedan. As of October 2013, it is commanded by Brig. Gen. 2nd-Class Alireza Yusef.(6) (7)

Located just west of the city, the brigade shares a garrison with the NEZAJA's 'Training Center 08'. As of 02/2011, the training center was set to be transferred to Khorromabad in Western Iran, while an unidentified artillery group was to replace it, reflecting the shift of Army combat-units towards front line deployment in the east. (8) (9) As of September 2013, the transfer had yet to take place.(10)

Formerly known as the 88th Division's 2nd Brigade, the 288th became independent in 02/2011. Comments made during the independence ceremony indicated that the brigade would now include its own “intelligence and surveillance sections” and that 400 “experts” has been transferred to the brigade, though it is unclear whether these personnel constitute divisional units pushed to the brigade level, or were just personnel meant to facilitate the transition itself. (11)

Google Earth offers imagery of the garrison from 07/2005, 02/2010, 01/2011, and 10/2013. Bing Maps supplements this with imagery from 08-10/2011.
Garrison overview, Khash
The garrison is divided roughly in half, with the training center found to the south-east, and the 288th in the northwest. A large ditch separates the two halves.

As with other bases, Wikimapia annotations help identify buildings including offices for the command-staff, the prayer/lecture-hall, a clinic, and the garrison's shop/commissary. The notations also identify a 'services' section, which likely corresponds to the English combat-service-support though it is unclear whether it is simply another name for, conceptually different from, or inclusive of, the more traditional 'support and logistics' moniker.

South of the parade-yard are three large barracks (~1600 sqm footprint), one of which is identified as housing the 2nd Battalion. Further south are three buildings identified as bath/wash-rooms, presumably one for each of the respective battalions housed nearby.

North of the parade-yard are at least six more barracks, which are labeled as belonging to the 3rd and 5th Battalions. With a footprint of 460 sqm footprint, it takes three of these to equal the size of one of their southern counterparts.

Based on this information, one can assess a total strength of at least five battalions based on available billeting. This includes the 1st, 2nd, and 4th to the south of the parade-yard, while the 3rd and 5th to the north.

Just outside of this primary compound is the garrison's motor-pool, which is shared with the adjacent training center. It's basic layout is significant, with four sets of three small garages associated with a medium garage in addition to two more medium garages and one large central-maintenance garage.

In the 10/2013 imagery, 45+ M-47/48s belonging to the brigade's tank battalion are visible. Six M113/M577s are visible adjacent to the tanks, suggesting these may be command vehicles, as is typical among another armored/mechanized units.
Tank bn, Khash
Alternatively, these APCs may be from the larger pool of 31 M-113s visible in 07/2005, and 02/2010, but absent in later imagery. These are associated with a full-strength mechanized infantry battalion. Interestingly, in the 2005 imagery they are organized into four discrete bunches of around eight each. Illustrating the difficulty of relying on overhead imagery alone, this might signal either an organization of four companies per battalion, or simply that they were parked in such an order on that particular day, with no way to quantify the relative probability of either possibility.
Mechanized infantry company, Khash

The September 2013 parade in Khash featured three featured three mechanzied infantry companies, identifiable by their characteristic use of red berets.
3x mechanized infantry companies on parade, SDW 2013 (via Taftane Ma)

Present across the range of imagery, a D-30 towed gun battalion in three batteries of six-guns each can also be found in the motor-pool.
Artillery bn, Khash

An engineering unit can be found in the southern-most corner as indicated by the presence of one-two bulldozers and a digger in the 10/2013 imagery.

On the garrison's periphery is a range of infrastructure including outdoor classrooms and training fields, firing ranges, POL filling-stations, and an enclosed munitions depot.

West of the garrison is a maneuver field used for exercises that can be identified by the abundance of revetments, and firing-lanes cut into the ground.
Parade imagery, Khash
The 388th 'Shahid Heydar Shahrki' Independent Mechanized Infantry Brigade:

The 388th IMIB is based just west of the city of Iranshahr, more than a 100 km south of Khash. It is sometimes referred to as an armored brigade, though this is uncommon.(12) Formerly known as the 88th Division's 3rd Brigade, it is unknown when it became independent. As of September 2013, it is commanded by Col. Behnam Piri.(13)

Google Earth offers imagery of the garrison from 07/2012, which Bing supplements with imagery from 05/2011.
Garrison overview, Iranshahr
Past a road leading off towards apartment-style housing, and past the main-gate, are the brigades administrative offices. Past these are six distinct clusters that are consistent with the layout used by Training Center 08 in Khash and the 33rd Artillery Group near Tehran. Thus, although there are no Wikimapia annotations to help decipher these buildings, those associated with other garrisons can be used as a guide.

With slight variation, each cluster has the same four-five components. This includes a pair of T-shaped, four-story barracks with a footprint of 850-900 sqm each. Similar buildings have been associated with various unit sizes ranging from headquarter batteries to training battalions. Another identifiable constant is a 'T'-shaped building associated with units material support contingent. Other constants can be recognized, though not identified.
Garrison cluster, Iranshahr
The motor pool is organized similarly to the one belonging to the 288th IAB in Khash. Eight sets of three garages are each affiliated with one medium maintenance/repair workshop, while four medium garages sit apart

There is a near total absence of soft-skin vehicles at the scale normally associated with brigade-sized units. This includes both tactical weapon-carriers and transports, as well as heavier trucks used for support and transport. Several heavy trucks – likely L-series Mercedes – in both cargo-bed and tractor configuration can be seen peaking out from a number of garages, suggesting the rest are under cover.

A tank battalion can be found in the north-westernmost garages. 15-16 can be directly observed in the 07/2012 imagery, though there is enough overhead coverage to conceal the rest of the unit's strength (50+).
Tank Bn, Iranshahr
South of this are two separate groupings of BMPs, with a total strength of around 34 (07/2012), suggesting the existence of two mechanized infantry battalions. They can be identified primarily by their length/width ratio and circular, centrally-mounted turret that can appear skewed to the right or left depending on the imagery.
Mechanized infantry bn 1, Iranshahr
Mechanized infantry bn 2, Iranshahr
The first grouping is accompanied by three BTR-60s (identifiably by their forward-mounted turret and high length/width ratio) and eight M-113s, though both of these are low-confidence assessments.

Notably, there is no visible artillery – whether self-propelled or towed. Also of note is the relative strength of this 'mechanized' brigade relative to the other two 'armored' brigades as the available evidence indicates they all follow the tank/infantry ratio of 1:2 (with a high probability of additional motorized infantry in all cases).

Beyond the motor-pool are two seperate filling-stations and a hardened-shelter storage depot laid out in concentric rings. Further north are firing ranges for small-arms 

The 212th Armored Cavalry Battalion:

BTR-60 during visit by Army commander, Gen. Salehi (via AJA.ir)
The 212th ACBn is based in the city of Zabol in the far north-east corner of the Sistan and Baluchistan province.(14) As of November 2012, it was commanded by Major Fariborz Shahbani.(15)

Although 'armored cavalry' units are sometimes be indistinguishable from 'armored' units, the designation in this context no doubt corresponds to armored reconnaissance. The battalion's raison d'etre is clear in the context of a division-based organization, but its status under a brigade centric organization is unknown.

Google Earth offers imagery of the garrison from 05/2003, 01/2012, 04/2012, and 01/2013. Bing supplements this with imagery from 08/2010.
Garrison overview, Zabol
Located in Zabol's northern neighborhoods, the battalion's garrison underwent a major overhaul around the 2003 timeframe.

Works Cited / Footnotes:
(1) Army Day Programs in the Province. April 11, 2012 / Farvadin 23, 1391. IRIB.
(2) Pourdastan: Security and Tranquility Predominates in the Country. September 7, 2013 / Shahrivar 16, 1392. Mashregh.
(3) [Title] October 3, 2013 / Mehr 11, 1392. Mehr.
(4) For Comparison: Birjand (old): 650 sqm, Birjand (new): 1,500 sqm, Mashhad: 500 sqm, Neyshabur: 520 sqm, Mashhad (old): 570 sqm, Gonbad-e Kavus (Army): 540 sqm, Sarab: 480 sqm
(5) The Iranian Army's New Garrisons. September 30, 2013. OSIMINT
(6) [Title] October 20, 2013 / Mehr 28, 1392. Shabestan.
(7) Parade of Military Forces Deployed in Khash Held. September 22, 2013 / Shahrivar 31 1392. Taftan-e Ma
(8) Opening of the 2nd Armored Brigade Seyyed al-Shohada [in] Khash. February 28, 2011 / Esfand 9, 1389. Fars.
(9) Comprehensive NEZAJA Plan Adopted. February 29, 2011 / Esfand 10, 1389. ISNA
(10) ibid Taftan-e Ma
(11) The 2nd Armored Brigade [in Khash] was made independent with the name Sartip Suleiman Hashem Zahi. November 9, 2011 / Aban 15, 1390. IRNA.
(12) [Title] October 15, 2013 / Mehr 23, 1392. AJA
(13) Sacred Defense Week is an Opportunity to Explain the Values of Revolutionary Army and Islam. October 2, 2013 / Mehr 10, 1392. IRNA.
(14) Fire in the Zabol Market. July 14, 2008 / Tir 24, 1387. IRIB.
(15) [Title] November 19, 2012 / Aban 29, 1391. Nasim.

Additional imagery available at:
Bike20.ir (Gate-guard)
AJA (Saleh's visit to Khash and Zabol)

Monday, May 2, 2011

What to Take Away From Bin Laden's Death

Since there are excellent analysis of it available elsewhere, and because it's not directly linked with the military of Iran, I'll attempt to keep my comments on the issue short.

It's clear that this will have far reaching consequences which will forever change the nature of international terrorism.

What I wish to make note of however is the fact that Bin Laden was not captured by a multi-pronged military offensive charging through the hills of Afghanistan with tanks and waves of helicopters. The operation was fundamentally an intelligence campaign.

The solution (or as close to one as we can obtain) when faced with threats like Al Qaeda is not a military one in the sense that we could invade a country like Iraq and Afghanistan and "beat it out them". In fact, that's Al Qaeda's strategy - draw the US into long bloody wars that drain our national morale.

The death of Osama Bin Laden should serve as a wakeup call to the US to reinvest in a full spectrum of tools including the ones that aren't glamorous or expensive as stealth fighters or a new generation of super-carriers. Intelligence is what got us Bin Laden, and intelligence is what will win us future wars.