Sunday, September 2, 2012

38th Independent Armored Brigade

The 38th independent armored brigade is based out of the city of Torbat Jam, east of Mashhad and close to the Afghan border. The current commander is Sartip Dovom (Brig. Gen. 2nd Class) Hamidreza Asadi.

According to it's former commander, the brigade functions as a quick-reaction force tasked with responding to “infiltration” of enemy forces. In this manner, the 38th IAB would likely serve as a screening force in order to buy time for the mobilization of the 77th MID in Mashhad. This is supported by the geography of Iran's eastern border, which earily resembles the Fulda Gap in Cold-War Germany. Any attacking force wishing to take the key city of Mashhad, and continue westward toward Tehran must pass through two parallel valleys divided by a series of road-less east-west ridge-lines, with their garrison cities of Torbat Heydariyeh, and Torbat Jam (the latter being the more direct route). It may be somewhat poetic that 'Torbat' means "burial place".

The base, located in the eastern portion of the city includes a munitions depot (1) with a mix of hardened shelters and open-air revetments. Nearby are a handful of handgun and rifle firing ranges (2). The base also includes a generous amount of mocked-up fighting positions (3, 4), presumably for training purposes. These fields include foxholes, trenches, mortar pits, and tank ramps. The most interesting feature of these training yards is, what appears to be, an underground garage for an armored fighting vehicle, of the sort that can be seen in Iranian wargames. More than just a ditch, the garage also includes side-trenches, likely rudimentary living or storage facilities for the crew.

On the southern edge of the base is what appears to be a gun battery (5) with raised concrete pads, ammunition pits, and fire-control centers. Unfortunately, the guns on the pads cannot be identified as either field, or anti-aircraft artillery.

Another interesting feature is a drive-through garage in a walled-off compound (6) (thus limiting the apparent value of a drive-through garage)The Brigade's motor-pool (7) includes the usual array of soft-skin vehicles used to motorize Iran's forces. Very little information is available about the available armored vehicles – the backbone of the brigade's fighting strength. On the southern edge of the motor-pool are nine wheeled-AFVs of an unkown type. Approximately 6.75 m long, and 2.5-2.75 m in width, they are ostensibly too small to be BTR-60s (length: 7.56 m, width: 2.82 m). On the other hand, almost every AFV across Iran that I can identify as a BTR is almost always under 7.56 m, which is making me think that I need to revisit my dimensions on file rather than search for a new AFV. This is backed by the fact that the BTR-60s I've examined outside of Iran almost always measure in at less than 7.56 m as well. It may well also be that the Google Earth measuring tool just isn't that accurate. At any rate, much of the features of the vehicles in question at Torbat Jam also share features with the BTR-60 including sloped sides, pointed-front, and length/width ratio.

East of these vehicles is a garage being constructed of the type typically used as shelters for AFVs. True to form, a handful of M113 APCs can be seen (9). These likely belong to a mechanized infantry battalion, either in conjunction with the BTR-60 Co mentioned above, or as part of their own mechanized battalion. Lacking a clear picture of the numbers of AFVs available prevents us from determining the organization further.

Additional garages can be found around the motor-pool, which likely hide away the rest of the brigades armor, including any self-propelled artillery, and tanks – each of which are likely deployed at battalion strength (understrength or otherwise). An unidentified vehicle (10) can be seen peeking out from under the east-facing awnings.

The base's main gate is located in the north-eastern corner (11)

1 comment:

  1. Galen:

    In the event of war with the US, is Iran capable of taking out the pier with 18 supertanker berths at Ras Tanura? If so, will it be an early target? If not, why not?