Saturday, December 28, 2013

The 58th 'Zulfiqar' Commando Division

Division Overview
The 58th 'Zulfiqar' Commando Division is based in the Semnan province, east of Tehran. Like other divisions, it is transitioning to the NEZAJA's new force-structure of independent combat brigades subordinate to regional operations headquarters. (1)

Two of the division's newly-independent brigades can be identified: the 158th in Shahrud, and the 258th 45 km north-east of Shahrud. One can assume that a third brigade exists, though no reference to it in open-source literature has been found. The function of the remaining divisional-HQ under the new organization is unclear, but – as per the pattern established in other divisions – it is reasonable to believe it persists, at least as a transitory body.

As of April 2013, the division's commander is Brigadier General 2nd-Class Mehboob Qurbani and the deputy commander is BG 2nd-Class Reza Yusef-Zadeh (2) (3)


158th Brigade
The 158th 'Shahid Abbasali Keshavarzian' Independent Commando Brigade (ICB) was converted in February 2013.(4) It is commanded by Colonel Mehdi Mehmar-Bashi. (5) Google Earth offers imagery of the brigade's garrison from 11/2003, 06/2005, 03/2012, 12/2012, and 02/2013. Bing supplents it with imagery from 04/2012.


Wikimapia-annotations suggest that the four+ story buildings on the western side of the parade-yard are barracks [a], while the column of H-shaped buildings to the east are unit headquarters/offices [b]. The annotations are consistent with other open-source reporting, which mentions both the 743rd and 183rd infantry battalions (6) (7). The available billeting corresponds to the brigade's six or seven battalions, with the remainder allotted to the divisional staff and support. This likely includes the 'T'-shaped buildings located south of the taller buildings. [c]

Other buildings that can be identified include a series of covered outdoor classrooms on the eastern edge of the parade-yard, which can be seen in use during 12/2012 [d]. Further east is a column of administrative offices (ex: personnel) [e]. North of the parade-yard is the brigade HQ [f], and the garrison's gym [g], mosque [h] and garages/workshops [i]. The buildings in the southern portion include residential housing [j], and divisional offices [k].

Several motor-pools can be found on the periphery. Near the southern entrance is a pool of engineering equipment including at least one excavator, two graders, three (+/-) bulldozers, and three (+/-) front end-loaders, and about 15 large trucks of various types [l]. A number of buses can be found in adjacent compounds, their prominent front and side windows visible in 12/2012.



Slightly south-east of the division's HQ is a motor-pool containing around 15-20 3/4-ton trucks, and around nine larger trucks. [m] The larger trucks are likely Mercedes L911 given the overall length (~6.5m), and short-bonnet. About half of which are uncovered, while the rest carry a container, or other cargo. Although these are all multi-purpose vehicles, the organization is consistent with a divisional headquarters.



To the west of the barracks is a pool containing at least six 1 1/4-ton flat-bed trucks fitted with containers typically associated with communication-shelters, or other electronic equipment. [n] The nearby trailers are likely the generators typically found alongside this equipment.


Immediately to the north is another pool containing a battery of six in three platoons of two. [o] That being said, the weapons themselves cannot be identified, and may instead be more mundane towed items, such as field-kitchens or aid-stations. Along with these systems are a number of associated support elements including 12 open-topped trucks organized into three sections of four. These include the short-bonnet 911s as well as more modern cab-over-engine models. Opposite these, are six more trucks of a similar type; one is equipped with a large container (possibly signals/HQ), three are covered (possibly H20/POL), two are uncovered (general transport). Alongside these heavy trucks are a handful of smaller 3/4-ton vehicles.



At the north of the garrison are four more motor-pools in a row. In the westernmost pool, between 03/2012 and 02/2013, are upwards of 15 1/4-ton Jeeps, four 3/4-ton vehicles, and 8-10 larger trucks. [p] The latter category includes around three tankers, four general-purpose trucks, and one container truck.

The pool to the east includes two+ tankers, three container-carrying flatbeds, and a handful of smaller vehicles and trailers. [q]



East of this is a pool containing seven 3/4-ton trucks, 20+ 1/4-ton Jeeps, and eight heavy trucks. [r] The latter category includes four uncovered trucks, three tankers, and one-two container trucks. On top of this, there also two distinct categories of four-six towed items. These may be trailers, or towed weapons like the Zu-23-2. The easternmost motor-pool has roughly the same type and number of equipment. [s]



It is reasonable to believe that the three most populated pools in this above-described row represent the brigade's three infantry battalions. Each has 15-20 1/4-ton Safir/Jeeps, and four-seven 3/4-ton vehicles to provide tactical mobility, and carry weapons. These vehicles, or at least some of them, make-up battalion-level weapons companies, which likely includes a mortar platoon (82 mm), an anti-tank platoon (recoilless rifle), and a machine-gun platoon (DShK). The DShKs have been seen with anti-aircraft sights, suggesting they double as the bn's air-defense, though they may be supplemented by MANPADSs and Zu-23-2s. Other weapons seen on parade, like TOW ATGMs, and 107 mm rockets might be found at this level, but might also be deployed as brigade assets.

The rifle companies themselves are armed with the usual mix of G-3 rifles, MG-3 machine-guns, and RPG-7 anti-tank weapons. Given nation-wide patterns, the company likely includes a 60 mm mortar section.Parade photography suggests that the rifle units make heavy use of motor-bike and ATVs for tactical mobility. One unknown is the level at which the AM-50 (Steyr HS.50 copy) is deployed.


 In addition to these tactical vehicles, all three pools have approximately 10 support vehicles, including four general-purpose cargo trucks, one-two container trucks for communications and signals, and two-three tankers for POL and water.

On the eastern edge of the garrison are an additional one-two motor-pools of indeterminate purpose with a number of light and medium/heavy-flatbed trucks.

In 12/2012, nine towed guns of indeterminate type with conventional split-tails can be seen in the parade yard, along with a number of troops making use of the outdoor classrooms. [t]

258th Brigade
The 258th 'Shahid Pajoohandeh' ICB is based in the 'Chehel Dokhtar' garrison near the village of Kalateh Kij north-east of Shahrud. (8) It is rumored that the commander is BG 2nd-class Zare, though the credibility of this claim cannot be assessed. (9) The date of the brigade's conversion to independent status is unknown; the first confirmed reference is from August 2013. (10)

According to the Persian Wikipedia entry, prior to its independence, this brigade was composed of three infantry battalions, one air-defense bn, one artillery bn, and one training bn. (11) Although this organization is plausible, it is likely dated and incomplete. Other sources include references to the 744th Bn (12).

Google Earth offers imagery of the base from 12/2005. Bing supplements it with imagery from between 06/2006 and 10/2008. Identified buildings include a communications building [a], a bakery [b], a kitchen [c], a bathroom [d], and a barracks [e] for an artillery-battalion's headquarters-company.


South of the parade yard are six 'H'-shaped barracks corresponding to each of the training battalion's companies. [f] Although larger than infantry battalions, the size is comparable to other Army training battalions. East of the parade yard are three distinct barracks clusters with their associated ancillary structures.  However, the complexity of the organization makes it difficult to estimate force structure/size. Annotations indicate that the northernmost cluster contains offices, barracks, and headquarters for the brigade's support battalion. [g] The cluster below this contains a barracks for the weapons company assigned to the 193rd infantry battalion [h], which has it's staff and HQ company in the 'T'-shaped buildings to the south [i].

The above comments made regarding the 158th brigade's small-unit organization are applicable here as well.

In Bing's imagery, at least three battalions of towed tube artillery – one large, and two small – are arrayed on the parade-yard. The large-gun battalion [j] is comprised of three batteries of six guns each, while the smaller gun battalions [k] [l] each have one-two batteries with seven guns instead of the usual six.


Footnotes:
(1) Indicated by presence of regional commander at independence-ceremony for 158th brigade. http://www.yjc.ir/fa/news/4278310/%D9%81%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%84%DB%8C%D8%AA-%D9%88-%D8%AD%D8%B1%DA%A9%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AF%D8%B4%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%B1%D8%A7-%D8%B1%D8%B5%D8%AF-%D9%88-%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%AA-%DA%A9%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%84-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%85%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%AF%DA%A9%D9%81%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C-%D9%86%DB%8 C%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%AD
(2)http://semnan.behzisti.ir/?p=13169
(3)http://defapress.ir/Fa/News/4600
(4) ibid. YJC
(5) http://semnan.irib.ir/news/all/2/9089
(6) http://www.payamesemnan.com/Template1/News.aspx?NID=7284
(7) http://vista.ir/lid/9790016
(8) http://www.aja.ir/Portal/Home/ShowPage.aspx?Object=NEWS&CategoryID=b8789b0b-9886-4e12-94fb-8ecaaa0f102e&WebPartID=6f09f94e-b775-4254-a6c2-34cc7ab81f6e&ID=11da7207-0bfe-4274-aea3-ca43099eefba
(9) http://shahvarnews.com/extrapage/post104
(10) http://www3.sari.irna.ir/fa/News/80779563/%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%B2%D8%B4%DB%8C/%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AA
(11) http://fa.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D9%BE%D8%A7%D8%AF%DA%AF%D8%A7%D9%86_%DA%86%D9%87%D9%84_%D8%AF%D8%AE%D8%AA%D8%B1
(12) http://www.fardanews.com/fa/news/298254

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

8th 'Najaf Ashraf' Armored Division

The Sepah's 8th 'Najaf Ashraf' Armored Division is based near the town of Najafabad, west of the greater-Isfahan urban area. Along with the 14th Division, and the 15th and 40th artillery groups, it is subordinate to the Sepah's Seyyed al-Shohada operational-HQ in Isfahan. (1) Wikimapia annotations suggest the division's garrison is named 'Ashura', though this cannot be independently verified. It's current commander is unknown.

This unit has contributed to the Sepah's mission in Syria, advising pro-government forces in armored warfare tactics. (2) At least two of the division's soldiers have been killed during these operations. (3)

There is currently no evidence to suggest that the division deploys its constituent brigades in separate garrisons in the same manner as the Army. This may be a function of the rule-of-thumb that Sepah divisions are closer in size to brigade's rather than a true division. Based on garrison configuration described below, the major difference between Sepah brigades and divisions is not armored strength, but personnel strength.

Separate from the divisional garrison itself, two additional Sepah-related compounds can be found immediately to the east. This includes an collection of apartment buildings, and one with heavily landscaped grounds and an ornate/decorated hall. To the west of the garrison lies an automotive testing track (indicated by heavily-used track-patterns leading to and from the garages). Further west is a small exercise/training ground, which includes a handful of firing ranges and a cluster of buildings with an unknown purpose. Further west, across the highway, is a munitions storage facility with hardened shelters.

Thanks to the garrison's location near a major urban area, Google Earth offers a wide array of imagery, including: 03/2002, 07/2007, 11/2007, 07/2009, 09/2009, 05/2010, 07/2011, 08/2011, 09/2012, and 01/2013.

As noted above, the key distinction between the Sepah's armored brigades and divisions is the number of personnel. This is indicated by the four identical 'clusters', each with six, two-story barracks buildings. [1] These 24 compares to the six-nine in Neyshabur.

Each barracks has a footprint of roughly 450 sqm, which is slightly smaller than, but still comparable to, the footprint of those in Neyshabur (520 sqm), or the Army's new barracks in Zahedan (600 sqm) and Mashhad (500 sqm). However, the potential differences in height make direct comparisons difficult when estimating force structure. The collection of smaller buildings associated with each cluster likely include a HQ/administration, bathrooms/washrooms, and a small corner-store/canteen.

To the W/NW of the main garrison is the division's armored motor-pool, which consists of 9 rows of covered garages built around 2002, each with 11 bays. This gives the division a theoretical strength of ~100 AFVs in total. These garages are supplemented by a fenced-in motor-pool to its north.

For tanks, the division uses a mix of T-72Ss and T-55s. [2] The maximum number (31) can be seen on 05/2010 in the uncovered, fenced-in motor-pool. At other times, such as 01/2013, the majority are under the cover of their garages to the south. There is no way to reliably distinguish the T-55s from T-72s, even though the latter should be noticeably larger.
MNA/IIPA
Their total strength compares to that of a single late-Cold-War-era Soviet tank bn, though the manner in which they are organized relative to each other vis-a-vis their mix of high/low capabilities is unknown. One possibility is that homogenous companies make up mixed battalions similar to the Army's former-88th AD's use of two M-48 and one M-47 co/bn. Another possibility is the use of an independent co to augment a homogenous bn of the other.

Infantry mechanization is provided by the BMP-2 IFV. On 09/2009, a total of 19 BMP-2s are visible, spread between the fenced-in motor pool, and the garages. [3] The 19 BMP-2s are likely part of a larger (<
30 IFV) mechanized infantry bn. Given the limited availability of covered storage, there is unlikely to be more than one bn's worth.
Rasekhoon


In addition to the BMP-2s, 14 additional BMP-variants are visible at the same time. [4] These are likely specialized Boragh-variants given parade imagery of the Boragh SPAAGs, and the common use of Boragh AMVs in Sepah armored units. The observed numbers might translate to a battery or two of each (depending on battery size and how many remain under cover).
IMNA

Upwards of 15 M113 or M577s can be seen on 07/2009, which, according to parade imagery, are used as command vehicles, likely in bn HQs, and – possibly – co HQs for light AFVs [5]. Parade imagery also shows the quarter-ton Safir Jeep serving as a command vehicle.
Rasekhoon

In 2009, 10 unidentified AFVs are visible in the fenced-in motor-pool [6]. They have a turret, and are slightly longer and narrower than the nearby M113s. One candidate is the EE-9 wheeled reconnaissance vehicle known to be in use with Sepah armored units. However, the observed profile is slightly different from the suspected EE-9 based in Gonbad-e Kavus. No definitive conclusions can be drawn at this point.

The 2S1 SPHs observed on parade cannot be conclusively identified in overhead imagery. It is reasonable to assume – given observed patters thusfar – that they are deployed at bn-strength, which is about equivalent to one row of covered garages. 
NA


Taking these observations into account, we can account for: ~30 tanks, ~30 IFVs, ~15 special-purpose light AFVs, ~15 command-AFVs, ~10 unknown light AFVs, and ~10 SPHs, which roughly approximates the number of available garage-bays. Although this is only the roughest of ballpark estimates, it is accurate enough to account for available infrastructure.

The division's transport section has their own motor pool inside the garrison-proper for their own equipment [7]. This includes at least 11 tank-transporter trailers associated with the Mercedes-Titan tractors seen on parade. In the 09/2009 imagery – the date of the annual Sacred Defense Week parades – five AFVs can be seen secured on them.

From 2009 onward, an AVLB can be consistently found next to the division's maintenance section north of the garrison-proper[8]. When it is absent (05/2010), it can be found 350 m north-east, spanning a gap. The bridge is a match for the Serat-type also observed in use with the Sepah's 21st armored brigade in Neyshabur.

Another motor-pool in the garrison's N/NE holds he bulk of the division's soft-skin vehicles and logistics support. Judging the exact makeup is difficult as the majority are hidden under cover. However, in 09/2009, several construction-vehicles are present including a tracked crane, and four front-end loaders.

Further east, in a small valley, are 75+ small boats of varying types. Although seemingly out of place so far from the Gulf, these are likely used to supplement conventional river-crossing capabilities of combat-engineering forces. These small boats were routinely used in this manner in the watery low-lands of the southern-front during the Iran-Iraq war. 
IMNA

Works Cited:
(1) Construction is the strategy of the IRGC. FNA. 02/06/2013 http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13911118000551
(2) Posts by Morteza313 at Syria Uprising Thread on ACIG Forums.09/20/13 and 10/30/13.
(3) The 8th Armored Division's second martyr in Syria in recent months. Najafabad News. http://najafabadnews.ir/%D8%AA%D8%B4%DB%8C%DB%8C%D8%B9-%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%87-%D8%B4%D9%87%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D9%85%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B2%D9%87-%D8%A8%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%DA%A9%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D9%84/

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kuhestak Coastal Missile Battery

On 'Navy Day 2013', the IRIN commander - Admiral Sayyari - noted that the service was continuing to develop their infrastructure along the country's south-eastern coast, including the expansion of ports at Sirik, Jask, Kuhestak, Konarak, and Pasabandar. [1] Although the current IRIN construction is absent from currently available IMINT, one of these locations - Kuhestak - is already host to a legacy ASCM battery dating from height of the Tanker War.


In the mid/late-1980s, attacks on commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf began to heat up, first as Iraq sought to slow Iran's ground offensives, and then as Iran sought to retaliate in kind. For their part, Tehran found themselves relying on lightweight air and surface-launched weapons that limited their ability to project power. To remedy this, Tehran attempted to procure more potent weapons like the HY-2 anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM). The first examples were captured from Iraqi positions on the Faw peninsula in February 1986 during the Valfajr-8 offensive, which were then supplemented afterward by direct deliveries from China. [2]

To field these new systems, both the IRIN and the IRGCN began constructing a number of coastal garrisons, including a hardened battery near the town of of Kuhestak at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. By July 1987, Washigton noted the operational deployment of HY-2s at Kuhestak. [3] A year later, as US-Iranian confrontation continued to escalate, the underground-facilities at Kuhestak were near completion. To Washington, this battery posed a unique threat because - unlike the facilities at Abu Musa or elsewhere - the underground facilities at Kuhestak allowed Iranian forces to conceal the otherwise time-consuming launch-preparation from airborne sensors, increasing their chances at carrying out a surprise attack. To counter this threat, Washington ordered the deployment of the Aegis-cruiser, the USS Vincennes. [4]

Although the Vincennes ultimately played a key role in Iran's acceptance of the 1988 ceasefire - the downing of a civilian-airliner was instrumental in convincing Tehran that the regional and global balance of power had turned against it - it was never called to defend against the cruise-missile threat. Tehran's decision not to escalate the confrontation in this manner was due in large part to the red-line drawn by Washington, which deterred Tehran from ordering the use of HY-2s in the southern Gulf.

25 years later, the hardened facilities at Kuhestak remain, though it is unclear whether they are maintained, let alone hosting an active garrison. As Iran's naval forces have replaced their HY-2s with container-launched missiles in self-contained, mobile platforms, there is a decreasing need for these static bases with overhead cover and concealment. However, given that the HY-2 can still be seen on exercises, being fired from pre-established launch zones, it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

Located about 8 km south of the town of Kuhestak, the battery is dug into a small stretch of hills running along the coast. Split into three distinct sections, the battery includes two firing sections, a target-acquisition section, and a support section. Google Earth offers imagery of the base from 09/2012, 10/2012, 12/2012, and 01/2013.


The two firing sections are located side-by-side, and each feature facilities for two launchers, including concrete ramps leading from hardened shelters to firing pads, providing a place to fuel and prepare alert missiles. Each section has three-four additional hardened shelters set back from the firing-positions, which likely hold missile reloads.

On top of the adjacent hill is a cluster of hardened shelters that is likely associated with the battery's target acquisition section. This position would have offered the best vantage point for the section's target acquisition radar observed by USN forces in 1987. One probable location for the radar is a revetted pad similar to those used for radars in air-defense batteries.

Beyond these distinction sections, there are at least two more hardened shelters found elsewhere in the compound. In the shadow of several smaller hills are the batteries support facilities, including living quarters for the weapon crews. In addition, a handful (at least seven) of small concrete pads - typically associated with Zu-23-2 AAA - dot the compound.

The available evidence suggests a limited operational capability. The air-defense pads are empty, and overgrown foliage can be seen on the alert ramps. However, in 01/2013, one small wheeled vehicle can be seen in front of one of the firing-section's hardened shelters. This is the only evidence of activity across the range of imagery.

References:
[1] Interview with Admiral Sayyari / 'Kuhestak'; newest naval base. Tasnim News. 12/02/13 http://www.fardanews.com/fa/news/306469/%DA%A9%D9%88%D9%87%D8%B3%D8%AA%DA%A9-%D8%AC%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AF%D8%AA%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%86-%D9%BE%D8%A7%DB%8C%DA%AF%D8%A7%D9%87-%D8%AF%D8%B1%DB%8C%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AA%D8%B4
[2] Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop. The Iran-Iraq War in the Air. 2000. p.197-198, 250-253
[3] US warplanes flight, Iranian missile deployment coincidental, sources say. AP. 06/06/87 
http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1987/US-Warplanes-Flight-Iranian-Missile-Deployment-Coincidental-Sources-Say/id-02d19642ad43bcf70ffa8b24867b2dd7
[4] Iran said to fortify key strait. NYT. 06/01/88  http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/01/world/iran-said-to-fortify-key-strait.html

Friday, November 29, 2013

71st Independent Mechanized Infantry Brigade

The Army's 71st independent mechanized-infantry brigade is based near Sarpol-e Zahab in Iran's western Kermanshah province. The brigade's Abuzar garrison is adjacent to the village of Ghale Shahin 20 km south-east of Sarpol-e Zahab, and has been commanded by Colonel Sassan Momen since October 2013. [1] [2]


At least one source suggest that another site 5 km NW of Sarpol-e Zahab is 71st IMIB's garrison. [3] This inconsistency might be explained by the fact that through the end of the Iran-Iraq war, this unit was designated as the 81st armored division's 4th brigade at the same time that the division's 3rd brigade was based our of Abuzar [4] This suggests suggests that the 71st brigade relocated to Abuzar sometime after the end of the war from the previous base NW of the city.

During the war, the brigade's subordinate units included the the 210th Tank Bn, the 108th, 113th, 128th, and 166th Battalions (unknown type, but likely infantry), and – possibly – the 309th Artillery Bn.[5]

Given its proximity to the front-lines, the Abuzar garrison is now a major stop along the Rahin-e Noor tours, much like the Dokooheh garrison near Andimeshk, in addition to being an active base. Making up for the lack of parade imagery, photography from these tours shows at least some of the brigade's equipment, including M-60A1 MBTs, M113 APCs, M109 SPHs, and – possibly – Boragh APCs.

Google Earth offers imagery of the entire base from 05/2006 and 08/2006, and coverage over different halves the base from 09/2007, and 04/2012. Bing imagery supplements this with higher-quality imagery from 02/2011. The base consists of two sections, one for the active-duty forces, and one for the memorial/museum. The latter comprises the southern one-third and mostly includes multistory dormitories, some of which are preserved as-is, including damage sustained during the war.

The actual garrison includes a nearby firing-range, and munitions-depot with hardened-shelters and an additional security perimeter. (1) Clustered around the parade-yard are 16 'T'-shaped buildings typically associated with company-equivalent barracks'; this compared to eight at the 72nd IMIB's garrison. (2)

The motor-pool has at least five distinct lots that are organized – at least to some degree – according to the brigade's order of battle. The 210th Tank Bn – assuming it has retained its name over the years – is comprised of ~40 M-60 MBTs with 5-10 M113/M577 command vehicles. Between 2006 and 2011 these vehicles were split equally between the two north-easternmost lots (3), but by 2012 they had been moved under cover south of the main garage.

Taking their place in these two lots are 21 M113s, 8 BMPs, and 26 BTR-60s. The manner in which they are divided suggests that both mechanized infantry battalions are mixed, the first (4) consisting of one BTR company (11 AFVs), and two M113 companies (21 AFVs), with the second (5) consisting of one BMP company (8 AFVs), and one-two BTR-60 companies (15 AFVs). This assumes that both a) some AFVs are under cover, and b) the units are not likely to be at 100% strength. In the 2011 imagery, each AFV-type is grouped into clusters of ~6-8 (though this varies) in the western lot. (6)

The SPH battalion is most clearly visible in GE's 2012 imagery, with 12 M109s organized into three batteries. Four tracked vehicles – probably M548 ammunition carriers – are adjacent to the guns, while the battalion's narrower wheeled vehicles are a tad more distant. (7)

References 
[1] http://safiregharb.blogfa.com/post/64
[2] http://safiregharb.blogfa.com/post/58
[3] Wikimapia user annotations
[4] http://safiregharb.blogfa.com/post/21
[5] http://safiregharb.blogfa.com/post/15

Sunday, October 27, 2013

33rd Artillery Group

The Army's 33rd Artillery Group is based south-west of Tehran in a range of hills that host a number of other military units, including the Army's 23rd Commando Division to the south/south-east, and a sprawling industrial complex to the north-east associated with the Sepah Aerospace Force's missile development program. The artillery group itself shares its garrison with the NEZAJA's 99th Air Defense Group. The garrison is divided roughly in half by a large parade ground, with the 99th Group occupying the western portion, and the 33rd the eastern portion.

Thanks to it proximity to the capital, Google Earth offers a range of imagery from 10/2003, 05/2010, 07/2010, 05/2011, 06/2011, 09/2011, 06/2012, 10/2012, 05/2013, much of high quality. Furthermore, Wikimapia includes a host of user annotations, detailing the identity of certain buildings. Although it is risky to trust entirely in the credibility of these annotations, they are invaluable in many cases.

Secondary features noted on Wikimapia include: a fire-station (1), a bakery and adjacent tailor/barber (2), a dining-area/movie-theater (3), two clinics (4), communications building (5), intelligence department (6), general-staff offices (7), political-ideology department (8), guest-residences (9), water treatment plant (10), and offices for military police (11).

These annotations also provide clues as to the group's force structure. It confirms that the multi-stored T-shaped buildings are unit-barracks, including the 388th [Artillery] Battalion (12), 325th Air Defense Battalion (13), a command and headquarters battery (14). Another three barracks (15) aren't labeled, likely corresponding to an additional two artillery battalions, and – possibly – a training battalion. Note the distinct construction style employed in these barracks; multi-story (4-5 stories) battalion housing rather than shorter (1-2 stories) company housing employed elsewhere.

This nominal organization is supported by the NEZAJA's ever-so thoughtful decision to park their equipment in uncovered, well-organized motor-pools. In fact, this group provides an excellent case study in small-unit organization. Three battalions of guns are visible. Two of these (16) are equipped with the 130mm M-46 / Type-59 towed-gun, organized into three batteries around six guns each, though sometimes this number varies up or down. The third battalion (17) is equipped with the 155 mm GHN-45 gun, which can be identified by its characteristic appearance when locked in travel configuration; like the D-30, the GHN-45's barrel is reversed and locked backwards over its trails when it is towed, making it appear square on overhead imagery. Although this battalion also has three batteries, the average strength of each battery is four-five, rather than six, guns.

From time to time, guns are removed from their respective batteries are can be found in the large, unpaved parade yard bisecting the compound, likely for purposes of routine training / weapon-familiarization. The 05/2011 imagery in notable in that it shows a handful of guns obscured by camouflage netting (18)

The image quality is high enough to allow for a high-confidence assessment of each battalion's support equipment as well. Gun tractors are uniformly Kraz-6322 6x6 trucks, while battery support vehicles include the smaller Kraz-5233 4x4. At the battalion level, truck-variety expands and uniform identification is impossible, though they surely include, or are in a comparable series to, the Mercedes Benz L 911/1924 range, which have historically served as the platform for carrying command/communication-shelters, bakeries and workshop containers, or as prime-movers for trailers. A number of these trailers are visible, including POL tanks, and generators and/or field-kitchens. At least some of them are the more modern cab-over-engine variants. These same vehicle-types of vehicles are also found at the group-level.

There is no readily visible equipment that would belong to the air defense battalion, though this isn't surprising considering that they would be restricted to towed or truck-mounted Zu-23-2s, and MANPADs. However, the motor-pool belonging to the command and headquarters battery (19) is marked on Wikimapia, showing a handful (<5) of cab-over-engine and cab-after-engine medium trucks. Also present are a number of smaller in the ¼ - ¾ ton range. At least one bucket loader and one digger are visible over the range of available imagery.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

61st 'Muharram' Artillery Group

The Sepah's 61st 'Muharram' Artillery Group is based near the north-eastern city of Torbat Heydariyeh in the Razavi Khorasan province, and is commanded by Sarhang (Colonel) Bani-Hassan. Its garrison can be found just east of the Mashhad-Torbat Heydariyeh expressway, butted up against the southern face of the adjacent mountain range.

Col. Bani-Hassan; note artillery branch service insignia (Taban Torbat)

Google Earth offers imagery of the area from 12/2003, 09/2011, 03/2012, and 11/2012. Bing offers a slightly higher quality of the same 03/2012 imagery.


The internal layout and characteristic features of this base are consistent with the limited number of other Sepah base's detailed thus-far (the 21st and 60th armored brigades). This includes the group headquarters (1), which can be identified by their placement near both the parade yard, and the main-entry / round about. The actual building style is nearly identical to that used by the 21st IAB in Neyshabur.

The battalion clusters are similarly organized. Three clusters are readily apparent (2), each with two barracks of the same type observed in Neyshabur. Although there isn't the same degree of uniformity in secondary buildings, two of the clusters can each be associated with six identical warehouse-type buildings (3). The northern-most cluster saw a seventh warehouse constructed between 09/2011 and 03/2012. These three clusters likely correspond to the group's combat units. One more characteristically barracks-type building (4) can be found near the entrance to the garrison, close to a large warehouse and logistics equipment (tractors and storage containers) (5). This may correspond to the group's combat service support.

The large building south-west of the headquarters, which can be identified by it's intricate/atypical roof structure, likely corresponds to the prayer-building/lecture-hall, which itself is likely associated with the garrison's ideological/political department (6).

Secondary facilities outside of the main garrison include two firing ranges, whose refurbishment/construction started sometime before 09/2011. Next to these two ranges is another open area with a number of unknown white objects (tents perhaps?), whose purpose is equally unknown. Dotting the nearby fields are a number of revetments that are traditionally associated with artillery positions. One main revetment holds the gun, while one or two revetted 'lobes' at the base protect ammunition and/or the gun-crew.

Between 03/2012 and 11/2012, construction on eight buildings (7) of an unknown purpose began to the northwest of the main garrison compound. A road (8) leads north of the garrison into the foothills of the mountains to a security perimeter that encloses the groups modest number of hardened-shelters (six) used for munition storage.

Like other Sepah facilities the author has observed, the 61st Artillery Group continues has continued with that pesky tendency to conceal their combat equipment under cover, making it more difficult to discern their force structure. However, media descriptions of the group's recent October 2013 exercises help shed some light in this regard.

 Specifically, the describe the composition of the 323rd artillery battalion as consisting of thee batteries of guns, and two batteries of rocket artillery. The rocket-battery strength was further specified at four BM-21 variants each. At least two types have been seen, a 40-round launcher mounted on a L-series Mercedez Benz chassis, or a 30-round launcher mounted on an unknown chassis. The strength of the gun batteries is unknown, but they were shown using D-74/Type-60 (122 mm) towed guns. EDIT - The guns pictured are actually the Type 59-1, which mounts the 130 mm barrel from the Type 59 on the Type 60 chassis, which can easily lead to confusion between the two the key recognitions points to the Type 60. To tell the two apart, note the ammunition style.

Tube Artillery on Exercise (IRNA / Taban Torbat)
The choice to organize rocket batteries alongside tube batteries is an interesting operational choice since it indicates that the traditional doctrinal employment of rocket artillery – massed volleys that deliver overwhelming levels of fire in a small time span – has been de-emphasized.
Rocket Artillery on Exercise (IRNA / Taban Torbat)
 While one might expect to find some amount of larger caliber battlefield rockets (ex: Nazeat, Zelzal) in the hands of artillery groups, it's worth remembering that these assets are held by the Sepah's Aeropsace Force rather than Sepah Ground Force's artillery groups.

References
Interview with group-commander Colonel Bani-Hassan
Date: October 3, 2013


Interview with deputy-group-commander Colonel Torabi
Date: October 8, 2013
http://razavi.basij.ir/?q=node/7627

Description of early-October exercises:


Photos from early-October exercises
http://mashhad.irna.ir/PhotoDetail.aspx?NID=180849794

Sunday, October 6, 2013

60th 'Ammar Yasir' Armored Brigade

Colonel Ali Koohi (Qaboos Nameh)
The Sepah's 60th 'Ammar Yasir' armored brigade is based in the north-eastern city of Gonbad-e Kavus in the Golestan province, and is commanded by Sarhang (Colonel) Ali Koohi. The brigade's garrison is a miniscule 10 hectares, which – for comparison – is similar in size to a garrison one kilometer north, which belongs to a small detatchment from the Army's 30th Infantry Division. Despite this, it is relatively well mechanized for a force its size.


Google Earth offers imagery from August 2010, July 2011 (poor-quality), January 2012, March 2012 and May 2013. Bing Maps supplements this with imagery from July 2011 (high quality).
 
The core of the brigade's fighting strength consists of a battalion of T-54/55 tanks, which includes both the 'clean' Type-69, and upgraded T-72Z/Safir-74 types. Around 40 of these are visible on GE's 08/2010 imagery. (1) In 01/2012, three of them can be clearly seen in the parade yard loaded on to tank-transporters. (2)
T-72Z/Safir-74 (IRNA) and Type-69 (Arteshi Forum)


Supporting these tanks are a handful of other light AFVs. This includes the BMP-1 IFV; no more than six of which are visible on GE at any given time, though the fact that these are seen extending from a garage suggest there may be more under cover. (3)
BMP-1 (Arteshi Forum and IRNA)

 Though the Boragh mortar carrier has been seen on parade, it cannot be confidently identified on the overhead imagery. One candidate are three BMP-sized AFVs adjacent to the garage, which appear to lack the distinctive circular turret of the BMP-1. (4) That being said, these differences are so miniscule that it's impossible to tell for sure; the turret is often the first recognition feature to disappear in overhead imagery. Another candidate are two more BMP-sized AFVs visible in 08/2013 with a unique hull-deck profile. An alternative explanation for these two is that the profile is caused by covered Zu-23-2 guns on a pair of Boragh air-defense vehicles. (5)
(IRNA)
In addition to this, at least three M113 APCs are consistently visible, which are likely used as command vehicles. (6) A fourth AFV, while bearing an uncanny similarity to the M113, appears to be far larger. (7) It may be a turret-less tank hull.

The most interesting AFV used by this brigade is, by far, is the EE-9 Cascavel III. While Iran is reported to have imported 130 from Libya in 1980, the fact that Libya operated the Cascavel II variant*, which can be identified by its lack of commander's cupola, suggests this is one of the many captured from Iraq. At least one can be seen on GE's 03/2012 imagery. 

* - Very little photographic evidence of Libyan EE-9s exist. Thus, it is possible that Libya procured Cascavel IIIs in addition to the Cascavel IIs they are known to have imported.

EE-9 Cascavel III (IRNA) Note:For some reason, Blogger feels compelled to flip this image. My apologies.
Other than this, there is a notable lack of visible artillery (whether towed or self-propelled) in either overhead or parade imagery. There is also a lack of soft-skin vehicles, though these very well may be under cover. Unlike other Sepah Ground Force garrisons, there is little to no dedicated cover for the AFVs, raising the question of where they go when they're not visible. Similarly, there is little on-base infrastructure like that found in Neyshabur – buildings like wharehouses and workshops.

References

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

21st 'Imam Reza' Armored Brigade

The Sepah's 21st Armored Brigade – nicknamed the 'Imam Reza Brigade' – is based in the northeastern city of Neyshabur in the Razavi Khorasan province. It is currently commanded by Brig. Gen. 2nd Class Mohsen Qajaryan.

Gen. Qajaryan (
Google Earth offers imagery of the base from February 2004, October 2009, June 2011, February 2013 (partial coverage only), and July 2013. Bing supplements this with October 2010 imagery.


Compared to the relatively cramped army garrisons, the 21st AB garrison is located on approximately 400 hectares next to the city's power-plant. A seperate housing complex along the eastern edge of the city may be affiliated with the brigade, but this possibility is unconfirmed.

The existence of separate housing might help explain the shortage of on-base billeting, which includes facilities for at least two battalions. (1) Each battalion has three barracks (one per company), an office-building/HQ, and another ancillary building clustered together; both clusters face a parade yard, another key recognition feature for troop billeting. Further barracks may be found around a second parade yard to the north. (2) These buildings have the flat-roofs typical of barracks, but lack of distinct cluster pattern necessary for a more confident assessment.



To add to this, one media report listed five of the brigade's battalions. Two of them were helpfully named after their function – the artillery and commando battalions – while the remaining three's names didn't give any clue as to their precise function – the Nazeat, Noor, and Fateh battalions.

Other facilities within the garrison include three administrative office buildings located near the above-mentioned battalion clusters and parade-yard. (3) These can be identified by their proximity to the front of the base, the fact that they present an open face to the road, and that they have adjacent parking areas, and well-manicured grounds. Interestingly, they appear similar in construction to one of the primary office buildings found in the Army's new Zahedan garrison.

To the north-east of this 'block' is a suspected prayer-room/auditoreum, whose manicured garden suggests ceremonial use, though the fact it's next to the obstacle course may suggest it's a gym. (4) Another possible canidate for the garrison's gym also has a manicured garden, but also has some sort of court painted on the ground next to it. (5) Unlike many military garrisons, there is no soccer field present.

In between these two blocks is a fenced-in area with 14 metal/gable-roofed buildings. (6) This style of construction, along with the adjacent shipping containers, road-use patterns, and concrete ramps suggest these are warehouses. Note the secondary perimeter with two more - possibly climate controlled - warehouses.

To the far east is another metal/gable-roofed building. The varying (small) number and type of armored and heavy wheeled vehicles suggest it is the brigade's maintenance workshops. (7)

A key difference between Sepah and Artesh garrisons is the former's consistent use of covered garages for equipment storage, particularly when it comes to armored vehicles. One prominent visual feature of the base are its 18 11-bay garages, which obscure the nature and number of the brigade's armor. (8) Theoretically this offers enough space for up to 198 armored vehicles, though it's doubtful every bay is continually occupied.

Despite these challenges, some of the brigade's force-structure can be pieced together. For instance, media reporting has shows the use of the Boragh APC in the Sepah's traditional two-tone brown-and- sand paint scheme. Parade imagery from September 2013 has also T-72 tanks, which can be confirmed via the 10/2009 and 06/2011 imagery, which show a handful of T-series tanks out from under cover. M113 and Boragh APCs are also occasionally seen, whether peeking out from under a garage, or loitering about in the worshop yard. (9) In the same 2013 parade described above, Iranian media also reported (but did not photograph) on the "Raad" tank" and the "Rakhsh" tank. The former is likely a reference to the Raad-2 self-propelled howitzer, which is know to be operated by Sepah armored units such as the 41st and 31st divisions. The Rakhsh tank, while perhaps a reference to the four-wheeled Rakhsh APC, may also be a reference to the T-72 equipped with slat armor often seen on parade in Tehran, but never observed in an operational capacity (neither of these, it should be noted, are 'tanks')

Boragh performing disaster-relief and T-72 on Parade (INN/Attarnet)

Beyond these 18 garages, much of the brigade's other motor vehicles have disappeared under cover since 2004. Near the front of the garrison is a motor-pool for the heavy-equipment transports, including the flat-bed trailers used for moving armor, which can be identified thanks to the shadows cast by their loading ramps. (10) As per parade photography, these are pulled by the 6x6 Titan tractors favored by Sepah units for operational mobility.

The brigade's lighter wheeled vehicles are most visible in the 02/2004 imagery. (11) This number includes at least 15 Jeeps, which are for carrying support weapons like the 106 mm recoilless rifle, TOW ATGM and 107 mm rockets. Upwards of fourty land-cruiser pickups, or ¾ ton tactical vehicles. These can function as weapon platforms as well, carrying Zu-23-1/2 guns, or small banks of 122 mm rockets. These lightweight, wheeled vehicles also function as general purpose and command vehicles. A smaller number of larger trucks are visible – likely Mercedes Benz 911 or 1924 types – are visible here and in the transport motor pool previously described above.

Another distinct compound that has since been obscured with overhead cover is the combat engineering battalion, which has the usual range of bright-yellow earth moving equipment. This compound also includes the most interesting piece of equipment in the garrison – the Serat AVLB. (12) The Serat is an IRGC project based off the T-72 hull that was first displayed in Neyshabur by the 21st AB in 2009. Unlike the Army's Chieftain AVLB, this design operates by sliding its bridge forward rather than unfolding it like a pair of scissors. The logic behind this mechanism is that it presents a lower profile target to the enemy while it is being deployed. While this may seem like a waste of T-72, it must be remembered that the IRGC-GF doesn't have any armored-bridging capability of their own; it's not like they they can deploy any of the remaining Chieftain AVLBs because a) the administrative/chain-of-command seperation between them and the army, and b) the geographical seperation between them and the Artesh units that do operate the AVLBs in Zanjan, Qazvin, and Hamedan. This is just one of the negative effects of operating a wide variety of vehicle types, and of having a parallel ground-force structure betwen the Sepah and Artesh. Wisdom or lack thereof aside, the Serat first appears on overhead imagery in 10/2009, 10/2010, 06/2011, but is absent by 02/2013.

Serat AVLB (DIO Export Catalogue)

The emergence of this prototype at the garrison sheds light on raison d'etre for the fairly complex automotive testing track adjacent to the garrison. (13) Built sometime around 2004, the track includes a fording pond, inclines, trenches (speaking of bridging!), a figure-8, zig-zags, S-curves, sharp turn(s), a straight-away and a handful of other obstacles.

References:
[title] Khorasan News. 07/06/13. http://www.khorasannews.com/News.aspx?type=2&year=1392&month=4&day=15&id=4958667

The Best of the 21st Brigade's Sporting Events Identified. Mehr News. 02/15/13. Archived at: http://94.232.172.78/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=1817089

The Serat bridgelayer tank, another achievement of Sepah engineers, was unveiled on the third day of Sacred Defense Week in Neyshabur. Via Military of Iran Blog. 10/04/2009. Note: Repost of now-defunct IRNA article. 
http://militaryofiran.parsiblog.com/Posts/71/%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86%DA%A9+%D9%BE%D9%84+%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B2

Military Forces Parade in Neyshabur. Attar News. 09/22/13. http://www.attarnews.ir/Fa/%D8%B9%DA%A9%D8%B3/2118-%DA%AF%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B4-%D8%AA%D8%B5%D9%88%DB%8C%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%85-%D8%B1%DA%98%D9%87-%D9%86%DB%8C%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%AD-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D9%86%DB%8C%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B1

 [Boragh image] http://inn.ir/NSite/FullStory/News/?Serv=0&Id=140011&Rate=0

Monday, September 16, 2013

72nd Independent Mechanized Infantry Brigade

Note: "(_)" corresponds to numbered map inlays, while "[_]" correspond to end-notes.

Another brigade with little written about it, is the 72nd independent mechanized-infantry brigade stationed in Iran's south-western Khuzestan province.

While one July 2011 report from 'Oromiyeh Sport' describes the brigade as being based in the city of Susengard, this is unlikely given that there are no significant garrisons close to the city. [1] On the other hand, a March 2013 report from IRNA indicated that the brigade is based in Andimeshk, north of Dezful. [2] Furthermore, an autobiographical account by Brigadier General 2nd Class Mehboob Qurbani – the former commander of the brigade – places the brigade in the Dokooheh Garrison just north of Andimeshk, which is backed up by user annotations on Wikimapia. [3] [4]
(Arcmap)

During the Iran-Iraq war, this garrison was a major base for IRGC units, including the 27th division, and the 7th, 8th, 14th and 17th brigades. [5] Today, the garrison's functions include use as a war-memorial and is included as a stop-over point for the 'Rahin-e Noor' (path of light) tours, which gives citizens an opportunity to visit battlefields.

Available Google Earth imagery dates from October 2010 (in select portions only) May 2012 (black and white) and April 2013 (color), and available Bing imagery dates from sometime before, but close to, May 2012.

Located along the north-south Road 37, a handful of military compounds are located on either side of the road, which may be administratively part of, or distinct from, the Dokooheh garrison. These include a munitions depot with hardened-shelters and revetted storage facilities. Opposite the garrison, on the eastern side of the highway is a major compound under construction, whose purpose and ownership is unknown.
(GE)

The first of the compounds linked with the brigade, labeled 'northern facility' on the above map - includes barracks for at least eight companies worth of soldiers. Four of these 'T'-shaped buildings, along with smaller ancillary buildings, are clustered around a respective 'H'-shaped headquarters. (1) [6]

Observable assets at this base include nine BTR-60s and 11 tanks (likely T-72s) in proximity to covered vehicle garages, both of which are roughly equal to one companies worth of vehicles (2). There is a moderate-to-high probability that there are several M113/M577 command vehicles. It's noteworthy that the imagery of the BTR-60s are among the clearest on Google Earth, clearly showing their pointed noses, sloped/ squared rear ends, and the shadow from the skewed-forward turret*.





(GE/Bing)
* - Iranian BTR-60PBs have been seen armed with both a turret-mounted 14.5 mm KPV and pintle-mounted 12.7 mm DShK. It's possible the latter is responsible for the distinct shadowing. The following image is from Dezful's Army Day 2013 celebrations, which may show BTR's belonging to the 72nd MIB; note the same light-sand paint scheme. However, since the parade also featured units from the 292nd AB, confirmation is impossible. Note the M577s in the distant background.
(ISNA)


While both Bing and GE show M109 SPGs on the edge of the parade-yard, the Bing imagery shows them at full battalion strength. (3) Unlike other M109 battalions in Iran, each battery has a strength of five, rather than four guns, giving a total strength of 15 guns/Bn.

To the south of the northern facility is a secondary cluster of buildings with a greater number of armored vehicles, including 22 M113 APCs (4) and around 40 mixed AFVs of an indeterminate type (5, 6). Although this case-study will be explored – and hopefully resolved – later in a series on armor identification, the working assumption is that they are assigned to mechanized infantry battalions; the other alternative is that some of them are Boragh AMVs that belong to combat-support units.
(GE/Bing)


One possibility is that the M113s and BTRs comprise a mixed-battalion with two companies of the former, and one company of the latter, with a total strength of around 30 APCs, with the total varying according to unit readiness at any given time.

---

Though not strictly linked with the brigade per se, the presence of Rahin-e Noor facilities in the garrison means more than a handful of private pictures are available on the internet.
GE / Various Private Pictures


Cites and Footnotes
[1] (July 6, 2011) - http://www.urmia-sport.com/254/%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%AC-%D8%B3%D9%88%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B2%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%88%DB%8C
[2] (March 21, 2013) (cached) - http://ahvaz.irna.ir/html/1392/13920129/80619470.htm
[3] (Jan 28, 2013) http://newsemnan.sajed.ir/Menu1/Description.aspx?id=3037
[4] - http://wikimapia.org/23289360/fa/%D9%BE%D8%A7%D8%AF%DA%AF%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AF%D9%88%DA%A9%D9%88%D9%87%D9%87-%D8%AA%DB%8C%D9%BE-72-%D9%BE%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%87-%D9%85%DA%A9%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C%D8%B2%D9%87
[5] - http://fa.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D9%BE%D8%A7%D8%AF%DA%AF%D8%A7%D9%86_%D8%AF%D9%88%DA%A9%D9%88%D9%87%D9%87
[6] – Identification of buildings based on Wikimapia user annotions on the new Birjand training garrison, which give clues to basic layout and role of buildings.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Bani-Hashem Armored Complex

The Bani-Hashem Armored Complex

Following the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, the new president of the Islamic Republic– Hashemi Rafsanjani – was tasked with rebuilding a shattered country. Not least of all, this meant rebuilding the Armed Forces's depleted inventories. Reflecting the broader shift towards pragmatism that took place during the Rafsanjani administration, Tehran turned towards the USSR to rebuild it's armored forces, the same state whose deep fear of Khomenei's revolutionary ideology drove it to back Saddam's Iraq to the hilt during the eight-year war.

Following a handful of deals in 1989, and 1990 a major agreement for the production of armored vehicles was signed in 1991. Mikhail Barabanov, in a 2006 issue of 'Moscow Defense Brief', describes the deal:

"The fourth and the largest ($2.2 bln) contract was signed on November 13, 1991 for the licensed production in Iran of 1000 T72S tanks and 1500 infantry fighting vehicles, as well as ammunition and delivery of parts not licensed for production until 2011. Russia built the tank factory, which began production on July 8, 1997 in Dorud (Lurestan province), and the BMP-2 factory, which started work in 1998, in Tehran."

Uralvagonzavod delivered 100 T-72S tanks to Iran in 1994 and another two in 1996 to fulfill an agreement signed in 1993, and from 1996 to 1999 delivered 300 T-72S kits to Dordud. The assembled tanks were first brought into service in July 1998. The Kurgansk machine building plant sent 80 BMP-2 in 1993 and another two in 1996, and then delivered 331 kits for licensed assembly in Tehran. Thus, from 1993-2000, Iran received 422 T-72S tanks and 413 BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles for a total cost of $668 mln."

This post-ideology honeymoon, however, was not to last, Barabanov continues:

"The US objected to these sales from the start and aggressively lobbied ... Russian leadership on this issue from 1992 onwards. The campaign was successful, and in May 1995 Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed on a plan [The Gore-Chernomyrdin Memorandum] whereby Russia would undertake to fulfill agreements already signed with Iran by the end of 1999, at which point it would cease all deliveries and servicing and would sign no further agreements on arms trade. ...

By the time the memorandum was signed, Russia had fulfilled only the first ... contract ... for the delivery of aircraft and AD missile systems. The other three Soviet-Iranian agreements were annulled... by 2000, such that the total sum of deliveries under all four contracts was less than $3 bln. The November 1991 contract for the licensed production of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles of was only 30% fulfilled: arms and equipment not sent included 578 T-72S and 1087 BMP-2 kits, technical documentation relating to the license, equipment, ammunition and services with a total value of over $1.5 bln." (1)

Although Moscow dispensed with Gore-Chernomyrdin by 2000, the resumption of AFV-exports never materialized. Looking outward from Tehran, the siege-mentality honed during the Iran-Iraq war explained Russia's actions all to well; that both Russia and China had used their arms-sales as a bargaining-chip in their maneuvers with the West confirmed to Iran that they existed in a world full of great-powers looking to exploit them and could not be reliably counted upon to ensure Iran's security. In other words, with apologies to de Gaulle, Iran had no permanent friends, only permanent interests.
(GE)

It was in this manner that the trope of self-sufficiency – never seriously in danger anyways – gained further traction, and – somewhere along the line – MODAFL continued with the development of the 'Bani-Hashem Armor Complex' in Dorud to make up for foreign shortfalls.

Compared to nearby industrial complexes, several features identify it as a heavy military-goods production facility. First, user annotations on Wikimapia identify it as the Bani-Hashem facility, though since these can be innacurate, this alone is not definitive. Second, the 'Cement Iran' website lists its address as "Kilometer Four, the Old Doroud-to-Azna Road", which is consistent with imagery from Wikimapia (using the Google's street maps layer). (2) Third, there are distinct perimeter-control walls with regularly spaced watchtowers, which are typically characteristic of military facilities (though not unheard of in Iranian civilian-industry). Fourth, and most importantly, is the attached automotive test track to the south of the facility. One feature lacking, that is typically found in heavy-equipment facilities, such as the NEZAJA's main repair depot in Tehran, is an attached rail facility for importing raw materials, and exporting finished goods (although there is a rail-line in Dorud).

Available Google Earth imagery dates from February 2006, and September 2010, though the latter is only in black and white. Higher quality imagery from Bing Maps is available from November 2011, and May 2012.
Wikimapia/Bing Maps


In addition to the factory, there are three additional compounds including at least two residential housing complexes, complete with power-generation, sports, and school facilities. The third area, along the Old Road, likely contains administrative offices (given the lack of such buildings in the factory-complex itself). To the south of the factory is a basic automotive test track that is comprised of two parts, a 4+ km oval, with another 5+ km of track attached to it.

The main assembly workshop can be found to the west of the complex's main road and is easily identified thanks to it's large size. It is a heavy steel-beam structure with east-west gabled roofs with south-facing windows for illumination. Running the length of these workshops are gantry-cranes needed for moving heavy equipment. Surounding the main workshop are a variety of smaller buildings of indeterminate type. Between 2006 and 2012, no major construction was undertaken, though a handful of minor buildings were razed, several buildings – the largest of them likely being material storage of some kind – were erected.
Original Source(s) Unknown


To the east of the complex's main road is a power generation facility, and additional steel-framed, gable-roofed workshops. It is reasonable to assume that these contain the complex's component-fabrication industries. A March, 2005 IRIB article gives some clue as to what exactly these buildings contain, including a booster-furnance, which is claimed to be the "largest in the Middle East", a pneumatic forging hammer, which is claimed to be able to manufacture parts that weigh "...more than 300 kg", thermopress machines, gas/laser/plasma-cutters, IGM (it is unclear what this is), and a "very heavy" (160-2500 ton) metal press. (3) Other sources add to this, listing facilities for making iron, steel, and aluminum castings. (4)

Following the final assembly of Russian T-72 kits in 2000, the factory has remained in service. By 2005 the factory was claimed to be turning out 1,916 tank, 1,636 APC, and an unspecified number of SPG components. Currently, it appears that the factory is also producing non-armor, and/or non-military automotive and structural products. (5)

While the majority of the cited components are likely to be spare parts needed for basic upkeep – the earliest incarnations of the DIO export catalogue advertised suspension, power-plant/transmission, armament, and cooling/lubrication systems – the question of whether Iran is producing T-72s remains unanswered. The possibility should not be dismissed, especially since the most recent DIO catalogue appears to advertise the entire tank, rather than simply upgrades for them. (6) This possibility, however, appears impossible to prove at this juncture, and although the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, there is a notable lack of armored vehicles in open-air storage at the Bani Hashem factory. This contrasts with, for example, visible M1s at the Lima tank plant (USA) and visible Leopards at the Krauss-Maffei plant (Germany).

Works Cited
(1) Russia on Iran's Market for Arms. Mikhail Barabanov. Moscow Defense Brief. 2006 Is. #1
(2) http://www.cementiran.com/node/776
(3) Iranian Self-Sufficiency in the Construction of Armored Vehicles. IRIB. March 12, 2005 Via: http://www.topiranian.com/topnews/archives/002165.html
(4), (5) http://www.parstradeshow.com/companydetail.aspx?coid=271213
(6) DIO Products. Section 5, VEIG. http://diomil.ir/products.html