Thursday, September 6, 2012

16th AD Update

The third* brigade of the 16th armored division in Western Iran, based out of Hamedan, was previously obscurred by low-quality imagery. A recent Google Earth update, with imagery from June 2011, now shows the base in relatively high-resolution along the 48 road leading northwest out of Hamedan ( 34.852852°, 48.446303°).

* Though due to the recent reorganization which saw the formation of the 216th IAB it must be remembered that it would now be more accurate to refer to it as the division's second brigade. For the purposes of continuity, the former designation will be kept to avoid confusion.

Unlike some nations which have a marked distinction between 'tank' and 'mechanized' brigades, Iran has – for the most-part – uniformly equipped their armored divisions with brigades of equal strength. The 16th AD is an example of this, rather than concentrating their tank battalions in full-strength brigades (i.e with multiple tank battalions) the army has favored an even distribution among mechanized brigades (i.e muliple infantry battalions with one tank battalion).

This has resulted in a scenario where Iran's armored divisions are almost all uniformly better classified as mechanized infantry divisions. On one hand, this likely reflects the fundamental reality that Iran can't field Soviet-style tank divisions. On the the other, it also likely reflects the relative utility that Iran places on tanks. Rather than seeking the decisive concentration of force that heavy divisions represent, which are fundamentally offensive in nature, Iran has chosen to relegate tanks to the support role in which they serve as theater-level anti-armor assets.

Speculation aside, the third brigade in Hamedan doesn't buck this trend. Beyond the usual range of barracks (1) and including single unit housing with their private courtyards (2,3), the motor-pool offers an excellent view of the brigade's vehicles. These include a wide range of soft-skinned vehicles, including 5-ton, 1 ¼-ton, and ¼ ton trucks, often with trailers or other towed equipment. (4) A handful of M113s can be found scattered around the compound (4, 8), suggesting a likely role as command, or other special-use vehicle rather than in a homogenous infantry battalion. The usual accompaniment of a 12+ gun M109 battalion (5) is present, though no M548s are. More than 40 FV4201 tanks (6) are visible – likely approximating a full-strength battalion. It's worth noting that this comes close to Iran's original pre-war battalion strength, with three companies of 15 tanks each. This compares to a Soviet tank company of 10 tanks. The brigade also retains some organic combat engineering capability, as evidenced by the AVLB (7) visible next to the seven M113s (8). A handful of unidentified armored vehicles can be seen under garages (9) in the far east of the motor-pool. These are likely shielding the brigades BMP-2 IFVs or FV101 light tanks, which have been observed on parade.
M-40 RR and 107 mm MLRS - Fire Support
FV101 - Armored Recon
M109 SPG (Fire Support) and BMP-2 IFV (Mech. Inf.)

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