Iran, a nation at the crossroads of the Middle East, is known for its rich history, diverse culture, and geopolitical significance. With a blend of ancient traditions and a modern outlook, Iran plays a pivotal role in the region’s dynamics. Iran’s national defence is fortified by an array of Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) that are truly remarkable. These tanks, including the Karrar, T-72S, and Zulfiqar, are domestically produced and boast unique capabilities and strengths. This article explores the technical specifications and features of Iran’s top-tier tanks, revealing their impressive technological advancements and combat effectiveness.
Iran’s Top 5 Tanks
The Karrar, known as ‘Striker’ or ‘Attacker’ in Persian, is a main battle tank manufactured in Iran. Production of this tank began in 2017 at the Bani Hashim Defence Industrial Complex, and as of early 2021, a total of 800 tanks have been built. Weighing 51 tons, the Karrar has specific dimensions: 6.8 m in hull length, 9.78 m in total length, 3.68 m in width, and 2.5 m in height. It requires a crew of three individuals, consisting of a driver, commander, and gunner. The tank’s armour is composed of a composite material for the turret and an Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) for the hull. Its primary armament is a 125 mm 2A46M smoothbore gun, accompanied by a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and a remotely controlled 12.7mm machine gun. Powered by a diesel engine and equipped with a torsion bar suspension, the Karrar has an operational range of approximately 500-550 km and can achieve a maximum speed of around 70 km/h. The tank was introduced in 2016 after unsuccessful negotiations to acquire a license and technology for producing Russian T-90MS tanks. It draws inspiration from the Soviet-made T-72 while incorporating elements from the T-90, American M1 Abrams, and British Challenger 2. Iran has firmly denied any alleged collaboration with Russia on this project, despite the visual similarities to the T-90.
The T-72S is a variant of the T-72 main battle tank, which was originally manufactured in the Soviet Union. Iran initially acquired 100 T-72M1 tanks from countries in the former Soviet Bloc and later obtained a license from Russia to domestically produce the T-72S tanks. Weighing 44.5 tonnes, the T-72S is equipped with advanced features such as the 125mm smoothbore 2A46M gun, IA40-1 computerized fire-control system with a laser rangefinder, and a day/image intensification night sighting system. This tank has seen action in various conflicts, notably the Iran-Iraq war, where it gained a reputation as one of the most formidable tanks on the battlefield. Currently, the T-72S tanks are utilized by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and are equipped with a camouflage system that effectively conceals them from thermal infrared radar detection. Additionally, it is believed that these tanks are equipped with an electro-optical fire control system, laser rangefinders, and a ballistic computer.
The Zulfiqar, an Iranian main battle tank, was designed by Brigadier General Mir-Younes Masoumzadeh, the deputy ground force commander for research and self-sufficiency of the armed forces. It was named after the legendary sword of Ali, the first Shiite Imam. The tank underwent evaluation in 1993, and six semi-industrial prototypes were produced and tested in 1997. The tank has a unique box-shaped, steel-welded turret of local design and is believed to have been developed from major components of the Soviet T-72 and American M48 and M60 tanks. The suspension is modelled on the M48 / M60 Patton tanks supplied to Iran by the U.S. The Zulfiqar weighs 52 tonnes and has dimensions of 9.20 m (length), 3.6 m (width), and 2.5 m (height). It can be operated by a crew of three personnel. The tank’s armour comprises a composite for the turret and an Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) for the hull. Its main armament is a 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore gun, and it also features a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and a remotely controlled 12.7mm machine gun. The Zulfiqar is powered by a 12-cylinder diesel engine and has an operational range of around 450 km, with a maximum speed of approximately 70 km/h.
The T-62 tank was developed and produced at Factory No. 183 in Nizhniy Tagil, also known as Uralvagonzavod, and was introduced in 1961 as a response to the American M60 tank. This Soviet medium tank weighs 37 tonnes and has dimensions of 9.34 m (length), 3.30 m (width), and 2.40 m (height), and is operated by a crew of four personnel. Its most notable feature is its 115mm smoothbore gun, which was an amalgamation of several experimental concepts. The tank’s armour consists of a cast turret and hull, and it is equipped with a 115 mm U-5TS (2A20) smoothbore gun, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and a remotely controlled 12.7mm machine gun. The T-62 is powered by a V-55 12-cylinder 4-stroke one-chamber 38.88-liter water-cooled diesel engine, which gives it an operational range of around 450 km and a maximum speed of approximately 50 km/h. Although it became the standard tank in the Soviet arsenal, it did not fully replace the T-55 in export markets due to its higher manufacturing costs and maintenance requirements compared to its predecessor. Despite being succeeded by later models in successor states of the Soviet Union, the T-62 remained in reserve in the former USSR and frontline use by other countries.
The T-55, a Soviet main battle tank, was introduced after World War II. It incorporated modifications made to the previous T-54 series, including NBC protection and a new engine. Weighing 36 metric tons and measuring 9.00 m in length, 3.37 m in width, and 2.40 m in height, it requires a crew of four. Its armour consists of various thicknesses. Its main armament is a D-10T 100 mm rifled gun, and it also features a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and a remotely controlled 12.7mm machine gun. Powered by a Model V-55 (V-54) V-12 water-cooled, 38.88-litre diesel engine, it has an operational range of approximately 325 kilometres and can achieve a maximum speed of around 51 km/h. The T-55 maintained a relatively affordable and uncomplicated design, influenced by the principles that made the T-34 an iconic tank of World War II. It became the most cost-effective main battle tank to date, with a higher number of exports than any other modern tank in history.