By Heshmat Alavi
Iran made a lot of noise recently in announcing a new main battle tank built inside the country. Named Karrar, the tank is more a replica of an old Russian design and even more previous Western tank characteristics incorporated into various parts of nothing but a fancy-styled vessel most probably mocking something from a recent movie.
Despite all the brouhaha, Karrar is actually far behind anything considered modern and regardless of Tehran’s claims, entering production lines remains farfetched. Experts are even accusing Iran of using this entire scenario as a hoax aimed at gaining Russia’s consent into a tank purchase deal at a lower price.
Unveiled in Tehran, the Karrar (meaning “Striker” in Farsi) was boasted to be completely “Iranian made,” according to Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan. Iran was planning to purchase several hundred T-90MS tanks, the latest version of Moscow’s current main battle tank. However, as negotiations went south Iran sought to maintain a straight face by claiming to build its own line of tanks.
In light of all the claims made by Dehghan aimed at inspiring hope into the regime’s dwindling social base, the Karrar replica is a mere joke in comparison to the sophisticated T-90MS design.
Iran has been the target of numerous sanctions for decades now as a result of its support of terrorism, a controversial nuclear program and provocative missile production ambitions. As a result, Iran has a reputation of resorting to making knockoff tanks of very low quality.
And considering the fact that talks with Russia were terminated only recently, it is absolutely functionally impossible to complete the design process and finalize the prototype of a tank in less than 12 months. Experts are even raising the possibility of Iran seeking a discount from Russia as the Karrar at least neatly mirrors the T-90MS.
Moscow’s RT aired a promotional video released by Tehran showing the Karrar passing through various paces. The main gun was fired just twice, and at least one shot was clearly off target, and further embarrassing is the fact that the viewer is deprived of seeing the result of both shots as the camera is cut away from the target.
The “new” tank’s inside is anything but new, and appears more like a used and antiquated vessel. Even the main gun autoloader at work was shown only as a quick shot, and when we look more precisely we reach the conclusion that images were not filmed inside a tank. A person appearing in the background blows the cover. There is a serious possibility that an older T-72S tank was used to film the scene. Iran had purchased and received 480 such tanks between 1993 and 1999.
Again Iran boasts of the Karrar featuring a laser rangefinder, reactive armor and a remote controlled machine gun. What needs to be understood is how all such characteristics have been considered standard since the 1980s in armies across the globe.
Images also show a missile launched by the gun, which to the professional eye is nothing but a copy of the Russian 9M119M “Refleks” anti-tank missile. Basic understanding of the mechanisms used in gun-launched missiles, it is a known fact that more than a year is needed to design and test such a weapon.
Fancy looking large metal sheets are also seen bolted to turret’s front and covering the main gun’s base. However, there is probably no particular use for such excessive metal, while engineers are continuously seeking methods to decrease excess weight. Of course, with knowledge about the regime in Iran these metal sheets are most probably used to cover the lack of anything behind them.
After all this criticism, we have to give credit to one improvement made in Karrar. This tank, which is most probably “one” of a kind in this world, has a large basket at the turret’s rear to provide more storage area for the crew. But that’s about it.
Iran has a history of fibbing about building indigenous superweapons. The slate includes the Qaher stealth fighter (nothing but a hoax), painting oil drums to depict sophisticated surface-to-air missiles, and going as far as announcing off-the-chart plans to build nuclear-powered warships for a navy that dates back more than several decades.
All in all, this shows how desperate the regime in Iran is to keep a straight face and resort to anything and everything to boast about. Why? The mullahs need a posture before an advancing international community that is increasingly isolating their regime.