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Iran Announces Indigenous Carbon Fiber Production

August 30, 2011

Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Islamic Republic is an interesting regional power. At a little over 30 years old it already has an impressive military history that includes fighting the longest conventional war in modern times. Other distinctions to its credit are pursuing both limited foreign interventions  (see Hezbollah and the Syrian Civil War) and a not-so-covert nuclear program that has earned it pariah status in the West and regional enmity among its neighbors.

Rather than buckle under the weight of  joint US-EU sanctions Iran is embarking on an extensive and much publicized drive to become self-sufficient in its defense needs. These are of course in the realm of conventional armaments since its nuclear capability is an open ended question. To date, Iran has flaunted its long range missile technology and more than a few reverse-engineered marvels.

Without bothering to separate the hype from the fact, in the last several years Iran publicly showcased anti-tank missiles, various drones, small arms, and a selection of refurbished aircraft. Other impressive weapon systems include main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, and a self-propelled artillery similar to the US M109. In 2010 Iran also claimed to have produced an indigenous version of the vaunted S-300 missile system after a deal with Russia turned sour. Iran is also a prolific licensed and unlicensed manufacturer of various small arms including the MG3, G3, MP5, M16, several Kalashnikov variants and an accurized version of the ubiquitous RPG-7, among other recoilless weapons.

Last Saturday Iranian officials announced the country had acquired the know-how to manufacture its own carbon fiber, joining an exclusive club of 10 other countries. It’s unknown exactly where Iran’s carbon fiber plant is but such an omission is a sensible from a security standpoint. Carbon fiber is a dual use material and its sale or import is actually among the restrictions imposed by the US and EU on Iran.

Carbon fiber’s multiple applications in the defense and commercial sectors makes it a highly sought after material. Not only does it function as an alternative to expensive metallic or steel forms and shapes but the nuclear and aerospace fields benefit from it as well. Since it’s lightweight and heat-resistant carbon fiber is ideal for components that must soak high temperatures at brief intervals. Clearly, this means Iran will have no trouble finding broad applications for carbon fiber in its budding aerospace industry. In short, if Iran can produce its own carbon fiber in significant quantities, there are no limits for its uses.

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