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Mindex Is Selling Iranian Weapons To The World

June 16, 2015

Iranian Rocket Launcher

For outdoor types, there are even hunting rifles and shotguns.

All these and more are available from Mindex, a state-owned defense export company from Iran. Their website is inaccessible at present, but when it used to be live a massive selection of arms and gear were being marketed on its web pages, 100% made in the Islamic Republic.

Tracing its origins to before the 1979 revolution, Iran’s secretive military-industrial complex has always thrived against the odds. A network of factories in Tehran, Esfahan, and Shiraz played a critical role during the Iran-Iraq War. For lack of spare parts, Iran’s manufacturers learned to improvise and maintain a colorful inventory. Reforms in the 1990s paved the way for diversification and Iran’s emergence as an arms exporter.

While sanctions and a sluggish economy have hampered the sector’s growth, its eclectic product range is well-suited to today’s ambiguous unconventional wars, like in Syria and Iraq, where crude and often improvised armaments enjoy widespread use.

The organizational history of Mindex is difficult to piece together. It does, however, advertise its function, which is to sell weapons and equipment made in Iran. These span twelve broad categories: Ammunition, propellants, small arms and crew-served weapons, armored vehicles, rockets and missiles, comms and radar, optics, CBRNe, naval systems, apparel and kit (under “miscellaneous”) and technology transfer.

Each category comes with a downloadable catalogue. Iran’s conventional arsenal is already well-known as a combination of NATO and Eastern Bloc weapons. More noteworthy are its missiles and rockets, ranging from the anti-tank Toophan–derivatives of the US BGM TOW–and the long-range Fadjr-series. The selection of Iranian-made anti-tank missiles keeps growing and now encompasses air-launched munitions and non-line-of-sight munitions.

As a regional power that cares deeply about national defense, Iran’s military doesn’t tolerate capability gaps. It manufactures and sells copies of Chinese MANPADS, the US Hawk SAM, and the French Crotale.  A whole generation of short and medium-range SAMs emerged in the late 2010s that either matched or exceeded their peers in Europe and Russia. Other types of missiles are advertised by Mindex. There’s information on anti-ship missiles like the Zafar, Nasr, and Noor; the last is deployed from a ground vehicle.

Mindex’ promotional efforts provides remarkable information on Iran’s aerospace and maritime sectors. Currently unable to build its own aircraft, state-owned firms do have the know-how for maintaining various fixed and rotary wing assets. These include transports like the C-130 and helos like the Mi-8, the UH-1H, the CH-53, and the Cobra helicopter gunship. Based on Mindex’ own information, Iran has its own range of propeller-driven light planes and a selection of UAVs.

Mindex’ broad survey of Iranian naval assets is equally illuminating. The vessels promoted by Mindex include midget submarines, missile frigates, and even light hovercraft. To entice customers, Mindex offers training and specialists for countries wanting to manufacture Iranian systems on their own.

Update (2022): Since the expiration of United Nations Resolution 2231 in 2020 there has been a renewed push for legitimate arms exports abroad. But Iran has updated its strategy and, unlike its usual methods for arming its allies, is being transparent about its intentions. The defense ministry is now empowered to send sales and marketing teams abroad for arms shows. Under its authority are multiple state-owned enterprises in specific “fields” such as aerospace, naval shipbuilding, and electronics. In 2022 alone Iranian pavilions appeared in Iraq, Qatar, Russia, and Azerbaijan. In these exhibitions dozens of weapons and parts were put on display but actual sales proved elusive.