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The World Forgot About This Security Exhibition In Tehran

October 8, 2018

Via Mehr News.

While most countries in the Middle East organize lavish arms shows Iran is unable to do the same because of sanctions. To compensate, the defense ministry has a regular schedule of product launches for new equipment and weapon systems made by state-owned factories. But an exception is the International Police, Safety, and Security Equipment Exhibition or IPAS that’s held each year in Tehran.

IPAS 2018 was the 17th installment of a annual event and spanned three days, from October 2 until 4. Because of the creeping trade barriers imposed on the Islamic Republic the exhibitors were either local companies or Chinese OEMs. But a particular highlight in each IPAS is the presence of the Defense Industries Organization (DIO), the state-owned conglomerate responsible for military products.

Iran’s military-industries span aerospace, apparel, construction, electronics, optoelectronics, shipyards, and vehicle manufacturing. All these firms involved with supplying the regular armed forces, the Artesh, and the IRGC fall under the DIO’s purview. While Iran’s air force and naval capabilities can be derided, the extent of its secretive reverse engineering and R&D is impressive. Iranian companies working on behalf of the DIO and IRGC have successfully produced a long-range SAM called the Bavar-373 that can at least rival the US-made Patriot PAC-2 and the Russian S-300 Favorit. Iran also possesses a combat drone fleet that holds its own against the unmanned aircraft of China, Israel, and the US.

AK-pattern rifles on display at the DIO exhibit in IPAS 2018. Via Mehr News.

But IPAS 2018 isn’t meant as a showcase for Iran’s military products and checking its official website reveals an exhibition of modest scale. Based on the perfunctory coverage by Iranian media, the companies that showed up fell into four categories. These are fire and safety equipment, protective equipment, surveillance equipment, and whatever the government needs for keeping track citizens. One of the few European companies present at the show was a German manufacturer specializing in security-conscious car license plates. The anti-riot vehicles parked outside the venue formed a motley assortment of armored cars and trucks.

Of course, the exception to all these was the DIO whose ample floor space was used for displaying its remarkable small arms catalog. Aside from being one of the few manufacturers for ornamental hunting rifles, the DIO boasts separate production lines for NATO-standard and Communist Bloc weapons. During IPAS 2018 the DIO showed off its “KL” series of Kalashnikov-pattern rifles copied from the Chinese Type 56. These are available in “commando” variants with shortened barrel assemblies, polymer furniture, and rail mounts.

A genuine surprise, however, was a single AK-103 on display. The AK-103 is an update on the original Soviet vintage AKM featuring a cylindrical baffled muzzle brake and an all black finish. These rifles first appeared in Iran last year during a press conference organized by the IRGC. Now it seems copies of the AK-103 are manufactured by the DIO aside from the KL-series that are issued to the Basij. Iran now joins Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Vietnam as another country whose state-owned gunmaker produces AK-103 assault rifles. But these are likely reserved for the Quds Force and other elite units since the Artesh are still issued copies of the West German G3.

The official nomenclature for Iranian AK-103’s remains unknown but it joins a huge selection of Soviet/Russian-origin weapons made by the DIO’s suppliers. These span the Dragunov SVD, the PKM machine gun, the OSV-96 anti-material rifle, the RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher, the RPG-29 anti-tank grenade launcher, the SPG-9 recoilless rifle, the DShK heavy machine gun, the KPV heavy machine gun, the ZSU-23 anti-aircraft gun, the S-60 anti-aircraft gun, the KS-19 anti-aircraft gun, the Sagger and Kornet anti-tank missiles, the D30 howitzer, and many others.

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