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Iran Cares Little For This Futuristic Assault Rifle

February 8, 2019

Via Iranian media.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution that toppled the late Shah Pahlavi, an exhibition was held at Tehran’s “Holy Defense Museum” for promoting locally made weapons and equipment. The occasion saw the blatant advertisement of Iran’s prowess in manufacturing different unmanned aircraft, including the jet powered Saegeh. But there were some curios whose usefulness for Iran’s vast military remains speculative. While the country’s state-owned media hailed the size and scale of the event, a little noticed product on display was an absurd automatic rifle that attracted very little attention.

The intriguing firearm had an all black finish and a chrome coated barrel assembly. Its appearance conformed to the prevailing fashion for military rifles. An upper rail mount stretched almost the entire length of the weapon, offering ample space for detachable optics and sights. The receiver looked similar to those on AR-pattern carbines with a magazine well for a NATO standard 30-round magazine. A narrow horizontal slot on the top half of the receiver suggested an ambidextrous charging handle–even if the charging handle seemed to be missing.

Judging by its external characteristics, the Iranian assault rifle is a selective fire small arm chambered for 5.56x45mm ammunition with a gas piston mechanism; a thin tube is affixed over the barrel assembly for recycling the gas released by each discharged bullet. But the weapon on display in late January did have a peculiar side folding stock with unexplained circular grips near the butt. Why?

 

Digging through the archives of Iranian state media does shed light on the rifle’s origins. In 2014 the Revolutionary Guard announced a selection of new equipment was soon entering service. One of them was a rifle dubbed “Fateh” or “conqueror” but unlike the model shown at Eghtedar 40 in Tehran this month the original firearm had a desert camo finish with front and back flip sights. The stock was different too, being retractable rather than folding. The original Fateh only had a 20-round box magazine and a detachable hybrid foregrip with its own bipod.

But the Fateh disappeared soon after its initial appearance and ever since, the IRGC’s propaganda shifted to new weapons, including an AR-pattern carbine that looked like a poor copy of the HK416 and yet another “modular” rifle called the “Zolfaqar.” The Fateh did inspire its own comparisons to the FN SCAR, the Belgian rifle favored by special forces in the West, although its layout was similar to the short-lived Remington ACR and the Robinson Armament XCR; both American-made rifles.

The lone Fateh at Eghtedar 40 had no sights and an inappropriate butt stock ill-suited for dissipating recoil. Neither was there any official statement about the rifle’s status (the major event at the exhibition was the unveiling of a new cruise missile) when IRGC officers were at hand to heap praise on their technological “achievements.” Several years after it went viral, there’s little reason to assume the Fateh has entered production and is replacing older rifles. In keeping with its preferences, the IRGC’s infantry are equipped with Russian AK-103’s and other Kalashnikov-pattern rifles. The regular army, the Artesh, are faithful to their G3 battle rifles chambered for 7.62x51mm ammunition.

What about the Fateh? Its “modular” touches hasn’t endeared it to Iran’s defense ministry though, which means performance issues during tests may have sunk its chances, and there’s no additional work being done to improve it, obviously. Consider how Iranian factories can make copies of AR-pattern gas piston carbines yet utterly fail adapting the same weapon to a fresh design. So just like the “Khaybar” bullpup from the 2000s, the Fateh joins a sorry club of awful weapons nobody wants, including the military it was designed for.

To be fair, Iran’s mass-production of Kalashnikov-pattern assault rifles (both the AKM and AK-103) is adequate for its paramilitaries and proxies. The regular soldiers will always have their G3’s. Better to just forget the ill-fated Fateh.

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