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Turns Out Iran Now Makes A Chinese Heavy Machine Gun

February 27, 2019

Via Iranian media.

The Islamic Republic boasts one of the Middle East’s largest domestic small arms industry and this was apparent during the lavish Eghtedar 40 exhibition in January to mark four decades since the present government seized power. Although the event was highlighted by drones and cruise missiles, the Defense Industry Organization’s (DIO) catalog of infantry weapons were put on display too. An unexpected surprise was a heavy machine gun of Chinese origin set up in a booth where various automatic and direct fire weapons were arranged.

It’s unclear when Iran’s state-owned military-industrial sector began rolling out large caliber armaments but the long war with Iraq during the 1980s is considered a starting point for their maintenance and repair.

The photo above shared by an Iranian news agency shows a crowded booth reserved for various large caliber weapons, including the deadly Iranian variant of the RPG-29 called the “Ghadir” propped up at the bottom left of the frame. But the heavy machine gun at the foreground is a Chinese W85, which is meant as a generational improvement over the Soviet vintage “Dushka” or DShK 12.7x108mm heavy machine gun. Iran is recognized as one of the few countries that still manufactures the DShK but, as far as can be ascertained, it never purchased Chinese W85 heavy machine guns for its armed forces.

Although it’s chambered for the same type of ammunition, the W85 has several recognizable differences from the DShK. Foremost is its longer barrel assembly crowned with a cylindrical muzzle brake. The barrel assembly also mounts a large front sight and a carrying handle; below it is a thick detachable gas chamber that connects to the lower receiver. Another unique feature is a peculiar shoulder rest attached above the charging handle, which is found beneath the twin grips for the trigger assembly. The shoulder rest is supposed to stabilize the machine gun when the gunner leans in and fires it. Whether or not the W85 shares the same collapsible tripod as the DShK is unclear, but experienced machine gunners should appreciate the familiarity of both weapons.

Portable and rugged, W85’s have proliferated across the Middle East and Africa since the 2000s. The Syrian Civil War (2011-present) saw its widespread use by regime and opposition forces, including the Islamic State. The distribution of W85’s in Syria these past several years is hard to piece together, but Iran’s role in maintaining proxies as Assad’s regular army collapsed may have justified importing large quantities of this machine gun. Determining why Iran’s DIO adopted the weapon or began making copies is guesswork, but a hypothetical reason is locally made W85’s might be cheaper than ordering them from China.

There’s no doubt the qualities of the W85 left a good enough impression with the DIO. The regular army or Artesh and the Revolutionary Guard have fought and trained with DShK’s for decades now and the heavy machine gun’s 80-year-old design is begging for a replacement. Indeed, the differences in weight between it and the W85, along with better ergonomics casts the Chinese heavy machine gun in a better light. There’s no evidence of the DIO’s W85 in use by Iran’s conventional forces, however. Newer 12.7mm machine guns are in Iran’s reach anyway, sanctions or not, and the Russian KORD and the Chinese W89 are a generation ahead of the W85. Neither is it beyond the DIO’s abilities to design and build its own heavy machine gun from scratch.

Below is a partial tabulation of Iranian infantry weapons manufactured by the DIO. Specific names for copies of foreign weapons are omitted where their original nomenclature is used.

RIFLES
G3

G3 sliding stock

AK-47

AKS-47 sidefolder/underfolder

AK-103

M4/CQ (direct impingement)

M4/CQ  (gas piston)

SNIPER RIFLES
SVD

“Siavash” (7.62x51mm)

“Taher” (7.62x51mm)

ANTI-MATERIAL RIFLES
“Sayyad” (.50 BMG)

“Barret clone” (.50 BMG)

Unnamed AMR (.50 BMG)

OSV-96 (12.7x108mm)

Unnamed AMR (14.5x114mm)

Unnamed AMR (23mmx115mm)

SMGs
MP5

MP5K

MACHINE GUNS
MG3

PKM

PKM “commando”

HEAVY MACHINE GUNS
DShK (12.7x108mm)

W85 (12.7x108mm)

KPV (14.5x114mm)

ANTI-TANK GRENADE LAUNCHERS
RPG-7V

RPG-7V “commando”

RPG-29

GRENADE LAUNCHERS
M203 underbarrel

Unnamed Revolver MGL

“AGS-17” MGL (30mm)

“MK19” MGL (40mm)

RECOILLESS WEAPONS
SPG-9 (Soviet – 73mm)

M40 105mm (US – 105mm)

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