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The Iranian Military Have A Favorite Pickup Truck

May 26, 2019

These Aras pickup trucks and the anti-aircraft guns behind them are 100% made in Iran. Via Iranian media.

The Army Day parade in Tehran last April 18 spared nothing when it came to pomp and scale. From impeccable columns of marching infantry to trailers laden with missiles, the occasion was ideal for scrutinizing Iran’s regular armed forces, also known as the the Artesh, and its varied arsenal collected over the decades. As Iranian military parades go, this year’s brought a lot of old equipment mixed with a few pleasant surprises. A real eyecatcher were the numerous pickup trucks festooned with banners.

The model known as Aras (pictured above) has mysterious origins and it’s unclear which Iranian carmaker is responsible for manufacturing it. Checking the official catalog of the Defense Industries Organization (DIO) brings no useful details to light.

The Aras is a different 4×4 from the Safir, the favorite jeep of the Iranian military, or the Sepehr that’s comparable to the Land Rover. The Aras is a single cab pickup truck whose appearance resembles the AM General Hummer H1 and the Toyota Land Cruiser 79. While it’s true the Aras looks dated it proved battleworthy in Iraq and Syria where Iranian proxies used it the same way as insurgents use technicals–armed commercial pickup trucks. While it doesn’t have any armor, the Aras can support large caliber weapons such as anti-aircraft guns and rocket artillery launchers.

Not having any genuine product literature for the Aras means assessing its performance is best left to useful comparisons. Agrale from Brazil have a successful commercial 4×4 family under the Marruá brand. Like the Aras, the Marruá is available in either civilian or military variants. The Marruá AM200 G2 is a real workhorse, able to haul twice its gross weight over unpaved roads. Its build is nothing fancy, with a crossbar chassis whose front axles have helicoidal springs while the rear axles have semi-elliptic springs. The Marruá’s six-speed transmission and Cummins diesel engine allows it to navigate rough terrain without a lot of fuss.

North American readers who are familiar with off-road 4×4’s can use the Jeep Gladiator as their frame of reference. The double cab pickup truck is a very robust choice for the outdoor set, whether hauling dirt bikes or even a fishing boat on a trailer, and this mobility stems from a 181 horsepower diesel engine. (For the Jeep Gladiator 2020.) Now the engine type for the Aras is unknown but Iran’s carmakers and their suppliers are self-sufficient, meaning all relevant parts are locally made unless they need to be imported. The likelihood of the Aras running on a diesel engine licensed from abroad is almost certain.

Without ever looking under the hood of the Aras, it’s clear it subscribes to the same characteristics as its closest foreign analogs. A final set of parallels can be observed with a very well-known Japanese truck. Both the Aras in its single cab variant and the Toyota Land Cruiser 79 have similar “bodies” with the main difference seen in the shape of the former’s hood. The Land Cruiser 79 is a fixture in Africa and the Middle East for good reason; durable to a fault and with a top speed of 170 km/h, it drives well in any environment no matter the dust and heat. Indeed, for military use few pickup trucks are as modular as the Land Cruiser 79. This puts the Aras in good standing as the Artesh’ have a Land Cruiser-esque workhorse available in as many numbers as they see fit.

An exhaustive analysis of the Aras’ reveals it’s an optimal vehicle for the Iranian military’s needs. The amount of weaponry it can support is impressive, beginning with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun on a pivoting stand. A ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun weighing more than 1,000 kilograms fits on the bed of a single cab Aras pickup, more so anti-tank missile launchers such as the Toophan (BGM-TOW) or Delaviyeh (Kornet) along with spare missiles. Other large caliber portable weapons favored by Iranian forces, like 120mm mortars, recoilless rifles, and multi-barrel rocket launchers, are applicable too. If provided with a better engine and an independent suspension system, the Aras can be fully armored to at least STANAG I or II, making it a protected troop carrier.

The widespread adoption of the Aras may seem anachronistic when militaries everywhere are acquiring modular trucks but given Iran’s climate, geography, and warfighting doctrine, it’s exactly what the Artesh and the Revolutionary Guard need for their respective missions.

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