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Iran Weaponized Its Favorite Military Pickup Truck

August 24, 2019

Via Iranian Media.

With the US and its Middle East nemesis avoiding direct confrontation for now, Iranian media have stepped up coverage of local military “achievements.” For critics of the Islamic Republic it’s easy to dismiss these as shallow propaganda churned out by a rogue state. However, paying closer scrutiny to the portrayal of Iranian-made equipment and weapons does provide valuable insight on how its armed forces are modernizing. In mid-August, for example, a 6×6 MRAP was unveiled called the “Raad” along with the Aras 2 pictured above.

The latter is the newest variant of the Aras pickup truck used by the Artesth and the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).

The footage of both vehicles circulated by Iranian media were like commercials for either, although it’s unlikely the Raad MRAP is destined for export anywhere. As for the Aras 2, whose predecessor is best described as a Persian take on the Toyota Land Cruiser, the truck was driven over a dirt track and put through an obstacle course showing its mobility on a gradient, slope, and trench as well as a pool of water. But one brief segment of the generous video clip revealed a little more.

Seen below is the Aras 2 moving forward at an angle on a paved surface. With dozens of Aras 2’s parked on the sidelines–Iranian media even showed officials visiting a crowded factory production line–it seems one particular batch wasn’t supposed to be revealed although they were captured too. Notice how the six modified Aras 2’s along the edge of the track are carrying large caliber weapons made in Iran.

Via Iranian media.

At least three of them with exposed beds are mounting the 12 barrel 107mm rocket launcher called the Fadjr/Fajr 1. They represent the latest unprotected rocket artillery vehicles manufactured by the Defense Industries Organization (DIO). It used to be the Safir, a small jeep whose armed variants had either 105mm recoilless rifles or Fajr launchers, that enjoyed broad adoption by the Artesh and IRGC. Then Safir jeeps proved their versatility in Iraq and Syria. In the former country, scores of Safir rocket launchers were given to the Kurds, the PMFs, and the Iraqi army for the long war against ISIS.

The Fajr 1’s design is of Chinese origin and dates to the 1960s. The weapon system known as the Type 63 proliferated in the ensuing five decades and copies are now manufactured by almost a dozen countries. On paper, each of the Type 63’s 107mm rockets can strike targets eight kilometers away. Iranian marines are equipped with portable Fajr 1 launchers either in 12 barrel or single barrel configuration. When given Fajr 1’s, proxies who must fight large battles are well-served by a low tech and very reliable rocket artillery system at their disposal.

As for the siblings of the Aras 2 rocket launcher, each supports a large caliber weapon wrapped in canvas. Going back to the Safir jeep, among its possible armaments are a recoilless rifle or a Toophan ATGM launcher on a pivoting stand, and these have seen combat abroad too. Yet the shape of this mystery weapon on the Aras 2 resembles neither, although it’s obvious a gun barrel protrudes above the pickup truck’s single cab. A vital clue is found during the Eghtedar 40 military exhibition in January where dozens of locally manufactured weapons were displayed in Tehran. Among the multitude was a copy of the 2B9M Vasilek self-propelled mortar on a specially designed stand and the contours of the shrouded weapon on the Aras 2 does match it.

The existence of these two artillery weapons adapted for a commercial pickup truck design must be acknowledged by the region and armaments researchers everywhere. Despite its claims of adhering to a defensive military posture, Tehran is known for equipping non-state proxies with complete arsenals for defeating larger adversaries. Sending batches of Aras pickup trucks anywhere, whether it’s Syria or Yemen, poses few obstacles. If the same vehicles are further optimized for combat, it shows how far Iran’s hard power can reach–it now makes weapons for below-the-threshold warfare meant to trap its enemies in costly debacles.

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