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This Iranian Truck Howitzer Was Barely Noticed

December 3, 2019

Via Iranian media.

The extensive coverage by Iranian media of the Sacred Defense Week in late September remains a very useful resource for learning about Iran’s military ambitions. As the country is once again reeling from sanctions and mass protests in its largest cities the diversion of resources for the military’s various projects is uninterrupted. This was apparent during the parade in Tehran where the newest equipment and weapons of the Artesh and IRGC were shown. A token appearance in a convoy of artillery systems was an unnamed armored truck mounting a large armament on its bed. No concurrent footage of the parade is found anywhere so analyzing this truck howitzer is an incomplete task.

The Islamic Republic began manufacturing its own artillery pieces in the late 1980s, these efforts accelerated the following decade when its ballistic missile arsenal commenced its rapid growth, and Iran became the first Middle Eastern country to build and deploy a 155mm self-propelled howitzer known as the Raad 2. There’s at least circumstantial evidence the minor success of the Raad 2 led to a joint venture with North Korean entities later on, resulting in a sudden technological advancement of its artillery systems. During the 2000s, however, another indigenous 155mm howitzer came to be and entered service. The HM41 is based on the US-made M114 that originates from World War 2 and resembles the South Korean KH179 towed howitzer that was imported in small numbers during the 1980s. The HM41 is in use with the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and is able to launch laser-guided projectiles.

Early attempts to make a truck howitzer for the Iranian military proved fruitless. The Defense Industries Organization (DIO) had a project where an HM41 was installed on a German-made MAN truck yet this was never adopted. Another attempt at combining a D30 122mm howitzer and a Ural truck was publicized but shared the same fate. Although wheeled and self-propelled truck howitzers have enjoyed a resurgence this decade their adoption by militaries is slow. Armies that acquire foreign made truck howitzers only deploy a few dozen at the most. With the exception of China’s PLA the world’s largest ground forces (India, North Korea, Russia, the US) haven’t standardized any truck howitzer for their inventories that are crowded with towed and tracked artillery.

The appeal of truck howitzers is mobility and reducing the crews assigned to an artillery piece. A US-made M198 or M777 155mm howitzer requires up to 11 people for operating the weapon. A truck howitzer, on the other hand, may need as few as four or five crew together with the vehicle’s driver and co-driver. Preparing the howitzer is automated with hydraulic spades and loading fresh rounds is less intensive with the assistance of a mechanical arm. Digitization and through ruggedized control panels and wireless comms are other advantages but there are several drawbacks to truck howitzers. Foremost is cost. France’s popular CAESAR 155mm may have proven itself in the Middle East and North Africa but only a handful of countries have ordered it for their armies. Another sticking point is truck howitzers sacrifice protection for mobility since their crews are exposed rather than confined in an armored turret when operating the gun. The magazines on truck howitzers are just as vulnerable and are laid out in containers behind the cab.

As for the truck howitzer at this year’s Sacred Defense military parade in Tehran its choice of armament looks like an old field gun. The Iranian Artesh imported hundreds of towed artillery pieces from China and North Korea during the “Imposed War” against Iraq in the 1980s. These included 122mm and 130mm howitzers that remain in service; no other country in the region has as much artillery as Iran does. Judging by the shape of its blast shield or splinter shield, a dated protective feature on mid-20th century artillery pieces, this truck howitzer is mounting a Chinese Type 59-1 130mm gun. Between several hundred to a thousand 130mm howitzers are kept by the Artesh and the DIO manufactures barrels for 105mm, 122mm, 130mm, and 155mm artillery.

The carrier vehicle is another odd creation and looks like an armored shell was built around the cab of a 6×6 truck. The DIO, by the way, manufactures a line of transports ranging from 2×4, 4×4, 6×6, and up to 10×10 vehicles. This particular truck howitzer could represent an upgrade on existing artillery pieces on a common truck rather than a clean sheet design. Other militaries have carried out the same on their stocks of artillery as a cost-saving measure. Regardless of how effective this weapon is quantity has a quality of its own. The Artesh maintains an estimated two thousand large caliber artillery pieces (aside from mortars and rocket launchers) and adopting some of them to mobile platforms is a significant leap in firepower.

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