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This Deadly Iranian Pickup Truck Is Entering Mass-Production

March 28, 2020

At least three variants of the Aras 2 are captured behind the VIPs. Via Iranian media.

With Iran’s dreaded Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) now engaged in proxy warfare against the US military its arsenal is being adapted for the mission, albeit in ways that have gone unnoticed. A subtle yet worrying development emerged last year, months before the death of Lt. Gen. Soleimani triggered retaliation attacks on US forces in Iraq, when the IRGC’s leadership and Iranian media highlighted progress in new combat vehicles.  At the forefront of the well-orchestrated campaign is an innocuous pickup truck assembled with parts supplied by China.

Since August 2019 the Aras 2 has enjoyed unprecedented coverage that revealed more than it should. Apparently, the IRGC and perhaps the Artesh believe a single pickup truck model can fulfill all their needs.

At a military equipment exhibition last December attended by Iran’s highest ranking generals, pictured above is Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammed Bagheri and Defense Minister Amir Hatami (in a gray jacket), several Aras 2 variants were captured in the background during a press conference. Two of these modified pickup trucks were artillery systems while another was the “Pirooz” or an Aras 2 equipped with four Dehlavieh ATGMs. The Dehlavieh is an Iranian copy of the Russian Kornet that’s considered among the deadliest anti-armor weapons in the world today.

The artillery systems behind Gen. Bagheri and the defense minister are a self-propelled mortar of unknown caliber and a multi-caliber rocket artillery launcher. Iran’s DIO, which oversees a network of state-owned factories for producing war material, boasts an impressive missile and rocket artillery catalog. Calibers ranging from 107mm to 122mm have been exported abroad and launched in anger against US forces in Iraq. The DIO also has portable or miniaturized large caliber 240mm and 333mm rockets that can be loaded on small vehicles. An interesting detail about the Aras 2 rocket artillery system at the December exhibition is its hydraulic legs were folded beneath the launcher. This indicates the vehicle is fully stabilized before use and was engineered for mass-production rather than being an impromptu project.

Months earlier, at the annual Sacred Defence military parade in Tehran that commemorates the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War, the Aras 2 was ubiquitous as a ceremonial vehicle and a showcase for homegrown weapons. These included an Aras 2 mounting at least eight launch tubes for 122mm Grad rockets–Iranian copies of the prolific Russian munitions. Pickup trucks converted to rocket launchers are far from a recent wartime innovation but enjoyed a resurgence in Syria where the Iran-backed regime forces and their rivals deploy whatever artillery systems can be put together in local workshops. With the Aras 2 the IRGC have gone beyond expectations and pushed for a whole family of weapons that fit on the truck’s bed.

As early as August the Aras 2’s unveiling by Iranian media inadvertently showed it mounts 107mm rocket launchers and an unspecified automatic mortar for direct and indirect fire. Either variant had customized beds suggesting the Aras 2 is tailored for each of the weapons it’s meant to carry. Why do Iran’s competing military institutions, the Artesh and the IRGC, seem to have high hopes over an unarmored pickup truck? Cost is certainly a factor since an active production line of pickup trucks is easier to maintain than a production line for main battle tanks. Recent experience does matter and the IRGCs lessons learned from Syria and Iraq showed the value of small trucks with large armaments, especially when used en masse. Safir jeeps with 12-barrel rocket launchers, for example, were very effective at bombardment while the Safirs equipped with 105mm recoilless rifles packed almost as much firepower as a tank.

Iran’s car manufacturing sector is able to roll out over a million vehicles a year. If the Aras 2’s production is limited to less than a thousand trucks per annum this is enough for supplying the IRGC and its regional proxies. This outcome has consequences for many US allies in the Middle East. So far, an Aras 2 is able to support the following weapon stations:

  • Multi-caliber rocket launcher for 107mm, 122mm, and 333mm munitions.
  • Medium caliber mortar on a pivoting stand.
  • Automatic medium caliber mortar similar to the 2B9M Vasilek.
  • 14.5mm heavy machine gun on a pivoting stand, manually operated.
  • 12.7mm and 7.62mm minigun on a pivoting stand, manually and remote operated.

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