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Iran Is Churning Out Heavy Machine Guns

November 25, 2020
Via Iranian media.

To mark the 40th anniversary of its pivotal conflict with Iraq this year’s Sacred Defense Week, which is held in late September, featured an exhibition in Tehran’s Holy Defense Museum. Nothing was spared from the public eye with drones and missiles on static display outside the venue. Indoors, however, brought a few surprises revealed by generous media coverage. It’s now apparent Iran’s state-owned military industries are mass-producing an assortment of large caliber small arms.

It’s been established that Iran’s DIO, an opaque conglomerate involving dozens of factories, manufactures heavy machine guns licensed from China–specifically the DShK and the W85. But in the photo above two rare models are shown. On the top left is a four barrel rotary gun that might be chambered for 12.7x108mm rounds. Iran’s militaries, whether it’s the Artesh or the Revolutionary Guard, seem to have a fondness for rotary guns in varying calibers. A copy of the M134 Minigun chambered for 5.56x45mm ammunition is known to have been adopted years ago.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is iranian-12.7mm-gatling-gun-on-display.jpg
Via Iranian media.

In the foreground of the same photo are a 40mm automatic grenade launcher resembling the US-made Mk19, which is made in several countries, and beside it is a 14.5x114mm heavy machine gun whose design originates from China. This particular machine gun is exported by its Chinese manufacturer as the “LM2” and its appearance in Iran confirms the successful licensing of other Chinese small arms decades after the DIO launched production of locally made Kalashnikovs based on the Chinese Type 56. The usefulness of a 14.5mm heavy machine gun can’t be understated; it’s an effective anti-armor weapon and has the range for targeting low-flying aircraft just like the original Soviet vintage KPVT.

Other weapons captured in the photo is a 333mm Fadjr 5 rocket and two mortars, presumably a 60mm and an 81mm model, with an assortment of small arms arranged on the table next to them. (Iranian mortars are also available in 120mm and 160mm calibers.) For the DIO to introduce a 14.5mm heavy machine gun reflects an understanding of the lessons learned from the various regional wars Iran has engaged in this decade. This particular model was already spotted on the “Tufan” MRAP in 2018 and the 6×6 “Raad” MRAP unveiled a year later. Both vehicles mounted semi-enclosed turrets for heavy machine guns. The same 14.5mm heavy machine gun is convertible to a primary armament for the Aras 2 all-terrain pickup truck, among several other choice of weapons.

Other media from the event revealed how far advanced Iran’s military pushed its small arms development in just two years. Placed on static display outside a booth was a remote weapon station for a six barrel 12.7x108mm rotary gun whose fire control had a day/night sight along with a laser rangefinder. This specific rotary gun was previously seen at an annual military parade on the back of a Toyota pickup truck. The emphasis on tailoring new weapons for light vehicles marks a generational leap from the crude “technicals” commonly found in ongoing regional wars.

As minor as these machine guns appear compared to the grand scale of Iran’s confrontation with the US their existence drives home the fact that national industries are still functional–and quite productive–amid severe economic sanctions. There doesn’t seem to be any noticeable barriers keeping the DIO from acquiring new weapon designs from abroad. To state the obvious, Iran’s military technology is flourishing under a lot of pressure.

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