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The Future Of The Iranian Military Is A Pickup Truck

May 1, 2021
Via Iranian media.

This year’s scheduled parades to mark Army Day in Iran featured the usual pomp and variety. A surprising development, however, is the widespread participation of the Aras 2 pickup truck at the ceremonies that took place across multiple locations on April 18. The vehicle is assembled in a state-owned factory and runs on Nissan parts imported from China. The Aras 2 subscribes to a single cab layout with a bed that fits different kinds of equipment. Seen in the photo above shared by Iranian media are Aras 2 trucks employed as mobile launchers for drones. It’s important to note the rails holding the unmanned aircraft aren’t mounts but are an actual launch system. This means the entire vehicle serves a combat role and isn’t a parade ornament.

The drones carried by these Aras 2 trucks are noteworthy. Browsing through Iranian media helps determine their origin; they are propeller driven loitering munitions that were displayed at an over-the-top Revolutionary Guard exercise in January 5. The same event where various new drone models such as the armed Kaman-12 were unveiled. Iran’s development of loitering munitions is happening at an unprecedented scale. With the success of the combined drone and missile attacks on Saudi oil refineries in 2019 serving as a watershed moment, not to mention years of Ansar Allah (who are openly supported by Tehran) sending bomb laden drones against targets in Saudi Arabia, Iran’s military have exercised a proven and unique aerial warfare doctrine at intermediate ranges that almost evades current air defenses.

Recognizable for its color scheme and delta wing layout, the rest of this drone’s characteristics are unknown. If it’s powered by a larger engine than the Ababil-series–a small airframe originating in the 1980s–then its flight range spans several hundred kilometers. The fuselage shape, being cylindrical and elongated, is just as indicative of its purpose; an airborne munition that brings together familiar aspects of a drone and cruise missile. A worrisome trend in Iranian mass-production of loitering munitions is their variety and apparent size are meant to fit larger warheads. This means their operational use is similar to how Ansar Allah employ their drones as long-range munitions for striking sensitive targets deep in enemy territory. As for how precise and reliable they are, regional events in the past six years have settled any questions on either characteristic.

When this drone is joined to its transport the resulting system is impressive in either aspect–whether as a ground-launched munition or a versatile logistics platform. The reasons why are compelling. Iran’s regular armed forces and the IRGC are no different than neighboring militaries when it comes to having large fleets of pickup trucks. Ever since self-sufficiency became essential to Iran’s military doctrine nimble wheeled vehicles were prioritized by state-owned factories. The Safir jeep, itself a derivative of a common model, is emblematic of this effort. Hundreds of Safirs, whether mounting rocket launchers or recoilless rifles, had a decisive role during the long war against ISIS in northern Iraq and gave local ground forces a dependable artillery piece. But the Aras 2, whose production was launched in 2019, looks like it will eclipse the Safir and is being modified for as many roles as its main operators can envision. During the same Army Day parade in Tehran last month the Aras 2’s involved were equipped for logistics to reconnaissance and beyond. Careful observation of Aras 2’s that appear in Iranian media for the past two years does reveal they are more combat optimized and heavily armed than any Iranian armored vehicle to date.

Aside from a transporter and launcher for bomb laden drones, the Aras 2 serves as an artillery piece for mortars and rockets. Regarding the latter, the Aras 2’s bed is spacious enough for mounting of different calibers like 107mm, 122mm, 240mm and 333mm short-range rockets. The Aras 2 equipped with a retractable launcher for anti-tank missiles–four Iranian Dehlaviehs or Kornets–and MANPADs are now in service and so are Aras 2’s as infantry support carrying heavy machine guns. This broad and universal adoption of a single pickup truck model makes the Aras 2 a regional contender in militarized light wheeled transport. Its role in the battlefield is now so versatile it puts the better known Humvee or a Land Rover to shame.

The success of Iran’s automotive endeavors for supplying its armed forces’ needs is in stark contrast to numerous failed tracked armored vehicles made by state-owned factories.

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