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Iranian Anti-Tank Weapons Are Multiplying

June 27, 2021
Via Iranian media.

Even if its scale couldn’t match similar events from neighboring countries the arms show that took place in Tehran during the latter half of May was still important. The stream of delegates and VIPs who attended were treated to tours outside and inside the venue and the resulting media coverage was exceptional. For the indoor exhibition the full range of Iranian military products was put on display including some that have never been shown to the public. The row of shoulder-fired launchers pictured above are one example and their appearance suggests a serious effort at enlarging the arsenal provided to Iranian infantry.

Starting form the back with the farthest launcher shape the obvious trend here are single use anti-tank weapons armed with high explosive munitions. The observant reader will notice the tandem warhead jutting at the edge of the photograph–indisputable evidence Iran mass-produces short-range rockets other than the familiar PG-7 used on the well-known RPG-7. But taken together the three shoulder-fired launchers set on tables represent three distinct models and maybe specific calibers. The launcher in the middle, for example, is a replica of the RPG-27 manufactured by the Russian company Bazalt. The RPG-27 is a single use anti-tank weapon armed with a 105mm high explosive rocket that’s effective within 200 meters.

When the same display of shoulder-fired launchers are viewed from a different angle it turns out the Iranians copied the RPG-30 as well. Recognizable for its peculiar ergonomics, Bazalt’s RPG-30 is unique for its two launch tubes joined into a single weapon. It works by using a smaller “precursor rocket” to penetrate add-on or applique armor on a tank or other fighting vehicle followed by the high explosive munition of the larger rocket. Going back to the launcher at the back of the photo it looks like a smaller weapon probably armed with an 80mm or 90mm rocket. Images of this unnamed anti-tank weapon were already circulating in Iranian media as far back as 2019 when an arms show was held for commemorating 40 years since the Islamic revolution began.

The RPG-30 combines a heavy launch tube with a smaller one armed with an armor-piercing munition. Via Iranian media.

Another photo taken in the same venue reveals the fourth and largest among these shoulder-fired launchers. Taking inspiration from the RPG-29, which Iran began licensed production of in the 1990s, this recoilless weapon employs separate launch tubes that are joined together before firing. The shape of a small pistol grip is observable under the launch tube lying on the stand and visualizing the complete launcher when assembled suggests a potent direct fire weapon against vehicles and fortifications. But the dummy munitions next to it are perplexing for their color and shape–Russian-made munitions for recoilless launchers are known for elongated dimensions. These dummy rounds painted white with red tips are closer in appearance to recoilless rifle munitions used by NATO militaries. At least the ones that still have recoilless rifles.

The existence of a new portable shoulder-fired rocket launcher along with the RPG-27, the RPG-30, and the RPG-29–all of them utilize 105mm munitions–is proof enough that Iran’s sprawling military-industrial sector is developing anti-armor weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the region. This is unprecedented considering the large caliber infantry weapons Iran’s state-owned factories have mass-produced for decades. Copies of the RPG-7 were being manufactured during the 1980s and continues until present. They have been collected in places where Iranian proxies are known to operate such as Syria and Yemen. Iran eventually augmented its production of the RPG-7 with copies of the bulkier RPG-29 together with recoilless rifles such as the 73mm SPG-9 and the 105mm M40. These too are supplied to Iran’s “foreign legions” in significant quantities.

If Iran begins delivering its newer weapons like these anti-tank rocket launchers to the same entities in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen they will end up having a firepower advantage over the local rivals confronting them.

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