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This Iranian Missile Launcher Is A World Of Trouble

July 28, 2021
Via Iranian media.

There’s been a noticeable uptick in well publicized arms shows organized by and for the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) this 2021 and their frequency offers a unique perspective on the notorious institution’s goals. As a separate military with its own economic and manufacturing base the IRGC have maximized its acquisitions of newly made equipment ever since Tehran’s relations with Washington, DC soured for good when the latter scuttled the JCPOA in 2018. In July another event that took place at a special forces base was heavily attended by the IRGC’s leadership and featured a dazzling assortment of weapons large and small.

One specific military product shown at the venue should serve as a dire warning to the IRGC’s foes. As ultimate proof of its technological prowess the IRGC’s ground force will soon have an anti-tank missile launcher resembling the Israeli-made Spike LR2.

The mass-production of anti-tank missiles in Iran goes back four decades. The country’s vast military-industrial sector boasts active production lines for six types of munitions along with their launchers. There’s the Raad (HJ-73/Malyutka), the Saeghe (M47 Dragon), the Toophan (BGM-71 TOW), the Tosan (Konkurs), the Dehlavieh (Kornet), and the Qaem (AGM-114 Hellfire). Direct fire anti-tank and anti-structure weapons are just as plentiful and span copies of the RPG-7, RPG-27, RPG-29, and RPG-30 and recoilless rifles like the 73mm SPG-9 and the 105mm M40.

Iranian media were quick to furnish details about the ATGM it branded the “Almas” (see photo above) that was on static display in a gallery crowded with assorted firearms and portable devices for special forces. The weapon system consists of a collapsible tripod supporting a missile launch tube and its optoelectronic command unit. Its munition was kept below the fully assembled launcher and, not surprisingly, its resemblance to the Rafael Spike LR2’s own missile is unmistakable. The circumstances behind the IRGC’s acquisition of an Israeli ATGM may never be understood but, considering the US military’s carelessness at losing sensitive equipment in the region, it isn’t difficult to imagine how Iranian proxies or agents collected a functioning Israeli weapon system years ago.

According to Iranian media the Almas’ missile is a non-line of sight munition that locks and tracks a target as far as 8 kilometers away. Among Rafael’s catalog of anti-tank missiles under the brand name Spike the Spike LR2 is the closest analog to the Almas. Basic product information indicates the Spike LR2’s ground-launched variant has less range than the Almas but the Spike LR2 variant for air-to-surface strikes travels much farther at 10 km. The bigger Spike ER2 is even more potent with an air-to-surface missile delivering a confirmed kill up to 16 km. When the Spike LR2 is launched from a stationary position at a ground target it’s maximum effective range is 5.5 km–the same as the Russian Kornet-E ATGM. It’s obvious the Almas is meant for operators traveling on foot who carry the disassembled weapon system in threes–its missiles are shared between one or two persons.

The Almas was export approved as soon as it was featured in Iranian media. It has now made the rounds in regional arms shows, albeit with subtle promotion, and is offered as a modular weapon system with air-launched variants. The tactical and operational risks posed by the Almas should it proliferate outside Iran are dire enough. On a tactical level, Iranian proxies trained to operate the Almas have an ATGM more powerful than previous Iranian models such as the Toophan (BGM-71 TOW) or the Dehlavieh (Kornet). Deploying the Almas gives them an edge against fortifications, structures, and vehicles at extreme ranges. A well-trained team can even transport, assemble, and then launch an attack with the Almas from total concealment since the operator is either prone or crouched behind the command launch unit many kilometers away from the target.

At the operational level the delivery of Almas ATGMs to experienced proxies gives them an asset for inflicting severe material losses on their opponents and impacting political outcomes in a specific locale. Iranian proxies have succeeded at organizing assassinations by drone and there’s no doubt the Almas is suitable for eliminating high value targets. There’s also the grave potential of the Almas’ munition, whose features are modular, to be adapted for arming drones and watercraft. Should this happen, an Iranian missile similar to the Spike NLOS (its range is 20 km) installed on a speedboat or dhow threatens regional choke points like the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab al Mandab/Mandeb Strait in the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea.

For regular warfare the IRGC now have the perfect complement to their battle tested Dehlavieh ATGMs whose missile variants have maximum ranges in the 5.5 km and 8-10 km envelope. The further evolution of the Almas can’t be ignored. Aside from single use by anti-tank teams if the Almas’ missiles are bundled into new launchers and carried by a suitable transporter the resulting weapon system is almost unmatched in the region. When factoring how Iran’s proxies constitute one of the biggest paramilitary formations ever assembled in the Middle East any further weapons shipments to them must put Jerusalem and Riyadh on high alert. If they’re supplied with new missile technology such as the Almas these groups’ potential to influence and threaten vulnerable governments is all the more possible.

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