About 4,000 armoured vehicles 1939-2016.



Iran is the siege of one of the most ancient and brilliant civilizations in the whole continent. Persia was perhaps the world first global superpower of its time, an empire made of a king of kings and the rulers from many cultures and locations, stretching from Africa to India, with only Greece standing in its way in the West. Persia did not stopped completely after the Greek conquest, as former Satrapies were still included in the new Seleucid Empire after the death of Alexander the Great. Parthia eventually ruled the region, drawing a new empire and claiming itself to be the successor, both culturally and politically of the ancient “Pars”. Parthia was eventually crushed and conquered by the fearsome Sassanids in the Christian eras, and themselves were later expelled and “Persia” converted to Islam. It was later known as a center of Shi’ite Islam. The country was still named as such in the XIXth century. The most renown professional core of the multicultural army was founded in 580 BC by Cyrus the Great. The “Immortals” were named after their composition that never changed, possibly by using massive amounts of reserves when engaged. This tradition was passed through the Persians to the Sassanids. In medieval times, the Safavid Dynasty created the Qezelbash, modelled (especially in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries) much after European influence and eventually led by European officers.

Persia in ww1

In 1914, the Qajar armed forces consisted in four foreign-commanded army reinforced by provincial and tribal forces in case of war. However the loyalty of these disparate forces was dubious towards Tehran, which relied on a 8,000-strong Persian Cossack Brigade created initially in 1878, which passed after the October revolution in Russia to Persian commanders. A previously Swedish 8,400-man Gendarmerie became after 1911 the first internal security force. The South Persia Rifles was commanded by British officers from 1916 was added to the mix, and the Qajar palace guard, the Nizam, was 2,000 men strong, headed by a swedish Officer. With these quite disparate forces, Persia reluctantly entered ww1.

Persia in the Great War

What is known as the Persian Campaign was for the duration of the war a struggle between, on one side, the British and Russian Empires, plus their Armenian and Assyrian allies against the Ottoman Empire, on the Iranian territory. Instrumental in this, on the British side, was the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, contracted to supply the navy in 1914, whereas Russian motives were more territorial. In this, the Ottoman Empire, and its forces led by Enver Pasha played an ambitious pan-Turanian project. The Persian forces (neutral then) levied district battalions, each under its own chiefs. Each one had about 4-8 cannons and numbered about 600-800 men. There were also tribal militias numbering 50,000, with many horsemen. Some were well-trained and efficient due to a strong cultural identity: The Qashqai in particular, but also the Tangistani, Laristani and Khamseh tribesmen. Persia was then independent from the Ottoman Empire, but at least a gifted German agent, Wilhelm Wassmuss, (the German Lawrence) tried to led a tribe revolt against the British.

Most engagements took place in the Persian Azerbaijan. The Russian led by General Nikolai Baratov pushed into the Caucasus in 1915-16 and through northern Persia while the British to the south led by Sir Sykes and the South Persia Rifles tried to limit the German influence in southern Persia. At the end of the war (which saw only armoured cars in action) the armistice of Mudros was signed (October 1918) by the Ottoman Empire and the British gained drilling rights in the regions and tried to create a protectorate in Iran. Indeed in 1919 a large force of the Soviet Socialist Republic in Rasht marched on, Tehran with a composite force but eventually withdrawn in 1921. The situation was still troubled when in 1925 an officer in the Persian Cossaks, Reza Khan made a coup and eventually proclaimed the empire as the Shah of the new Pahlavi dynasty.

The Shah’s Armies in ww2

First to recognize the feeble nature of the Persian “armies” before ww1, Reza Palhavi tried to secure an agreement with Great Britain to provide “ammunition, supplies and pay” for the new army and at the same time create a buffer against future soviet penetrations in northern Iran. The army grew steadily and was improved in all directions: Instruction of future officers, equipment, and training. Part of the novelties for the Iranian army was tanks: The first were CKD-Skoda AH-IV tankettes. Iran was the first customer for these little tank which equipped organically the 1st infantry division in 1941 (50 tanks delivered in 1937-38). Orders for 400 more were cut short before any delivery by the seizure of Czechoslovakia by the Germans. In addition 60 bigger TNH (also from Skoda-CKD) were also provided at the same period, and again, superior orders were never fulfilled. Would they have been honored, the Iranian Army could have fielded more than 500 tanks in 1941, a force to be reckoned with. Less is known about armoured car though.

By 1941 total forces amounted to 125,000 men, committed against internal security threat, but that could have been be able to repel a soviet attack. However in 1941 on 25 august, the attack was double, from the North by the Soviets (44th, 47th and 53rd Armies of the Transcaucasian Front, D. Kozlov) and from the South-West by the British (8th and 10th Indian Infantry Divisions, E.Quinan). Official motives were related to alledged large German population living there, and for Moskow to open a new supply line through Iran. Although neutral, Reza Shah made no secrecy of his sympathies to Germany and had to fight the invasion. The 9 divisions were mobilized but rapidly brushed aside. In terms of tanks only the Soviets had a 10/1 superiority, and numbers much exceeded this figure for aviation. The Iranian army also suffered by massive desertions from conscripts. Popular support for the army was only strong in the capital, whereas it was seen as an instrument of oppression elsewhere. In 1942, the Shah distabnced itself from the Europeans and contacted the USA for training and support. This collaboration would endure for the rest of his (and successor’s reign) until 1979.

The Shah’s Armies in the cold war (1947-1979)

Creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army (1979)

iran-Iraq war (1981-89)

The Iranian Army today: Self sufficiency and confidence

The Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization in side the Army was to have a considerable significance in tanks developments in Iran for last decade…

<<< Work in progress! >>>


History and composition of the Iranian Army
Equipments of the Army

Iranian Tanks in ww2

CKD AH-IV tankette 50 equipped the 1st infantry division in 1941.

CKD-TNH 60 of these equipped the 2nd infantry division in 1941 and the Imperial Guards.

Modern Islamic Republic ground forces

Zulfiqar Standard elite main battle tank. So far, three versions are known, for perhaps 100 tanks known overall, but these figures can evolve. The Mark II/III are a well-upgraded version that recalls the Abrams.

T-72S 400 built under licence in the 1990s. Now partly modernized as the Zafir-74.

Zafir-74 Also called T-72Z, this is a locally upgraded variant of the T-54 by the Defense Industries Organization of Iran. Protection comprises augmented armour plus ERA blocks. The gun is the M60 Patton M68 105 mm, coupled with a modern Slovenian Fotona FCS and the engine is Ukrainian.

Mihr/Mobarez MBT One of the best MBTs on offer in 1978 was the Chieftain tank imported -on Iranian specifications- from Iran.

Samsan MBT Iran received M60A1 Pattons from the US in the 1970s, prior to the revolution.

Sabalan MBT Based on the numerous M47 Patton still in storage but completely modernized.

T-62 65 and 100 ex-Libyan a ex-Syrians imported in 1981, plus 150 more Ch’ŏnma-ho 1st generation (North Korean version) in 1982. All retired but a few nowadays.


About 120 and 65 ex-Libyan and Syrian T-55s were imported, modernized since.

Type 69 About 200 had been purchased directly from China or through North Korea. Decked with flags to not be confounded with their Iraqi adversaries.

Type 72Z Upgraded variant on the same lines as the Zafir-74 based on the Type 69.