Hybrid: Iran Has Reverse Engineered a U.S. Howitzer (And Now It Has Russian 'DNA')

By Sonia Sevilla - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31511309
May 13, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: IranIranian ArmySoviet UnionAmericaRaad 2Howitzer

Hybrid: Iran Has Reverse Engineered a U.S. Howitzer (And Now It Has Russian 'DNA')

That's one heck of a hybrid weapon.


This Iranian self-propelled howitzer is half American, half Russian, and apparently built entirely in Iran.



Iran’s home-grown arms manufacturer, the Defense Industries Organization, is responsible for creating quite a wide array of Iran’s military hardware. DIO is an Iranian state-owned group that has reverse-engineered a large amount of equipment for the Iranian military—and one of their self-propelled artillery pieces is no exception.

Raad 2

The Raad 2, or “Thunder” is self-propelled howitzer domestically produced by DIO in Iran and is a strange union of an originally American-designed turret and a Soviet-designed hull. Although the exact specifications of the Raad 2 are not known, inferences can be made by looking at what is known about the platforms it is based on.

The parent turret comes from the American M109A1, a slightly modified variant of the M109 self-propelled howitzer. The A1 is quite similar, but has a longer barrel that gave the A1 a longer range than its parent—up to 18,000 meters, or just over 11 miles. The Raad 2 seems to have just this turret, though it is probably a reverse-engineered Iranian copy, rather than the original.

The round both the M109 and the Raad 2 fire is the NATO-standard 155 millimeter round, which is one of the most common artillery rounds in the world. Some sources claim that the Iranian version has a longer range than the American M109—about 30 kilometers, or almost 19 miles. The Raad 2 shares the same muzzle brake system at its American counterpart for countering the high amount of recoil generated by the gun, and can probably fire up to five rounds a minute.


The Raad 2’s hull seems to be the Iranian Boragh, itself a copy of the Soviet-designed BMP-1, a 1960s-era amphibious armored personnel carrier. Like the BMP-1, the Boragh has dual tracks, though the hull is an odd choice for a mobile artillery piece, as the platform is relatively small, and at first glance lacks the suspension and track width to support a large artillery system like the Raad 2. Most self-propelled howitzers are not amphibious like the BMP-1, due to their high curb weight, which tends to be quite top-heavy.

The Raad 2 likely has a crew of three, similar to a tank crew—gunner, commander, and driver. Some later models have been reported to have a higher output diesel engine of Ukrainian origin.


The Raad 2 is a prime example of what the Iranian defense industry does best—keeping legacy weapon systems alive through a combination of reverse-engineering copies of foreign hardware, and mating systems—like the Raad 2—that would not appear to belong together. The Raad 2 likely still has many more years of service before retiring.

Caleb Larson holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics, and culture.

Image: Wikimedia.