Although Iran claims its Karrar MBT is 100% a ground-up Iranian design, it is likely largely based on the Soviet Union’s T-72 design. This would make sense, as Iran has a number of T-72s that could be showcased as something new.
Just Another Tank?
In 2017, Iran revealed its newest main battle tank (MBT), called the Karrar.
At first glance, the Karrar is strikingly similar to the Russian T-90 Main Battle Tank. The Karrar appears to have some type of Explosive-Reactive Armor (ERA) panels on both the turret and the hull, as does the T-90.
The Iranian Tasnim news agency posted photos of the Karrar on Twitter and said that Iran was preparing to accept 800 of the “home-made” tanks in 2018, although no specific timeline was given.
The locally produced tank is rumored to be kitted out with a whole suite of modern components, including an “electro-optical fire control system, a laser rangefinder, ballistic computer and could fire at both stable and mobile targets in day or night.”
Similar to nearly all main battle tanks, the Karrar has a remote weapons station on top of the turret that.
Besides the T-90-esque flying saucer turret, the Karrar likely shares the same main gun as the T-90, or could be something quite similar — the 125-millimeter main gun is larger than the M1 Abrams main gun, by 5 millimeters, and is thought to be smoothbore.
Notably, Iran maintains a fleet of T-72s that also have a 125 millimeter autoloading smoothbore main gun, with fume extractor — possibly an indication that their new “Iranian” design leans at least somewhat on previous Soviet designs. Either way, the T-72 is a capable, if somewhat aged platform.
In spite of the close similarities between the Karrar and the T-90, Iran claims that its newest tank in 100% Iranian made--although that seems nearly impossible. Iran possesses a fleet of Soviet/Russian T-72s. Upgrades to their turrets, main guns, and armor would be much more feasible than a new, ground-up tank design.
Back in 2016, there was talk of a Russian-Iran T-90 tank deal that has since fallen through. This may be in part to a lack of money on the Iranian side with which to buy Russian armor, as well as a desire to get away from relying totally on foreign arms and arms designs in favor of domestic production.
The Russian state-owned media outlet, Sputnik, ran a headline that said about as much shortly after the Karrar was revealed. According to their source, Iran has extensive experience with the T-72, and still has “some 500 units in service.”
The Zulfiqar 3 tank is another supposedly domestic-production that is heavily reliant on American, British, and Russian designs. And, like the Zulfiqar, the Karrar is probably reliant on other foreign designs.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.