In 2016 Russia's Uralvagonzavod announced that it would allow Iran to license-build the T-90S main battle tank (MBT) domestically once restrictions on technical cooperation were lifted. In addition, the Russian military firm said it will also help the Islamic Republic's Army modernize its existing T-72 fleet.
However, even four years ago Tehran had other ideas – which included building its own tanks without help from Moscow. Now it looks as if that has finally occurred.
Last week the Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Forces, Brigadier General Kiomars Heidari, spoke on Iranian state TV and said that the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces have jointly developed a domestically-built T-90 MBT. This new tank is undergoing final tests before being delivered to the Army Ground Force.
Heidari said the tank is equipped with a new gun stabilizer and chemical defense systems, and was conceived as a weapon for modern warfare. The Iranian Army Ground Force will reportedly take delivery of the first batch of the tanks in the Iranian month of Mehr – September 22 to October 21.
The efforts to build the tank domestically have been ongoing since Iran announced it would do so without Russian help. The Islamic Republic Ground Corps had announced it would receive at least 800 of the new tanks, which despite no assistance from Russia, do closely resemble the T-90S. The tank was dubbed the "Karrar" (Striker) when the program was announced in 2017 – but in the most recent announcements on state TV, that name wasn't used.
The Karra was stated to have a crew of three, would feature composite armor with Explosive-Reactive Armor (ERA) panels on both the turret and hull, just like the T-90. Its main armament is a 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun with a stabilizer for its main armament. Given the fact that it is so similar visually, it is easy to see what it has been previously described as "Russian technology with a bad paint job."
The Karrar is essentially a clone of the Russian-designed T-90S MBT and is reportedly far more advanced than the Zulfiqar, the MBT that was named after the sword of the first religious, spiritual and political Shia leader, Hazrat Ali. It was first conceived by Iranian Army Brigadier General Mir-Younes Masoumazadeh and based on the American M48 and M60 and Soviet T-72 tanks. The Zulfiqar entered production in 1996 and there were two main variants produced. In May 2010 the Iranian Army announced that it produced a new and upgraded Zulfiqar III.
In building the Karrar – or whatever the tank is actually known as today – the Iranians have shown that they were, in fact, serious about moving away from its reliance on Russian imports to bolster its military arsenal. While it has shown that it can domestically-build a tank on par with the T-90, it is still essentially just a copy of a very solid design, not an original concept build from the ground up.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.