On Sunday 12 March, the Iranian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the Karrar main battle tank (MBT) entered full-scale production.
In a statement, the Iran’s Minister of Defence Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan said: “The tank can compete with the most advanced tanks in the world in three main areas: power, precision and mobility, as well as maintenance and durability on the battleground.”
Dehqan told local media (Fars News Agency) that the Karrar is “equipped with electro-optical fire control system, laser rangefinder, ballistic computer and enjoys the capability to fire at stable and mobile targets in day and night.”
The Iranian defence minister announced the Karrar MBT in February, stating that the Iranian Army would procure the domestically-built Karrar in lieu of importing the Russian T-90. Sputnik News reports that Iran had initially intended to procure the T-90SM.
Analysts believe (via Sputnik News) that the Karrar MBT is based on the T-72’s chassis, but with a turret mirroring – aesthetically at least – the T-90MS, especially in terms of explosive reactive armour (ERA) layout. Army Recognition states that the Karrar is armed with a 125 mm smoothbore gun and a 12.7 mm machine gun. It is also capable of firing anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM). Other details, such as the engine and (active or passive) self-protection suite, are not known.
Notes & Comments:
While the Karrar is aesthetically similar to the T-90MS, analysts have generally been skeptical of how well the Karrar fares against the T-90MS. The uncertainty stems from a dearth of technical details, such as the output of the Karrar’s engine, the effectiveness of its self-protection suite, and the accuracy and damage power of its munitions, especially tank shells and ATGMs.
With arms sanctions preventing Iran from readily procuring modern engines, electronics, mechanical components and armour technology, the Karrar’s performance is largely dependent on Iran’s own technical capabilities. It is difficult to ascertain if these capabilities are sound. Thus, outside observers are reluctant to attest to Iran’s claims of the Karrar being “more advanced than [the] T-90.”
However, Iran is evidently making substantive gains in armour technology. Its turret development efforts have spurred several platforms emulating Western and Eastern design concepts. Whereas the Karrar has several similarities to the T-90, the Zulfiqar-3 mirrors the Abrams. These will certainly evolve and improve in the medium-term, by which point Iran will also be poised to access the international arms market. Its technology foundations will see a sharp boost through the 2020s, which will position its defence programs to be competitive.