Iranian Military

Islamic Republic of Iran Army

Iranian Type-72Z Main Battle Tank

The Type-72Z is a highly modernized version of the T-55, with upgrades performed by Defence Industries Organization of Iran. The name Safir-74 refers to Iranian T-54 tanks which have gone through similar upgrades, and Type-72Z also refers to upgraded Type-59 tanks.

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Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force

Combat Types

  • Air Superiority Fighters
    • 70 x Grumman F-14A (44 of which are modernised F-14 AM) Tomcat [USA, 1974-1979]
    • 21 x Mikoyan-Gurevich (MIG-29A) Fulcrum Fighter [Russia, 1990; 3 ex-Iraqi AF]
    • 5 x Mikoyan-Gurevich (MIG-29UB) Fulcrum Trainer [Russia, 1990; 1 ex-Iraqi AF]
    • 24 x Dassault Mirage F1 (F1EQ5 and F1BQ) Fighter [France 1991, seized from Iraq]
  • Multirole Fighters
    • 17 x Chengdu F-7 (F-7M) Airguard [China, 1986]
    • 24 x HESA Saegeh Fighter [Iran, 2010]
    • 225 x McDonnell-Douglas F-4 (F-4D upgraded radar and F-4E, of which 60 modernised RF-4E) Phantom II Fighter [USA, 1968]
    • 140 x Northrop F-5 (F-5E and F-5F, 70 modernised) Tiger II [USA]
  • Ground Attack
    • 6 (+30) x HEZA Azarakhsh Light Attack Aircraft [Iran, 1997]
    • 27 x Sukhoi Su-24 (Su-24MK, upgraded with night vision) Strike air-to-air Refuelling Tanker [ex-Iraqi AF]
    • 13 x Sukhoi Su-25 (Su-25K/UBK) Close Air Support [Russia, 1991, 7 ex-Iraqi AF]
  • Future
    • HESA Shafaq Fighter (Trainer/Attack aircraft) [Iran]
    • Qaher 313 Fighter Jet from control wing stealth fighter [Iran]

Iran ordered the F-14 primarily to intercept then Soviet aircraft flying into Iranian airspace (1978). They were heavily involved in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), during which Jalil Zandi became the most successful F-14 pilot worldwide, before the fleet was relegated to protecting Iran’s vital oil refining infrastructure. In the fall of 2015, Iranian F-14s escorted Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers as they performed air strikes against ISIS.

Reconnaissance, patrol, and EW

IRIAF Lockheed P-3F Orion intercepted by U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A-105-GR Tomcat
IRIAF Lockheed P-3F Orion intercepted by U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A-105-GR Tomcat

Islamic Republic of Iran Navy

Hengam class
Hengam class ship
Hengam class ship

Two of four Yarrow-shipyard (UK) built Hengam class ships – smaller, more austere versions of the Royal Navy’s Sir Lancelot class — were cancelled after the Shah’s overthrow in 1980 but in 1983 Iran reordered the second pair as ‘hospital ships’, installed with different engine fits than the first. To the standard four Bofors 40 mm AA guns a bow-mounted BM-21 MLRS and two .50-cal machine guns were added, during the war with Iraq. The Bofors have since been replaced with ZU-23 twin AA guns.

  • Payload: 5-9 tanks, or 227 fully-equipped marines, or 600 ton dry cargo; 10 ton crane services cargo; two LCVPs carried
  • Combat usage: used as mother-ships to Pasadran small craft harassing tanker traffic in the Gulf during Iran-Iraq war; depot ships for minelayers
  • Displacement: 2540 t
  • Full dimensions: 305′ x 49′ x 7’3″
  • Machinery: 2 Paxman 12YJCM diesels (511 & 512) / 4 MTU 16V652 TB81 diesels (513 & 514); 2 shafts
  • Max speed: 14.5 kts
  • Range: 4,000 NM @ 12 kts
  • Complement: 80
  • Aircraft: Helipad for 1 Sea-King size type
  • Weapons – Guns
    • 1 BM-21 MLRS: 11 NM shore bombardment
    • 8 (4 twin) ZU-23: 2 NM AA/surface
    • 2 (M2.50 cal): 1 NM AA/surface
  • Sensors – Radar
    • Decca 1229 (l): 18 NM surface (range, bearing)
  • Sensors – EW
    • SSR 1520: IFF
    • 2 Mk5 launcher: IR flare/chaff
Alvand class

Islamic Republic of Iran Air Defences

Isna 9″

The Missile Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Fateh-110 (4th Generation)
Khalij Fars

Iranian Missiles

Iranian missiles

Extrapolated data from 2001 armed forces, Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS) — raw value (position)

Armed Forces

  • growth:  -16  (89 of 132)
  • personnel:  513,000  (8 of 166)
  • exports:  USD 1M  (42 of 45)
  • Imports:  USD 403M  (17 of 100)


  • Islamic Republic of Iran Regular Forces (Artesh)
    • Ground Forces
    • Navy
    • Air Force of the Military of the Islamic Republic of Iran (incl. air defence)
  • Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
    • Ground Forces
    • Navy
    • Air Force
    • Quds Force (Special Operations)
    • Basj Force (Popular Mobilization Army)
  • Law Enforcement (Security) Forces
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Space Program
  • Islamic Republic  of UAV/UCAV

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

  • Signatory – September 24, 1996


  • Conscription exists (AI)

Arms (conventional) Imports and Exports

  • Exports:  USD 1M  (37 of 40)
  • Exports per GDP:  0.002 per USD1,000  (40 of 40)
  • Imports:  USD 283M  (18 of 85)
  • Imports per GDP:  0.548 per USD1,000  (35 of 85)
  • Employment in arms production:  40,000  (16 of 56)

Military Expenditure

  • Of central government expenditure:  21.74%  (4 of 88)
  • Of GDP:  4.46%  (9 of 145)
  • Current LCU:  75.954T
  • Expenditures:  2.5% of GDP  (36 of 87)
  • Expenditures:  USD 4.3B  (19 of 111)
  • Expenditures per GDP:  2.5%  (40 of 154)
  • Iraq expenditures
  • Reconstruction aid (pledged):  USD 10M  (20 of 40)
  • Reconstruction aid / GDP:  USD 6.15 / 100,000 of GDP  (20 of 40)
  • Insurgency (foreign fighter nationality distribution):  (6 of 25)


  • Females:  19.6M  (14 of 162)
    • Females 18-49:  17.5M  (12 of 120)
  • Males:  20.2M  (16 of 210)
    • Males 18-49:  18.3M  (13 of 164)
Fit for military service
  • Females:  16.9M  (14 of 162)
    • Females 18-49:  15M  (9 of 119)
  • Males:  17.4M  (15 of 210)
    • Males 15-49:  12M  (17 of 174)
    • Males 18-49:  15.7M  (9 of 161)
Military age (21 years)

Reaching military age annually

  • Females:  727,654  (16 of 226)
    • Females 18-49:  808,044  (9 of 91)
  • Males:  766,668  (16 of 226)
    • Males 18-49:  862,056  (12 of 157)

Military Capabilities

  • Active Troops:  540,000  (8 of 10)
  • Defence Budget:  USD 4.3B  (7 of 10)
  • Frigates:  3  (9 of 10)
  • Tanks:  1,613  (9 of 10)
  • Personnel:  585,000  (11 of 170)
  • Personnel % total labor force:  2.12%  (34 of 168)

Service age and obligations

  • 19 years of age for compulsory military service
  • 16 years of age for volunteers
  • 17 years of age  for Law Enforcement Forces
  • 15 years of age for Basj Forces (Popular Mobilization Army)
  • Conscript military service obligation – 18 months
  • Women exempt from military service

Weapon holdings

Total units:  5.9M  (14 of 137)

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran’s chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, and possibly nuclear weapons program and its biological warfare and capabilities are designed to deter opponents and to gain influence in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea regions and can also be seen as a response to Iran’s own experience as a victim of chemical and missile attacks during the Iran-Iraq War.

  • Biological – Iran strongly denies acquiring or producing biological weapons

Although Iran have acceded to the Geneva Protocol (1929) and ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (1973), the U.S. government believes Iran began biological weapon efforts in the early to mid-1980s and that it continues to pursue an offensive biological weapon program linked to its civilian biotechnology activities – including small quantities of agent, possibly including mycotoxins, ricin, and the smallpox virus.

  • Chemical – Iran is committed to the development of its civilian and military industries and this has involved an ongoing process of modernisation and expansion in the chemical industry aimed at reducing dependence on foreign suppliers of materials and technology as it encounters regular difficulties with chemical industry related imports that are restricted by members of the Australia group. Iran strongly denies producing or possessing chemical weapons:

Suffering severe losses from Iraqi use of chemical weapons between 1982 to 1988, Iran has a great deal of experience of the effects of chemical warfare (CW), maintaining a significant defensive CW capability since the end of the Gulf War amid concerns that Iraq continued to possess chemical weapons. Having publicly acknowledged the existence of a chemical weapons program developed during the latter stages of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Iran ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in November 1997 and has been an active participant in the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — opening up its facilities to international inspection and claiming that all offensive CW activities had been terminated and the facilities destroyed. Nevertheless the US continues to claim that Iran maintains an active program of development and production of chemical weapons, reportedly including the production of sarin, mustard, phosgene, and hydrocyanic acid.: the U.S. estimates Iran can produce 1,000 metric tons of agent per year to a potential stockpile of at least several thousand metric tons of weaponized and bulk agent. (Open-sources do not provide unambiguous support to these accusations. To date the United States has not pursued options available to it under international law to convincingly demonstrate Iranian non-compliance with the CWC.

  • Missile – Iran’s capabilities in missile production have kept in line with its doctrine of protection from regional threats. To one of the largest missile inventories in the Middle East, Iran has acquired complete missile systems and developed an infrastructure to build missiles indigenously:

Iran has developed new missiles including the Ra’ad and Kosar and continues to test its Nodong based Shehab-3 missile. On October 20, 2004, Iranian Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani confirmed the latest successful test of Iran’s Shehab-3 with a 2,000 kilometre range in front of observers. Iran has openly declared its ability to mass produce the Shehab-3 medium-range missile. Intelligence reports reports regarding Iran’s expansion of capabilities and persistent interest in acquiring new technologies have led the United States to seek other options in dealing with Iran as a regional threat. Conflicting reports exist about the development of even longer-range missiles, such as the Shehab-4 and the Kosar intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); however, barring acquisition of a complete system or major subsystem from North Korea, Iran is unlikely to launch an ICBM or satellite launch vehicle (SLV) before mid-decade. Iran has/ is: purchased North Korean Scud-Bs, Scud-Cs, and Nodong ballistic missiles; developed short-range artillery rockets; producing the Scud-B (Shehab-1) and the Scud-C (Shehab-2); recently flight-tested the 1,300 km-range Shehab-3 (based on the North Korean Nodong), capable of reaching Israel, after which it was placed in service and revolutionary guard units were officially armed with the missiles.

  • Nuclear (Source – The Nuclear Threat Initiative):

In June 2005, Tehran rejected an EU-3 (France, Great Britain, and Germany) request to delay nuclear negotiations, announcing that it will resume nuclear research activities. At issue is Iran’s insistence (to the United States’ adamant opposition) to the right to peaceful nuclear research — Tehran makes it clear that any proposal that does not guarantee its access to peaceful nuclear technology (such as the West’s suggestion Iran give up fuel cycle ambitions and accepting nuclear fuel from abroad) would lead to the cessation of all nuclear related negotiations with the EU-3. Indeed, from within Iran there is mounting pressure on the government to lift the suspension on uranium enrichment and not succumb to foreign (U.S.) pressure. A week later, Iran again agrees to temporarily freeze its nuclear program until the EU proposal (end of July) for the next round of talks. Meanwhile, the IAEA states that Iran has admitted to providing incorrect information about past experiments involving plutonium — that rather than such research having ceased in 1993 as previously claimed, more recent investigations confirm that experiments had taken place as late as 1995 and even 1998. In early July, Iran publicly offers the IAEA to break UN seals and test nuclear-related equipment (stating the testing would not violate Tehran’s voluntary suspension of nuclear activities) and by July’s end backs this up with an official submission to the IAEA stating that the seals at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) will be removed. The IAEA requests ten days, to install the necessary surveillance equipment. Meanwhile, the EU submits the Framework for a Long-term Agreement proposal to Iran, specifically calling on Iran to exclude fuel-cycle related activity. Tehran immediately rejects the proposal as a negation of its inalienable rights. On August 8th, nuclear activities resume at the Isfahan UCF and two days later, IAEA seals are removed from the remaining parts of the process lines with IAEA inspectors present. Several countries call on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and to the re-suspension of all enrichment related activities. Some European countries and the U.S. threatened to refer Iran to the UN Security Council. Once again, Iran rejected any proposal related to the suspension of conversion activities, but stated they were happy to continue negotiations — Tehran did not believe there was any legal basis for referral to the UN Security council and believed this to be only a political move. Iran threatens to stop all negotiations, prevent any further inspections at all its nuclear facilities, suspend the implementation of the Additional protocol, and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), if it is referred to the Un Security Council. The IAEA announces in August 2005 that most of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) particle contamination at various locations in Iran was of foreign origin – much of the HEU found on centrifuge parts was imported from Pakistani equipment; not from any enrichment activities conducted by Iran. In late August Iran announces it will resume nuclear activities in Natnaz and that they are willing to negotiate as long as there are no conditions, and refuses to comply with an IAEA resolution to halt its nuclear program, because making nuclear fuel was its right as a member of the NPT — although Iran does have a right to nuclear energy under Article 4 of the NPT, the EU believes it has lost that right on violating Article 2 of the NPT (“not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear related weapons or other nuclear explosive devices”), and on September 24, 2005, the IAEA finds Iran in non-compliance of the NPT (21 votes for and one against, with 12 abstentions). Russi and China were among the abstainers and Venezuela was the only country to vote against the resolution that Iran’s non-compliance due to “many failures and breaches” over nuclear safeguards of the NPT is grounds for referral to the UN Security Council.

Fast forward to 2014 …

Final nuclear deal

Iran and the P5+1 powers – Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany – reached a six-month interim agreement under which Iran suspended part of its nuclear activities in return for a partial lifting of international sanctions.

In July that deal was extended by four months until November 24 to give the two sides more time to negotiate a final accord aimed at ending 10 years of tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The sides remain split on how much uranium enrichment Iran should be allowed to carry out.

Washington wants Tehran to slash its programme by three-quarters, but Iran wants to expand enrichment ten-fold by 2021, chiefly to produce fuel for its Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Israel, a sworn enemy of Iran, opposes any agreement allowing Tehran to keep part of its uranium enrichment programme, saying Iran could use the material to make an atomic bomb.

Iran has consistently denied wanting to make nuclear weapons.

Ongoing …

Israel Warns of Iranian Sweet Talk; Says Nothing’s Changed

Israel Considering Military Action Against Iran


Basij militia parade to commemorate anniversary of Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2010 — Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

Revolutionary Guard Commander Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari at press conference in Tehran (16 September 2012) warns ‘nothing will remain’ of Israel if it takes military action against Tehran over its nuclear program — Vahid Salemi/AP

Basij militia parade in Tehran (22 September) to commemorate anniversary of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war — Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

Revolutionary Guard display Sajjil missile in front of portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei draped over mausoleum of late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, during military parade (21 September 2012) just outside Tehran commemorating the start of the Iraq-Iran war 32 years ago — Vahid Salemi/AP

Soldiers fire anti-aircraft gun during Defenders of Velayat (Pontificate) Sky Manoeuvre 2 near Arak, in 2009.

Army troops parade just outside Tehran (21 September 2012) — Vahid Salemi/AP

Iranian Defense Ministry (September 28) claims delivery of three squadrons of Revolutionary Guard’s Bavar-2 (Confidence-2) radar-evading flying boats — Vahid Reza Alaei/Iranian Defense Ministry/AP

Air force re-enact founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1979 arrival to Iran, at Merhrabad airport, Tehran (1 February 2012) — Ruhollah Yazdani/Mehr News Agency/Reuters

Navy celebrates successful launch of Ghader (Capable) surface-to-surface cruise missile at the shore of sea of Oman during navy drill (2 January 2012) to demonstrate ‘Tehran was in complete control of the strategic Strait of Hormuz’, the passageway for one-sixth of the world’s oil supply — Hamed Jafarnejad/Fars News Agency/AP


Military personnel carries ammunition on naval ship during Velayat-90 war game on Sea of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz, southern Iran (31 December 2011) where Iran test-fired a new radar-evasive, medium-range missile — Hamed Jafarnejad/Fars News/Reuters

Iranian military personnel during Velayat-90 war game near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran (30 December 2011) — Hamed Jafarnejad/Fars News/Reuters

Woman in currency exchange shop in northern Tehran (3 January 2012). The Iranian Rial fell to a record low against the USD following US President Obama signing a bill imposing fresh sanctions against Iran’s central bank — Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

Navy commander Habibollah Sayyari during Velayat-90 war game on Sea of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran (1 January 2012) — Hamed Jafarnejad/Fars News/Reuters

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (c) attentive to defense minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi (l) during National Army Day parade ceremony, just outside Tehran (18 April), before extolling: ‘the country is so powerful today that no one would dare attack it’ — Vahid Salemi/AP

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hassan Firouzabadi salutes during military parade in Tehran (22 September) — Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

Iranian-made Zelzal surface-to-surface missile at military parade in Tehran (22 September) — Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

medium range anti-aircraft air defense system Mersad (Ambush) unveiled during a ceremony in Tehran (11 April) — Vahid Alaee/Defence Ministry/Reuters

2009 satellite image of mountain facility under construction located 20 miles northeast of Qom. analysts at both the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security and London-based IHS Jane’s believe this to be the most likely location of the newly revealed centrifuge facility — GeoEye Satellite Image/IHS Jane’s Analysis/AP/FILE

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei looks through field glasses aboard the first domestically-made destroyer, Jamaran, launched in undisclosed waters of the Persian Gulf in southern Iran (19 February) —

Elite Revolutionary Guard boats (r) attack abandoned war ship during manoeuvres in the Persian Gulf (22 April). Iran has been showing off its military capabilities in the gulf and the Strait of Hormuz annually since 2006 — Mehdi Marizad/Fars News Agency/AP

Iranian Turkmen in traditional dress: members of the Basij militia, affiliated to the Revolutionary Guard, march in a military parade (22 September) — Vahid Salem/AP

Iran’s Basij militia on parade (22 September) — Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

long-range, improved Sejil 2 missile test-fired at unknown desert location in Iran (2009) — Fars News/Reuters/FILE

— ♦ —


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And of them was the whole earth overspread