Paramilitary: VIP Transports In Iran

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September 3, 2019: For the second time in less than a year Iran has introduced a locally made MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected). While the first one was a 4x4 vehicle. The new one, called Raad, is a heavier 6x6 vehicle which appears to be similar to the 4x4 model but a bit larger and heavier. This one was mentioned as useful for transporting VIP (very Important People) through dangerous areas. In the last two years this has become an important task in Iran as many senior members of the clergy, the people who have run the country since the 1980s, find themselves fearing attack by angry Iranians, or Israel, which Iran has been threatening to destroy since the 1980s. Israel has struck back in clever ways and has the Iranian leadership visibly paranoid, especially when traveling. MRAPs also come in handy moving police and troops through areas where the security forces are subject to attack.

For these reasons it was no surprise when, in late 2018, Iran revealed that it was producing a 4x4 MRAP wheeled armored vehicle called Tufan. Iran displayed five completed vehicles with eight more visible on the production line. The vehicle seems to be a copy of the Canadian Typhoon, which is built by the Streit Group in cooperation with Ukrainian firms that supply components. The Typhoon first appeared in Ukraine in 2015 where it was hastily designed and built to deal with the 2014 Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine (Donbas). MRAPs type vehicles have proved a lifesaver against rifle and machine-gun fire as well as many types of landmines and roadside bombs. Iran is facing more of this internally with growing incidents of large protests and armed attacks.

The original Canadian Typhoon was based on Russian trucks that were modified to become MRAPs, in this case, a 12.5-ton vehicle with a payload of 2.5 tons (or ten passengers.) It is unclear how closely Tufan copied the Typhoon design. Externally it appears identical with four bulletproof passenger windows plus bulletproof front windows for the driver and commander. There is a remotely controlled turret on top for a machine-gun and a V-shaped bottom to deflect explosions. There are three doors (two for the driver and vehicle commander up front and one in the back. There are four hatches on top. Inside the Typhoon, the seats are protected from concussion hitting the bottom of the vehicle from an explosion. There are special dome lights inside that do not illuminate the windows. There are air filtration system and positive air pressure systems to keep noxious chemicals out (as well as chemical and biological weapons), plus air conditioning. Typhoon also has vidcams all around so the crew can better see what is going on inside. Typhoons come equipped with military radio and a GPS navigation system. Typhoon sells for about half a million dollars each and Iran could probably sell their copy for less if many of the Typhoon internal features were left out or made optional. At the moment Iran appears to be building them for internal use by the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) security forces and the national police.

The new 6x6 model Raad MRAP seems to be a scaled-up version of the Tufan. There is nothing particularly exotic about MRAP design as the basic idea has been around since the 1970s. MRAPs are built using the same construction techniques pioneered by South African firms that have, over the years, delivered thousands of landmine resistant vehicles to the South African armed forces. These were a great success. The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998 and was first used in the design of vehicles used by peacekeepers in the Balkans and later in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. military bought over 10,000 MRAPs (from several manufacturers) by 2009 and then canceled orders as the fighting in Iraq died down (with the defeat of the Islamic terror groups there.)

Iran did not seem to base its MRAP designs on those produced by its ally and major trading partner China. This is surprising because since 2012 China has been marketing its new MRAP vehicles for police, security and VIP protection work. This includes aid operations in hostile environments and any area where there is a lot of random violence. The vehicles being promoted most frequently include the VN1 8x8 WAV (Wheeled Armored Vehicle), VN2C 6x6 MRAP, VN4 4x4 WAV and VP11 4x4 MRAP.

Each of these began as military projects. The VN1 is another variant of the military ZBL 09, which is a 21 ton 8x8 wheeled armored vehicle that has a crew of three and carries seven passengers. The VN2C is the WMZ-551 APC (armored personnel carrier) with MRAP features (like a V-shaped hull) added. The VN4 is a nine ton armored truck, similar to an armored hummer, with a crew of two and room for eight passengers. These have been seen used by security forces recently in Venezuela and Kenya. The VP11 is similar to the VN4 but equipped more of as a VIP transport.

This all began in June 2012 when China introduced its first MRAP; a new 4x4 vehicle called the Norinco 8M. The vehicle can withstand an anti-vehicle mine of up to 7 kg (15.4 pounds) explosives (or 10 kg/22 pounds under a wheel). The 8M carries eight personnel and was designed mainly for police work, which is what they were mainly used for in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though troops were the operators.

The 8M was apparently one result of a deal made with a South African firm (MLS, Mobile Land Systems) in 2010 to sell China MRAP technology. This involved selling China eleven MRAP vehicles. But the sale included the transfer of technology, for a fee. The South Africans insisted on this and the Chinese went along. The Chinese complied because they knew that the South Africans were aware of the Chinese tendency to just steal such technology.

The Chinese MRAP was based on a South African model, modified to Chinese specifications. The first three were built in South Africa, with the parts for the other eight shipped to China, where South African engineers supervised their assembly by the Chinese. As long as the Chinese held up their end of the contract, South African personnel continued to transfer the technology (including production techniques).

China is trying to clean up its act with regards to theft of intellectual property. China does this out of self-interest, as there is a growing quantity of Chinese inventions that can be stolen. So the South African deal provided an opportunity to show that China can be trusted. The Norinco 8M is apparently the first of several Chinese MRAP designs, all of them pitched mainly to non-military markets.

In other words, Iran had several sources of MRAP design and technology and Ukraine was apparently the cheapest. Since the 1990s Ukraine has been a major exporter of Cold War surplus military equipment as well as some more modern stuff. Ukraine also offers  discreet delivery by air or chip, to anyone who can pay.

 


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