The Islamic Republic of Iran Army (IRI Army) is the land forces branch of the Iranian armed forces. In Iran, the army is also known as the artesh, which is the Persian word for army. The IRI Army is responsible for national defence in Iran.
In addition to the artesh, Iran also has a second army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), known as the Pasdaran in Persian. It has approximately 120.000 of its own personnel. There is some overlap of command between the two forces, which operate parallel in the country, but they are essentially separate.
HISTORYThe IRI Army originated from the former Imperial Iranian Army, which existed before the 1979 Iranian revolution. This army had grown to a large force of approximately 285,000 troops by 1979.
Following the revolution, the Imperial Iranian Army was dismantled, which left the country poorly defended by the start of the Iran-Iraq war. It was then re-established as the Islamic Republic of Iran Army.
After the war, the army came under the control of new commanders, who had gained important experience during that conflict. The army began to reduce its dependence on foreign equipment and was dramatically restructured. At this point, it was still very small in relation to the pre-revolutionary army, but, it began to grow rapidly. The process of rebuilding the IRI Army and the country’s other armed forces led to the development of a domestic military industry, to supply the necessary equipment and armaments. The loss of a stable supply of military equipment from Western countries such as the United Kingdom and United States, had a significant impact on the Iranian armed forces, including the army, and stimulated the development of new, domestically-manufactured equipment such as the Zulfiqar main battle tanks that are currently used by the army.
The IRI Army currently has approximately 465,000 active personnel, including about 230,000 professional soldiers and approximately 235,000 conscripts. Conscripts typically serve for a year and a half. It also has about 350,000 reservists, which bring the total number of personnel up to about 815,000.
The IRI Army consists of five corps, each with its own regional headquarters. The army has four armoured divisions and six infantry divisions. It has its own brigade of special forces, two divisions of commandoes and a single airborne brigade. There are also six artillery groups, as well as aviation forces (the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Aviation). The army also has a number of smaller, independent brigades. These independent units include: a logistics brigade, an airborne brigade, a special forces brigade, five artillery brigades and an infantry brigade. The army also has units which are involved in coastal and air defence roles. It is believed that the IRI Army also has the ability to conduct cyber warfare, making Iran one of just five countries to have developed this capability.
The 23rd Special Forces unit is believed to be one of the most highly trained units in the IRI Army. It consists only of professional soldiers, with no conscripts admitted. This special forces unit is composed of 5000 soldiers.
The IRI Army is believed to have a total of about 1613 tanks, as well as approximately 640 armoured personnel carriers. It operates a number of different types of tanks, including approximately one hundred domestically-produced Zulfiqar main battle tanks, which are the most recent additions to the army; as well as a large number of other types. The army has an estimated 480 T-72 tanks, 150 M60A1 tanks, 100 Chieftain Mk 3 and Mk 5 tanks, 168 M47s and M48s, 540 T-54s, T-55s and Type 59s and 75 T-62s. However, it is the Zulfiqar that is considered to be the army’s main tank. Much of its development was inspired by parts from the American-made M48 tank, but the Zulfiqar’s locally-produced parts are a major advantage for the army. The IRI Army is currently using Zulfiqar 1 and Zulfiqar 3 tanks.
The IRI Army has approximately 527 helicopters. The main helicopter used, is the AH-1J SeaCobra, of which it currently has about 50; a number that has been significantly reduced since the Islamic revolution of 1979, at which point Iran had obtained 202 examples. The army also owns a number of other types of helicopters, namely Panha 2091s, which are locally-produced and upgraded variants of the AH-1J.
In addition to its helicopters, the IRI Army also has about 188 aeroplanes. These include: Fokker F27 Friendships, Aero Commanders, Cessna 185s and Dassault Falcon 50s.
It also uses a number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including the Karrar, Ababil and Mohajer I, II, III and IV.
The Commander in Chief of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army is appointed by the Supreme Leader. The current commander is General
EDITED BY Gonjeeshk OF IRANIAN DEFENCE FORUM.