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Will Iran License-build Russia’s T-90S Main Battle Tank?

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Asia Defense

Will Iran License-build Russia’s T-90S Main Battle Tank?

Moscow recently proposed to Tehran the licensed production of T-90S tanks.

Will Iran License-build Russia’s T-90S Main Battle Tank?
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Vitaly Kuzmin

The Russian company Uralvagonzavod, the world’s largest main battle tank manufacturer, has proposed to organize the licensed production of the third-generation T-90s main battle tank in Iran, once restrictions on military cooperation between the two countries are lifted, TASS reports.

Uralvagonzavod’s deputy director general, Alexey Zharich noted that his company suspended cooperation with Iran to abide by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1020 of June 9, 2010, which imposed an arms embargo on Iran.

“But if restrictions on military-technical cooperation with Iran are lifted, the corporation together with Rosoboronexport (arms exporting company) is ready to continue cooperation, in particular, on the licensed production of the T-90S tanks, modernization of the T-72S tanks and their production capacities,” Zharich said.

Under the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCOP), an international agreement on the nuclear program of Iran signed in July 2015, the UN arms embargo will be lifted 5 years after the JCOP adoption day. However, conventional weapons sales can be decided on a case-by-case basis meanwhile. “During the five years arms deliveries to Iran would be possible if they clear a notification and verification process in the UN Security Council,” according to Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.

The commander of Iran’s ground forces, Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, expressed his interest in the T-90s already in December 2015 when he noted that he transferred a Russian proposal to the Iranian General Staff, according to TASS.

“The talks with representatives of the Russian side have been held and the corresponding proposal on the purchase of T-90 tanks has been transferred to the General Staff of the Islamic Republic’s Armed Forces,” he said.

“Currently, T-72 tanks are the backbone of our armor. These armored vehicles have proved to be fairly good in combat operations. They are produced by enterprises of our defense industry. At the same time, we see that the T-90 tank possesses better combat characteristics and meets all the requirements we set to the modern armor,” the Iranian general added.

However, earlier this week, Pourdastan said that he would prefer establishing T-90s tank production facilities in Iran, rather than buying the T-90s straight from Russia.

The T-90s, the export version of the T-90A, is currently one of the most advanced main battle tanks in service with the Russian military and the latest development in the T-series of Russian tanks. (The T-90s is based off the Soviet-era T-72 tank design.) The Russian-made tank is equipped with an automatic fire system and armed with a 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun, which can also fire the 9M119 Refleks anti-tank guided missiles. The T-90s has a low profile and is equipped with both conventional armor plating and explosive reactive armor. Weighing 46.5 tons, the T-90s is fairly light for a main battle tank.

As I explained in January 2015: “Back in the year 2000, Iran was the fourth largest importer of Russian military equipment placing right after China, India, and the United Arab Emirates, buying 6.1 percent of Russia’s total arms exports.” The Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade in Moscow has estimated that the Russian defense industry has lost around $13 billion in arms sales due to UN sanctions against Iran.