Manufacturer: Defence Industries Organisation (D.I.O.)  
Product type: Armoured Vehicles  
Name: Modernization of the vehicle  


Early in 1996, it was announced that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had completed trials of an upgraded T-54 MBT under the local name of the Safir-74 (Messenger 74).

These Russian-designed 100 mm armed T-54 MBTs were captured from Iraq during the 1980 to 1988 Gulf War and some sources have estimated that up to 190 T-54/T-55 series MBTs may be in service with the Iranian Army. Iran is also understood to have 220 Chinese NORINCO (China North Industries Organization) Type 59 MBTs in service (these being the Chinese version of the T-54), as well as 200 of the improved Chinese Type 69.

The only information on the Safir-74 MBT is that it has major improvements to the output of the engine, transmission and firepower and that a fire extinguishing system has been fitted.

A new fire-control system has been installed which allows the Safir-74 to engage both stationary and moving targets while it is stationary or moving itself. The armour is also understood to have been improved.

It is possible that the original 100 mm gun has been replaced by a Western 105 mm L7/M68 rifled tank gun of the type fitted to the M60 and M48A5 MBTs supplied to Iran many years ago. For some years Iran has been manufacturing 105 mm ammunition.

Type 72Z MBT

Late in 1996, it was revealed that Iran had developed an upgraded T-54/T-55 MBT under the local name of Type 72Z. Full details of this are given in the previous entry. It is possible that the Safir-74 and Type 72Z are related, or could even be the same vehicle.

The upgrade work on the Type 72Z has been carried out by the Shahid Kolah Dooz Industrial Complex of the Tank Modernising Industry. This in turn is part of the Defense Industries Organization.

Iranian Explosive Reactive Armour

Iran has developed an Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) system which could be fitted to new and existing armoured fighting vehicles, improving their battlefield survivability against attack by Chemical Energy (CE) and Kinetic Energy (KE) projectiles over the frontal arc. The Iranian ERA package is very similar to that currently manufactured for the home and export market by Russia and this also provides protection from both CE and KE attack. First-generation Russian ERA only provided protection against CE attack.

This Iranian ERA system, which is understood not to have entered volume production so far, is manufactured by the Shahid Kolah Dooz Industrial Complex and during trials, stopped the main armour of an undisclosed MBT being penetrated by an Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) fitted with a tandem HEAT warhead.

The Iranian armour system comprises one composite layer that provides protection against KE and CE projectiles and an additional energetic material layer (explosive) that has the ability to protect against CE projectiles.

The complete ERA package consists of a number of small blocks which are bolted onto the MBT, typically on the glacis plate, nose, frontal part of the turret and skirting.

While most of the tank has a single layer of explosive reactive armour, some parts, for example the turret, have a double layer.

The T-72 ERA turret package weighs a total of 416 kg while the hull front (glacis plate and nose) package weighs 281 kg and the hull side (for example, skirts) package weighs 494 kg. This gives a total weight of 1,191 kg.

When allowing for spaces for the sighting systems, main and secondary armament, between 60 and 65 per cent of the turret front is protected by the ERA while for the hull front it is between 70 and 80 per cent and for the hull sides 60 to 62 per cent.

According to the Iranian manufacturer, this ERA package is applicable to any type of MBT, for example T-55, T-72 and T-80 with some modifications of the attachment assembly.

Main advantages have been summarised as low weight, low cost, high level of protection, easy to install and maintain, waterproof and cannot be activated by gas arc welding and cutting.

The ERA packages will not detonate if dropped from a height of 5 m, complete safety from small arms fire up to 30 mm in calibre, cannot be activated by grenades, resistant to attack by napalm incendiary mixtures and safety from attack by 125 mm HE projectile fragments at ranges of less than 10 m.


Modernisation programme under way. In service with the Iranian Army.

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