Islamic Republic of Iran Army

Islamic Republic of Iran Army

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The Islamic Republic of Iran Army is the ground force of the Military of Islamic Republic of Iran. In Iran, it is also called Artesh, which is Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 for "army." As of 2007, the regular Iranian Army was estimated to have 465,000 personnel (235,000 conscripts and 230,000 professionals) plus around 350,000 reservists for a total of 815,000 soldiers according to the CSIS
Center for Strategic and International Studies
The Center for Strategic and International Studies is a bipartisan Washington, D.C., foreign policy think tank. The center was founded in 1962 by Admiral Arleigh Burke and Ambassador David Manker Abshire, originally as part of Georgetown University...

. Conscripts serve for 18 months and have professional military training.

Iran has two parallel land forces with some integration at the command level: the regular Artesh (Army), and the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, also known as the Pasdaran (IRGC).


A national army of sorts has existed in Iran since the establishment of the Persian Empire. National armies usually appeared throughout the country's points of strength, while in times of weakness mercenaries and conscript armies were recruited temporarily from fiefdoms. The original core of full time troops and imperial body guards were called the Immortals, these were established in 580 BC by Cyrus the Great. These were replaced by the Junishapur Shâhanshâh (King of Kings
King of Kings
King of Kings is a title that has been used by several monarchies and empires throughout history. The title originates in the Ancient Near East. It is broadly the equivalent of the later title Emperor....

) in the Sassanid Dynasty after a period of disunity and chaos in the country. Following the Arab invasion of Iran and eventual resurgence of Iranian dynasties a new full time army was formed by the name of Qezelbash in the Safavid Dynasty. The Qajar period saw several attempts to re-model the traditional Iranian military based on western models. These were met with limited success at the time.

Training over the centuries has varied wildly, however until the Qajar era it was common to see many train for combat i

Pre-revolutionary (Pahlavi) period

Following the rise of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925 the new Imperial Iranian Army became a priority. Dramatic reforms brought in a host of western advisors and over the course of the next 50 years the army was to become the world's fifth strongest by 1979. Throughout the 1970s the Imperial Iranian Ground Forces, as they were then known, underwent a rapid transformation and increase in strength.

In 1979 the Army was a largely mechanized and armored force of about 285,000 troops; Organized in 3 corps, with headquarters in Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

 area, in Shiraz
Shiraz may refer to:* Shiraz, Iran, a city in Iran* Shiraz County, an administrative subdivision of Iran* Vosketap, Armenia, formerly called ShirazPeople:* Hovhannes Shiraz, Armenian poet* Ara Shiraz, Armenian sculptor...

 in the south, and in Kermanshah
Kermanshah is a city in and the capital of Kermanshah Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 784,602, in 198,117 families.The overwhelming majority of Kermanshahi people are Shi'a Muslims...

 near the Iraq border. There were additional plans for a fourth corps to be established at the Chah Bahar complex at the eastern end of the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...


Its major ground formations included the following:
  • Three armored divisions (plus one more in organization in Sistan Baluchestan): each with six tank battalions and five mechanized infantry battalions,
  • Three infantry divisions,
  • Two Iranian Imperial Guard
    Iranian Imperial Guard
    The Iranian Imperial Guard was both the personal guard force of the Shahs of Iran and an elite combat branch of the Imperial Iranian Army. It was created in 1942 and disbanded in 1979.-Origins:...

     Divisions and
  • Four independent brigades (1 armored, 1 infantry, 1 airborne and 1 Special Forces)
  • Army Aviation Command with 200 plus helicopters.

These combat units, backed up by the usual complement of support units, were said to be 85 percent operational.


Immediately after the 1979 revolution a series of purges gutted the core of the Army's western trained senior commanders. The last general to head the Imperial Iranian Army was General Gholam Ali Oveissi, who was assassinated in Paris along with his brother in 1984. He was replaced by General Gharebaghi who allied with the Islamic Republic and dismantled the Army. The purges left it poorly prepared when Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 invaded Iran at the beginning of the Iran–Iraq War. A new cadre of commanders, shaped by their experiences in the war, drastically reduced reliance on foreign supplied equipment and training. Following the war the military pursued a dramatic restructuring, much of it under total secrecy . While still only a mere shadow of its pre-revolutionary self, the Artesh rapidy re-asserted its abilities and started to grow again .


In 1987, and on the verge of the end of the Iran–Iraq War the Artesh was organized as follows:
  • Three mechanized divisions,
    • Each of which composed of three armored and six mechanized battalions organized into three brigades
  • Seven infantry divisions,
  • One Special Forces division composed of four brigades,
  • One airborne brigade,
  • One Air Support Command,

and some independent armored brigades including infantry and a "coastal force."

Current status

Force structure, order of battle, and unit identifications for Iranian forces differ greatly among sources. It is unclear which identifications are accurate. The evolution of Iranian units over time is somewhat opaque, and rather dated wartime designations are often published, sometimes confusing brigades with divisions. During the Iran–Iraq War some brigades formed the nuclei of new divisions, and may have reverted to that status with the end of the war.

Jane's reported that the Army was commanded via three army level headquarters with 12 divisions. The IISS reported in the Military Balance 2008 that there five Corps level regional headquarters, four armoured divisions with some independent brigades, six infantry divisions with some independent brigades, one special forces brigade, two commando divisions with some independent brigades, plus an airborne brigade. There were also six artillery groups, and aviation forces. The number of divisions reported has not changed for some years. Often reported formations include the 23rd Special Forces Division, established in 1993-1994, and the 55th Paratroop Division. One source reports that the 23rd Special Forces Division is amongst the most professional units in the Iranian Army, with 5,000 regular soldiers and strictly no conscripts.

The regular armoured divisions, including the 92nd Armored Division
92nd Armored Division
The 92nd Armored Division is an armored division of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army, first formed during the reign of the Shah.In September 1980, among the units garrisoned along the Iraqi border, the IRIA had the 92nd Armored "Khuzestan" Division, with three armored brigades equipped with...

, are sub-divided into three brigades.

The regular army also has a number of independent brigades and groups, though there is almost no reliable data on the size and number of these smaller independent formations. These include one logistics brigade, an infantry brigade, an airborne brigade, special forces (Takavar
Takavaran is the term used for a type of Iranian special forces troops. To be eligible for Takavar selection, a candidate must have at least two years regular service in the Iranian Armed Forces...

) brigades, and five artillery brigades/regiments. There are also coastal defense units, a growing number of air defense groups, between four and six army aviation units, and a growing number of logistics and supply formations.

There are a variety of other reports of doubtful veracity. Some sources claim that small light formations in the regular army include an Airmobile Forces Group created after the Iran–Iraq War. This formation is said to include the 29th Special Forces Division, which was formed in 1993-1994, and the 55th Paratroop Division. Other sources claim that the commando forces of the regular army and IRGC are integrated into a Corps of about 30,000 soldiers, with integrated helicopter lift and air assault capabilities. These airborne and special forces troops are said to train together at Shiraz
Shiraz may refer to:* Shiraz, Iran, a city in Iran* Shiraz County, an administrative subdivision of Iran* Vosketap, Armenia, formerly called ShirazPeople:* Hovhannes Shiraz, Armenian poet* Ara Shiraz, Armenian sculptor...


It has also been reported that Iran is one of the 5 countries having a Cyber-army capable of conducting cyber-warfare operations. It has also been reported that Iran has immensely increased its cyberwarfare capability since the post presidential election un-rest. Furthermore China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 has accused United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 of having initiated a cyber war against Iran, through sites such as Twitter
Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as "tweets".Twitter was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched that July...

 and YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, on which users can upload, view and share videos....

 and employing a hacker brigade for the purpose of fomenting unrest in Iran. It has also been reported in early 2010, that two new garrisons for cyberwarfare have been established at Zanjan
Zanjan (city)
Zanjan is the capital of Zanjan Province in northwestern Iran. It is an Azeri inhabited city. It lies 298 km north-west of Tehran on the main highway to Tabriz and Turkey and approximately 125 km from the Caspian Sea...

 and Isfahan.


Iran's main battle tanks include an estimated 100 indigenous Zulfiqar MBT
Zulfiqar MBT
Zulfiqar is a second generation Iranian main battle tank , conceived by Brigadier General Mir-Younes Masoumzadeh, deputy ground force commander for research and self-sufficiency of the armed forces. It is named after Zulfiqar, the legendary sword of the first Shia Imam Hazrat Ali.The test...

s, 480 T-72S, 150 M-60A1s, 75 T-62s, 100 Chieftain Mk 3/Mk 5
Chieftain tank
The FV 4201 Chieftain was the main battle tank of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s. It was one of the most advanced tanks of its era, and at the time of its introduction in 1966 had the most powerful main gun and heaviest armour of any tank in the world...

 MBTs, 540 T-54/T-55/Type 59s, and 168 M-47/M-48s.

The Zulfiqar is the defense industry of Iran's most recent main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

, named after the twin-pointed legendary sword
Zulfiqar "bifurcated" is the sword of the Islamic leader Ali. In Arabic the name is commonly transliterated as Dhu al-Fiqar, Thulfeqar, Dhulfiqar, Zoulfikar etc. The name Zulfiqar means which divides exactly in two parts....

 of Hazrat Ali. Born as the brainchild of Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 Mir-Younes Masoumzadeh, deputy ground force commander for research and self-sufficiency of the armed forces, the vehicle has been developed from major components of the American M-48 tank. One of the features which has drawn the attention of the Defense Ministry is that indigenously-made parts have been used in it. The prototypes of the tank were tested in 1993. Six semi-industrial prototypes were produced and tested in 1997. The IISS estimates that over 100 Zulfiqar 1's and Zulfiqar 3's are now in service.

The main attack helicopter
Attack helicopter
An attack helicopter is a military helicopter with the primary role of an attack aircraft, with the capability of engaging targets on the ground, such as enemy infantry and armored vehicles...

 of the Iranian Army is the AH-1 SuperCobra
AH-1 SuperCobra
The Bell AH-1 SuperCobra is a twin-engine attack helicopter based on the US Army's AH-1 Cobra. The twin Cobra family includes the AH-1J SeaCobra, the AH-1T Improved SeaCobra, and the AH-1W SuperCobra...

. The number of AH-1J's in service was estimated by the IISS in 2009 as 50, though 202 were delivered before the Islamic Revolution. Iran also operates an unknown number of Panha 2091
Panha 2091
-See also:...

 which is an unlicensed, locally-made upgrade of AH-1J.

See also

  • International Rankings of Iran in Military

Further reading

- includes army order of battle as of 1978-79
  • Steven R. Ward, Immortal: a military history of Iran and its armed forces, Georgetown University Press, 2009, ISBN 1589012585, 9781589012585

External links