Monday, September 23, 2013

Sacred Defense Parade

Iran has been celebrating their Sacred Defense Week commemorating the 25 year anniversary of the end of their war with Iraq.  (*see note 1)

Rouhani was in the viewing stand.  Reportedly before the parade he gave a speech calling for a diplomatic approach to the West.  There are lots of wartoys in this video.  As for me I am fascinated with the four-wheeler ATVs.  Most of them have a standing passenger carrying a shoulder launched SAM or antitank rocket launcher.  I looked for the motorcyclists made famous in the Iran-Iraq War carrying a backseater with an RPG dueling with Iraqi tanks, but did not see any.  What really stumped me was the United Nations contingent.  Starting about minute 3:15 there is a detachment of UN or lookalikes – UN vehicles, blue flags, and some guys with blue berets.  I believe there is still a UN team in Iran.  But why would they march in a military parade?  Or more puzzling, why would the Iranians allow it?

There is quite a bit of armor, most were the Iranian built <i>Zulfiqar</i> named after the legendary sword of Ali.  But I thought I saw an American made M-60 or two.  And it looked like there were a couple of old American made Long Tom 175s.  Rockets and missiles got the biggest chunk of parade space.  There were lots of them, scores of different types that I could not ID.  Can anyone identify the boxy looking missile at minute 13:15, or is that some kind of drone?  The IRIN was well represented also.  In addition to some truck mounted models of an Iranian frigate and a submarine, they showed off several fast patrol boats.  Just past minute 15:55 after the sleek looking cigarette boat type patrol craft they show what appears to be a one-man submarine.  There is a better look at it ten seconds later.   And then there are the big ballistic missiles near the end of the video, where the announcer keeps yelling Walla Walla Akbar (*see note 2).  I am sure that segment  will be enough to make some of the right wing chickenhawks in this country wet their diapers.

This was only one part of the parade.  There are two other segments on youtube with bands and various units marching by the reviewing stand.   Long and boring unless you speak Farsi.  Lots of chanting.  Some of the units were wearing a colorful sash that would have made a 19th century European diplomat proud.  Some of the sashes sported tulips, maybe signifying martyrs?   I saw some yellow flags which could signify Hezbollah, or maybe not?  March steps were different in each unit.  Many had a stomp-slide-stomp-slide step.  Only the Navy that I saw did a goose step.  No women in uniform :-( bummer!

note (*1) The war that George W Bush finally won for Iran when he invaded Iraq ten years ago.

note (*2) just a little Washington State humor.


  1. The tanks from 5:33 through 5:42 did look like M-60s. However, they were ratty looking with bent fenders and lacking searchlights and equipment in the basket on the turret.

    This was a motley collection of different types of armor, which would cause difficulties with maintenance and supply. And none of them were actually running. Looked more like they went down to the junk yard and loaded up whatever they could find and put it on a flat bed.

  2. mike-

    Thanks for this post. Takes me back to all those parades down Karl Marx Allee in East Berlin. Agree with Walter Olin on the tanks. I think there were some British Chieftains as well on flatbeds, but none actually running. First time I've seen a big military parade where the APCs and tanks were not actually rumbling down the street . . . of course the last one I watched was here in Portugal and an M-60 tank broke down along the route and actually started on fire . . .

  3. Walter Olin –

    You are right on about the motley collection of armor. I am assuming that the M-60s shown were veterans of the Iran Iraq War which was what this parade was all about. Perhaps that is why they looked so ratty. Even though Wikipedia states there are 150 still in service with the IRIA, I have to believe that today they are mothballed or only in service with reserve units.

    Those M-60s (and the Brit Chieftans as well) did very badly in 1981 in the Dezful tank battle against Soviet built Iraqi tanks. Even though they had M60A1s they were very early models without the later add-ons. They probably had no gun stabilization system, no turret chin armor, no passive IR sights, and no smoke dischargers. And even in 81 they were badly deteriorated by poor maintenance and lack of parts. That battle caused the downfall of Banisadr, I wonder what he is thinking now about the current situation in Iran. He must have been intimately acquainted with Ali Khamenei and Rouhani before he was impeached.

    For sure those IRIA M60s did not have the explosive-reactive-armor (ERA) appliques that were developed later and that the Marine M60A1s used to good effect against Soviet made armor (including some T72s) in Kuwait. The Israelis used M60A1s very well also.

    As a young Pfc 45 to 50 years ago or so I loved the M60 even though I never served in an armored unit. It was comforting to know they were there. Chrysler made in Detroit (May God rest that citys soul).

  4. FDChief - If you are listening:

    I for one would vote overwhelmingly for you to publish in the future one of your great historical battles series on Dezful. It was certainly not a critical success even for the Iraqi winners of that battle as the war raged on for another seven years. But I think it was critical to the later political development of Iran.

    It would make a good one for January.

  5. Seydlitz -

    Fire, yes! The early hydraulic fluids had a low flash point and were extremely flammable. Especially if a hydraulic line came loose or was somehow ruptured and sprayed out a mist in an overheated tank or a wounded one. And the M-60 engines did heat up a bit. IIRC you could cook your CRATs on the engine cover in less than 30 seconds. The same problem was inherent in the M-48s. An early fix was to replace that fluid with one that had a higher flash point. Eventually the industry was able to develop a nonflammable hydraulic fluid.

    Not sure if they have a high pressure version? I remember being paranoid about the leaking hydraulic fluid in the troop compartment of the early CH-53 Sea Stallions in Vietnam.

  6. I was reading an interview with an Iranian tanker of the time and his comment was that his guys liked the US tanks despite the fire problem because for all that the engines were more reliable. His outfit had Chieftans and couldn't move confidently except in winter because the underpowered engine would overheat...

  7. I looked into the First Battle of Dezful, mike, and was reminded forcibly how hard it is to fight modern warfare competently. Basically the Iranian armored units were confined to elevated road embankments in a swamp and failed to recon their routes. The Iraqis dug into the swamps along the roads and just shot hell out of them, and then dropped the pontoon bridge the Iranians had used to cross the Tigris and massacred the survivors.

    So watching this little parade was just kind of sad, from the broken down motley assembly of armor to the antics of the marching units (who the hell thought that stomp-slide-flirty-little-heel-kick thing looked fearsomely military?) it was just one long advertisement for "we are going to get our asses handed to us by any semi-competent First World army"...

  8. Thanks Chief for the info from that Dezful veteran. Is that online somewhere?

    I was mistaken in my earlier answer to Walter Olin. It was the M-48s I was so fond of in Vietnam not the M-60s. I plead a senior moment. But then the M-60 was really just an upgraded M-48 wasn’t it? They were both called the Patton.

    Yeah, the Iranians must have liked the American tanks because the suspension and tranny of their home built Zulfiqar was based on the -48 and the -60. And although it looks like they used a 780hp T-72 engine in the Zulfiqar-I, they must have found that underpowered and went to a 1000hp AVDS1790 for their –III version. Hmmm, I thought that AVDS1790 was American made. How did they get them in 1996, or maybe they were made overseas in a third country by license? Or maybe wiki has a typo?

  9. The M-48, 1790 diesel version, was used in RVN. 90 mm main gun, .50 cal on the cupola, 7.62 coax machine gun. Mechanical parallax range finder which worked quit well. T-type blast deflector which reflected the shock wave back into the face of the tank commander. Really sucked, and was good for your hearing later in life.

    Gasoline version was used in Korea till October 1970 when new M-60s arrived.

    The M-60 was similar. Originally with a 105 main gun, later fitted with a 120, the machine guns and range finder were the same as the 48. The hull was different with a knife edge front rather than the rounded nose of the 48. 1790 diesel engine.

    Same track on both.

    The M-48 chassis was also used as a foundation for the M-88 VTR, and to carry a scissors bridge. The bridges in the video maybe sitting on a 48 shell, but I couldn't tell.

    I don't remember any discussion at the armor school, or talking to returning Vietnam tankers, about the hydraulic fluids being a fire risk. Certainly seems reasonable. The gasoline M-48 was dangerous because the fuel lines would start to leak as they aged. We had one that broke a line, the driver hit the kill switch, and the engine backfired and lit the gas. Had a full load of main gun rounds.

  10. Walter Olin -

    Did the crew make it out?

    Regarding my comment about flammable hydraulic fluids, I had forgotten where I picked that up so I googled it, This link at National Defense Magazine by a TACOM chemist is not the original source but it explains it 1000% better:

    1. Yes they did, there were brown streaks leading away from the tank. Our fire department was manned by Korean civilians, as they pulled up next to the tank, the first round went off, and they added more streaks. Nobody got hurt.

  11. Hi Mike,

    Cool video! I can explain a couple of things:

    The UN vehicles are from Iran's peacekeeping unit. They have a dedicated "blue hat" unit which deployed, at one point, to Sudan. Not sure if they are doing anything now.

    The 4-wheeler ATV and similar systems are popular with the IRGC. They also have a bunch of two-man jet ski's with one guy driving and the other guy with an RPG. Mobility is a great thing, but I'm not sure how effective such things will be in a real war.

    I'm not familiar with the boxy looking missile. Definitely not a drone - it looks to me like some kind of air-dropped cluster munition (it's got the Iranian Air Force label), but that's just a guess. It was in the parade last April as well:

    The one-man-sub at 15:15 is a variant of the swimmer delivery vehicle called the "Al Sabehat 15"

    The "down with Israel" sign in English at 19:30 is nice touch ;)

    The yellow flags I saw weren't Hezbollah, but run-of-the-mill flags with shia-related religious quotes which were especially popular during the Iran-Iraq war, which is fitting for this parade.

  12. Thanks Andy, I appreciate your great insights. The two models of a frigate(?) and a submarine, any ideas if they are models of the new Iranian built Sahand and Besat Class?

  13. mike: Here's the link -

  14. Chief -

    Amazing that Fourazan only had to serve one year in uniform during a war that lasted eight (or was it almost nine 1980-1988?) years. But then someone probably realized he was much more valuable as a practicing engineer than a tank unit commander. I put McCaul's recommendation of the Bulloch/Morris book, The Gulf War on my reading list.

    The O'Ballance book (again of the same title) supposedly covers military operarions in detail and much better than the other but is expensive and again was published I believe just before the end of that war. Alas neither my local library nor the one in Seattle carry them. Supposedly Cordesman's has a book on the subject: Volume 2 of his series on The Lessons of Modern War.