The Iranian Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics has released photographs of what appears to be pre-production examples of the Karrar T-72 upgrade. The photographs were taken during Defense Minister Amir Hatami’s visit to the production line at the Bani-Hashem Armour Industrial Complex near Dorud on 13 August, where he inaugurated the production line.
The Karrars which appear in the photographs appear to be in varying states of assembly, with one of them, bare of any explosive reactive armor (ERA), showing off the Karrar’s new welded turret, reminiscent of the T-90A’s welded turret. The mounting points for the ERA on the tank’s glacis plate suggest that the ERA is quite thick, albeit with small tiles, being nearly double the thickness of the Kontakt-1 ERA found on Iran’s current T-72s.
Additional photos were released of a Karrar performing gunnery testing, although no details were provided as to when and where the photos were taken.
Asides from the welded turret and new glacis ERA layout, other features of the Karrar include a new ERA package for the hull sides and cage armor over the rear, a new gunner’s sight, as well a new remote controlled weapons system for the tank commander with what appears to be an attached independent commander’s sight.
The Karrar upgrade was first unveiled in August 2016, seemingly as a response to the unveiling of the Russian T-90MS and indeed bearing a strong external resemblance to it. However, it was later discovered that it merely had ERA mounted on the original T-72S’ cast turret in a manner that resembled that of the T-90MS. The welded turret version would be unveiled in March 2017, and was described to state media at the time as being production-ready. However, little else has been heard from the project, until now.
While Iranian media has claimed that most of the T-72Ss currently in service will be upgraded to this new standard, the odds of it happening soon are decidedly murky. Iran has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the international arms embargo on Iran seems set to expire in October, that hardly fixes the financial shortfall the Islamic Republic will face as it struggles to regain its economic footing.