Iranian Military Motorcycles

Motorcycles and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV)

Motorcycles are omnipresent within the Iranian military, almost defining their preference for fast, non-traditional tactics then for a conventional military. They function almost as modern-day dragoons. Note that this section refers to both two-wheeled bikes as well as 4-wheeled ATV’s, though the former are far more common.

Motor-bikes are deployed throughout the ground forces, in the marines, IRGCGF, and the IRIA. They are commonly deployed at the squad level in hunter-killer teams, such as with a team of 5+ bikes of two men each carrying RPG’s and assault rifles. Other organizations include mechanizing an entire squad or platoon, complete with rifleman, support gunners, and anti-air/tank soldiers. It’s also not uncommon to see a “swarm” of motor-bikes with 10-20 RPG’s and supporting rifleman. Sniper teams are also a common sight on motorbikes.

The exact type of motor-bike varies, though they are often commercial models, such as Honda, converted for military use. One point of note is that they are often unpainted and appear in their bright-red factory finish. One explanation for this might be that they just haven’t been painted yet or that it’s just laziness; another might be that it’s just another camouflage pattern. While this might seem counterintuitive, by blending in with the rest of the thousands of Iranian bikes on any major street, they are better allowing themselves to blend in with the environment they intend to fight in, the urban battleground rather then singling themselves out as a military target. Some videos of exercises actually show Basij and IRGC conducting military drills on motorcycles in a bustling cityscape, giving some indication on how they might be used in urban terrain.

In the war with Iraq, Iran used motorcycles in this manner to destroy Iraqi armor by running circles around the cumbersome tanks with their slow-to-traverse turrets. These tactics depended on the lack of infantry support for the armor, a situation that is unlikely to be the case with any ground battles against US or even GCC Arab states.

This brings up questions of their effectiveness in combat. To get a good idea, we have only look to Iran’s neighbor Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have a long history of using Honda motorcycles as transportation and to mount ambushes against ISAF/NATO and GOA forces. Even the US has taken to deploying motorcycles. The advantage to this is the maneuverability; geography in many parts of Iran, such as the Alborz and Zagros mountains, is similar to that in Afghanistan, and the small mobile motorbikes can go places a tank, APC or even a truck can’t, the same holds true on the opposite type of terrain, within Iranian cities with their twisting alleyways and congested buildings. Another advantage to these systems is that they’re smaller, and by this virtue they attract less attention and are easier to hide then any other vehicle.

Ultimately, as with so many other weapons, their effectiveness depends on their use. If used to set up ambushes and carry hunter-killer teams across cities or mountains the Iranians might have a deadly system, but if used to launch a charge across flatlands they would likely be mowed down by tanks or gunships.

Ranger and Samandar Tactical Vehicles

The Ranger (literally ‘Ranger’/ رنجر rather then the Persian word for ranger as one might expect) as well as the Samandar are light tactical vehicles that are comparable to the US DPV/FAV/LSV with the Samandar being a veritable copy in terms of configuration. Neither vehicle is reported to have entered serial production. Both types are built on a light sand-rail frame and emphasize off-road mobility and speed. Both have a crew of 3 and mount a machinegun. This however remains the only concrete details on the two vehicles. 

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