The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has blitzed across Iraq over the past couple of weeks. The Sunni extremist group threatens the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite and a close ally of Iran.
The Islamic Repulic isn’t taking its chances, and has already sent two units of the Revolutionary Guards into Iraq. These soldiers come from one of the largest and most capable militaries in the region.
Iran’s military has 545,000 active personnel and some of the most advanced technology of anyone in their neighbourhood. The United States gave them a lot of it.
Granted, it wasn’t the Islamic Republic of Iran that we supplied with some of the hottest tech available at the time. Rather, it was a pre-revolutionary monarchy that was a key ally of the United States in the Middle East — and was overthrown in Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Since then, Iran has managed to develop its own military-industrial complex and upgrade its existing arsenal.
And they have gotten pretty good at it.
With Iran’s military jumping into the unfurling chaos in Iraq, we looked at some of the military toys that the Iranians are playing with.
The United States sold 202 of these helicopters to Iran from 1975-1978. As of right now, only around fifty remain in service.
Iran used the helicopters with disputed success in the Iran-Iraq War between 1980 and 1988.
The AH-1W, a similar aircraft, remains a cornerstone of the U.S. Marine Corps' attack helicopter fleet.
The attack helicopter carries a crew of two, reaches a maximum speed of 219 mph, and has a service ceiling of 10,500 feet. It's 53 feet long.
Iran has also built an upgrade the Panha 2091, from AH-1J aircraft. Their efficacy is unknown.
The RIM-66 is a naval missile system designed by the United States and exported to multiple nations.
They entered into service in 1967 and were made by Raytheon. This guided missile system can travel at three-and-a-half times the speed of sound and has an operational range of up to 90 nautical miles.
The Iran Navy has these installed on a number of missile boats and frigates.
This one is unconfirmed, but Iran claims that they have them.
And if they do have the S-300, that's a pretty big deal. Iran has also developed the Bavar 373 system, which it claims has the same capabilities as the S-300.
NATO called the S-300 the S-10 Gladiator. The Soviets developed in the 1970s, and it's been continually upgraded until production ceased in 2011.
It's one of the most potent anti-aircraft missile systems in the field today.
There are even variations that have been designed to intercept ballistic missiles. The radar system can track 100 targets at once, and can simultaneously engage 12 of them.
The 23-foot missiles weigh two tons and have a range of between 56 and 93 miles. They travel at six times the speed of sound. The missile system has never been used in combat as yet, but NATO has trained for that eventuality.
This anti-tank missile is a glimpse into the long, tumultuous history of U.S.-Iranian relations.
Iran got them from the United States in the deal that would later cause the Iran-Contra affair, where the United States facilitated the sale of the TOW missiles to Iran in an attempt to recover hostages, then used the proceeds to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.
From 1986-1986, the United States supplied Iran with over 2,000 TOW missiles.
Manufactured by Raytheon and entering service in 1970, this anti-tank missile has an operational range of up to 3,750 meters.
The TOW missiles were used by American forces in the 2003 assault that killed Uday and Qusay, Sadaam Hussein's sons.
Disconcertingly, Iran has reverse engineered the TOW system to develop their Toophan anti-tank missile, reportedly used by Hezbollah against Israel in the 2006 Lebanon War.
Iran has put a lot of effort into developing domestically manufactured military technology.
The Zufiqar tank is a prime example of what they have been able to accomplish so far.
Named after the legendary sword of the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, the Zufiqar is a 41-ton, 23-foot long battle tank manufactured in Iran by the Shahid Kolah Dooz Industrial Complex.
It's armed with a 12.5 cm tank gun, and carries two machine guns. It can even move at up to 43 miles per hour.
The United States knows that Iran has acquired the F-14 Tomcat.
After all, the U.S. sold it to them.
The Islamic Republic of Iran's Air Force has two squadrons of F-14s, acquired before the Shah of Iran was deposed during the Islamic Revolution.
Iran has the the F-14A, a variant that first flew in December, 1970. The U.S. later sent 79 of the fighter jets to Iran. Fifty-nine remain in service -- maintained thanks to clever reverse engineering.
The interceptor was designed to counter manoeuvrable fighter jets, as well as cruise missiles and bombers.
The Iranian Navy is in possession of operational submarines acquired from the Soviet Union.
They posses three Kilo-class subs, which can dive to a depth of up to 300 meters and can travel for up to 45 days without restocking.
Kilo-class subs are diesel-electric powered, and are around 70 meters long. The Iranian Navy has proven capable of maintaining and repairing these highly complicated vessels without any apparent outside help.
In early 2012, Iran decided against sending their subs to a Russian dry dock for repairs out of fear that the vessels wouldn't be returned.
These vessels are a crucial aspect of Iran's strategy to maintain control of the Strait of Hormuz.
Like much of the rest of the world, Iran has drone fever.
This combat drone was unveiled in late 2010, and details are sketchy.
Iran's State television network has claimed that Karrar -- meaning 'Striker' -- can travel 560 miles per hour, has a range of 620 miles, and can deliver two quarter-ton precision-guided bombs.
It's 13 feet long and, at it's unveiling, Iran's then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that the jet was a 'messenger of death for enemies of mankind.'
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