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Iran Unveils New Tank-Killing Ground Drones

Kyle Mizokami
Photo credit: Hossein Zohrevand

From Popular Mechanics

  • Iran introduced new unmanned 6x6 ground drones.
  • The armed drones are primitive but could be used to kill tanks and armored vehicles.
  • Although invented by Iran, they will probably escape into the wild and eventually fall into the hands of groups that Iran supports throughout the Middle East.

The Iranian Army recently showed off a small remote-controlled military vehicle on Twitter that could prove a big danger to tanks and vehicles with troops riding in them. The Heidar-1 unmanned ground vehicle can be driven under an adversary’s military vehicle, detonating an explosive charge that vents upward, disabling the vehicle. The Army also showed off a drone armed with an assault rifle that is considerably less impressive and less dangerous

The drones were revealed in a post by the Iranian military to Twitter. The account, according to C4ISRNET, is run by the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Ground Forces, also known as NEZAJA. The Heidar-1 is a low-slung 6x6 unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) with a pair of antennas or cameras mounted on pedestals. There appear to be two armed versions of the vehicle.

One version of the Heidar-1 appears to have an Iranian KLS AK-47-style assault rifle mounted on top. The rifle is mounted upside down, in order to accommodate a long, banana-shaped 40 round magazine. This implies there is some sort of camera on the vehicle to allow it to aim, at least in some rudimentary sense. Nevertheless there doesn't appear to be any kind of precise aiming system, limiting this version of the Heidar-1 to producing suppressive fire meant to keep an adversary's head down.

The second drone attacks “armored units” and is likely a suicide drone designed to drive underneath a tank or armored vehicle and detonate an explosive charge straight up into the tank’s lighter belly armor. This could include explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), anti-tank weapons that use explosions to create a high-speed jet of molten copper capable of penetrating heavy armor. Iranian forces allegedly provided EFP technology to Iraqi insurgents, which then used them against U.S. vehicle patrols.

The idea of a suicide drone that drives under a tank is not new. In World War II, the Soviet Army trained tank-killing dogs by feeding them underneath the hulls of tanks. The dogs could then be fitted with an explosive charge, denied food, and then let loose on the battlefield. The dogs would then head to the nearest tank—ideally a German one—and a contact fuse would detonate the dog’s explosive charge.

Photo credit: Fox Photos - Getty Images

The German Army built a similar weapon, the Goliath tracked mine, but used a small, tracked vehicle the size of a desk instead of a dog. Allied forces first encountered the remote-controlled Goliath at the Anzio beachhead in early 1944. Although definitely more humane, the Goliath was not considered a success due to its slow speed.

The Heidar-1 UGVs are behind the times. U.S. forces already operate a wide variety of electromagnetic radiation jammers, developed in response to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are designed to interrupt everything from cell phones to remote control signals. If a U.S. Army patrol thought it was anywhere near a UGV, it would jam the local airwaves and stop a vehicle like Heidar-1 cold.

Still, Iranian military equipment tends to get into the hands of its regional proxies, including Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Israeli, Saudi, UAE, and other forces may encounter Heidar-1s, or something very much like them in the near future, meaning those countries too will have to field a countermeasure—if they haven’t already.

Iran will also undoubtedly improve the design. As a relatively inexpensive but potentially potent weapon, the Heidar-1 could cause a lot of damage for not a lot of money. Expect to see more drones like this in the near future.

Source: C4ISRNet

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