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Forbes: Iraq latest Middle East country to modernize old tanks


Over the summer, Iraq unveiled its domestically-built Khafil-1 tank. The tank is a heavily modified and modernized version of the vintage T-55/Type 59 tanks that have long been in the Iraqi Army’s arsenal, Paul Iddon of Forbes reported.

The Khafil-1 has a new and smaller turret and more modern reactive armor to protect its crew from RPGs or anti-tank missiles, a crucially important feature for the kind of conflicts the Iraqi Army fights, and a remote-controlled machine gun.


By extensively modernizing its T-55/Type 59s to more adequately deal with the kind of threats its forces will most likely face for the foreseeable future, Baghdad has undoubtedly prolonged the lifespan and usage of what are otherwise very antiquated tanks.

Other states in the Middle East have modernized and upgraded their older tanks for similar reasons.

For example, Egypt has a large arsenal of vintage T-54/55 and T-62s, many of which it has in storage. Cairo successfully prolonged the life of some of its T-54s by heavily modifying them and making a new variant called the Ramses II.


The Ramses II is a T-54 outfitted with both the engine and gun of the American M60, of which Egypt operates well over 1,000 of to this day.

Iran has also modified and built its own version of various tanks for years now. Beginning in 1996, it began building the Zulfiqar family of tanks. Three versions have been built to date. Iran likely developed the tank from components of older American M60 Patton and Russian T-72 tanks, both of which Iran has operated over the years. 

The tank also bears a striking resemblance to the U.S. M1 Abrams tank, which Iran has never possessed. One overview of the Zulfiqar 3 noted that the layout is also very similar. 

Other Iranian tanks borrow heavily from the design of foreign armor. For example, Iran’s Mobarez tank is an upgraded domestically-built variant of the British Chieftain tank, of which Iran operated several since the 1970s.