It’s Official! Russian MoD Confirms Using Iran’s 122mm HE-FRAG Rockets Used For Its BM-21 Grad MRLS

For the first time, an official video published by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) showed that Iranian-origin 122mm shells were used in the Russian BM-21 Grad Multiple Rocket Launch System (MLRS).

Shortly after the video was published, an account called ‘Ukraine Weapons Tracker’ on Platform X said Iranian 122mm HE-FRAG rockets of the Arash family were used for BM-21 Grad MRLS, an assertion it made in late August.

The Iranian 122mm Arash-1 rocket is a high-explosive (HE) electrically launched, surface-to-surface, fin and spin-stabilized fragmentation rocket dupe of the Russian BM-21 Grad rocket. Iranian 120mm mortar rounds are distinguishable by their bright brown color, location of powder charges, and unique markings.

Moreover, they are often contained in typical munitions transportation containers, as pointed out by military watchers on multiple occasions.

Although the flow of weapon systems and ammunition from Iran has been an object of discussion for over a year, Russia has often shied away from confirming the speculations. In August, photographs of the Iranian 122mm rockets floating online indicated that they were produced in 2018 and 2023.

Previously, analysts argued that these shells, which were shipped to Iran more than 30 years ago, were produced in China in 1986. According to the marking on the box, the ammunition was updated with Iranian-made propellant charges in 2018 after the Iranian arms industry fixed it due to its deteriorating condition.

EurAsian Times could not independently corroborate these claims, which neither country officially accepted. However, the Iranian Arash family is a series of unguided artillery rockets developed based on the Soviet-designed BM-21 “Grad.”

The older weapon, which has been used for over 50 years, can launch up to 40 unguided rockets from a truck’s bed. The Grad has been widely used, copied, and modified over the past 60 years due to its simple design and quick distribution of a massive explosive payload. Both Russia and Ukraine have deployed it.

A set of reports indicated that Ukraine was using Iranian 122mm high-explosive mortar rounds for its own Grad MRLS produced in 2022. Since Iran does not supply arms to Ukraine, there were speculations that Kyiv may have obtained them from the United States, which routinely intercepts and seizes Iranian-origin ammunition allegedly smuggled to Yemen and redirects it to Ukraine instead.

BM-21 Grad - Wikipedia
BM-21 Grad – Wikipedia

The official confirmation of using Iranian 122mm shells is significant for Russia at a time when speculations are rife that Tehran has become the biggest supplier of ammunition to the Russian Federation. Russia has allegedly been buying ammunition, barrels, and drones from Iran.

Russia widely deployed Iran’s Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 drones to strike Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure last year. These cheap and expendable drones managed to wreak havoc on Kyiv by crippling its energy infrastructure the previous winter. They have been touted as an effective alternative to expensive Russian precision missiles.

Iran continues to supply Moscow militarily despite being slapped with additional sanctions by the United States and its peers in the West. A recent Institute of Study of War (ISW) report stated that Iran and Russia could soon sign a drone and missile sale agreement following the expiration of UN missile restrictions on October 18.

EurAsian Times had earlier reported that Iran was considering options to arm Russia with ballistic missiles. This was also confirmed by ISW, which said that Ukrainian and Israeli intelligence reports indicate that Russia seeks to acquire Iran’s Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles, which have ranges of 300 kilometers or more.”

In return for its consistent military supplies, Tehran has allegedly been promised the delivery of Russia’s Su-35 fighter jets for its vintage Air Force. However, they haven’t been delivered yet, contravening the planned delivery schedule. Iran is believed to be making big money from Russia’s global isolation.

Iran’s Military Supply To Russia On Track

In June this year, a purported arms contract was obtained by Sky News, which reportedly offered the first hard evidence that Iran has sold ammunition to Russia in the ongoing Ukraine war. These claims have been made since the initial months of the invasion.

The document, dated September 2022 and running 16 pages, appears to be for artillery, tank, and rocket sample packs totaling slightly over $1 million (£800,000). The publication also provided a five-page supposedly related contract that included ammo rounds and barrels for a Howitzer artillery piece and a T-72 tank. It was estimated to be worth around US$740,000 (£590,000).

Two 125mm barrels for a T72 tank’s 2A46M cannon, each costing US$85,750, and two 122mm barrels for a D-30 Howitzer artillery piece, each costing US$54,750, were among the samples of ammunition and weapons included in a table on page 5 of the supplemental section.

File Image: Russian and Iranian Leaders

The supplement also listed parts of ammunition that were supposed to be sent in the future, including 12 pieces, respectively, of the “shell body” and “brass case” of 122mm and 152mm ammunition.

Since the document is more than a year old, there is all likelihood that several pieces of Iranian shell, including the 122mm HE-FRAG rockets, have made their way into Russia since.

There were claims that Moscow could purchase at least 40,000 122mm and 14,000 152mm artillery rounds from Iran. However, there was no way these numbers could be verified unless admitted by either side part of the transaction.

The Biden administration published in June unclassified government graphics demonstrating how Iranian drones are transported to two Russian air facilities across the Caspian Sea. While the delivery of Iranian drones to Russia has received extensive media coverage, other military transfers between the two partners have gone unnoticed.

Since the country continues to rely on artillery for ground attacks on Ukraine, using Iranian 122mm HE-FRAG rockets may not be a surprise. The Russian video, thus, provides a peek into the Iranian-Russian cooperation.