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Iran finds a Chinese route to sell deadly thermal sniper sights

Published: Updated:

It’s a piece of equipment that militants covet and gives them lethal accuracy: thermal sniper sights. They allow them to pick them targets from far away and in any climatic condition, night or day.

Iran has now waded into this space quietly and its military is touting the RU60G sniper sight and its family of other sights “as a great indigenous optical achievement”, the Daily Beast reports.

The equipment is getting publicized in “state-linked news outlets, propaganda documentaries, and selfies with senior officers.”

But the RU60G sight, and its larger versions - RU90G and RU120G – were first publicly displayed at Iran’s International Police Safety & Security Equipment Exhibition in Tehran and were touted as an indigenous product by Rayan Roshd Afzar, an Iranian defense company.

Celebration aside, the new sniper sight was supposed to help Iranian forces to neutralizet militants in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan provinces and in the mountains of Iranian Kurdistan to deal with Islamist and Kurdish nationalist insurgencies.

The Daily Beast covered the trail of how this technology thermal sniper sight got the Iranian label and found that of one of Iran’s largest defense contractors registered a shell firm in Beijing to invest in Chinese optics manufacturing.

Battlefield advantages

The advantages of using the equipment on the battlefield are many. The thermal sniper sights allow users see targets during day, night, and in extreme weather conditions. It can help the user see through most kinds of smokescreens, spot camouflaged targets, and even tell if a vehicle is running or idle.

The Daily Beast found that Mohsen Parsajam, chairman of Rayan Roshd Afzar had registered a business in 2013 in Beijing. Two years later, RU-series sights began appearing abroad. That April, Parsajam’s company took an ownership stake in Sanhe Haobang Optoelectronic Equipment Co., Ltd, a Chinese company owned by Chinese national Emily Liu.

Sanhe registered websites for Raybeam Optronics and many other companies. On Alibaba e-commerce website, Raybeam began marketing military optical equipment from its factory, including a series of sights identical to the RU60G and the RU90G/120G—relabeled as the “RB60G” and “RB90/120G”.

Houthi militants

In 2016 and 2017 Raybeam exhibited extensively at arms shows across the world. Now Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen are seen carrying weapons equipped with the RU60G sniper sight as they fight the Arab coalition forces.

But then in mid-2017, US sanctions caught up with Liu and Raybeam. The US Treasury Department also sanctioned Rayan Roshd and Parsjam. Parsajam, for “obtained a range of military-applicable items from China.”

Although no one has been able to pinpoint how much of the sniper sight’s production took place in Raybeam’s facilities in China, products traceable to Liu’s network of companies have surfaced abroad. The Daily Beast found a host of advertisements in Syrian rebel arms markets on Telegram advertising both the RU60G and its components.

The report also says Raybeam products are still on sale, including the infrared lenses used in the RU-family of sights. Complete sights can l be purchased from Chinese vendors and Sanhe Haobang continues to file patent applications for new technologies.