Iran to Manufacture, Upgrade up to 800 Tanks -Deputy Minister

July 18 (Reuters) – Iran intends to manufacture or upgrade up to 800 tanks, the Tasnim news agency quoted Deputy Defense Minister Reza Mozaffarinia as saying on Wednesday.

He did not specify the type of tanks he was referring to, or how many would fit into each category.

“The upgrade and manufacture of 700 to 800 tanks has been planned,” he was quoted as saying. “Annually there are 50 to 60 tanks manufactured and a sufficient budget has been allocated because the army and Revolutionary Guards have a great need.”

While the United States and European powers have long sought to curb Iran’s ballistic missile program but its conventional military forces are thought to be weaker than its main regional rival Saudi Arabia.

According to the CIA factbook, Iran’s military expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 2.69 percent in 2015 and Saudi Arabia’s 9.86 percent in 2016.

In a December report, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Iran would modernize and rebalance its conventional forces “to reflect lessons learned in Syria.”

Iran has been fighting in Syria in support of the government of president Bashar al-Assad since 2012.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; editing by John Stonestreet)