The Revolutionary Guards: An Introduction

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most important institution. The military-security institution commands huge influence in every aspect of Iranian public life, from culture and the environment to the economy, politics and judicial process. Whatever the field or area, the IRGC is not required to report to anybody and is answerable to no one.

The IRGC was created early after the 1979 Islamic Revolution by the order of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Its declared mission was to safeguard the revolution and its accomplishments. As the years have gone by, it has expanded its sphere of activities. The entities under its control have multiplied to such a degree that it now operates effectively as a parallel government. It interferes in all current affairs of the country and it aims to have control over every aspect of the way Iran is run.

In a series of reports, IranWire presents a detailed portrait of this powerful and mysterious institution and, for the first time, identifies and explains all bodies, institutions and other entities operating under the umbrella of the Revolutionary Guards, at the same time outlining its activities through an infographic and an interactive diagram.

The infographic is a visual representation of the Guards’ organizational structure and presents all institutions under the control of IRGC in one map. It resembles a family tree, a portrait of the IRGC with all its children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — a dramatic picture of power in Iran today.

In the interactive diagram, the viewer is able to use the mouse to see how various entities under the control of the Guards emerged, and how they are connected — exactly like a family tree.

IranWire has aimed for this series and the overall project to be informative and a solid research tool. But it is not perfect, and there will always be room for updates, enhancements and further information. We welcome your views, ideas and knowledge, so please do get in touch.


The IRGC Aerospace Force(Nirooy-e Hava Faza-ye Sepah)

The IRGC’s Aerospace Force (or NEHSA) was created on September 17,1985, when then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued an order to create the three branches of the IRGC: The Navy, Ground Forces, and Air Force.

During the first years after the 1979 Revolution, the IRGC Air Force was small and only involved in transporting regime officials via Mehrabad Airport in Tehran. The unit played no part during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). According to Mohsen Rezaei, chief commander of the IRGC during the war, there were several plans to establish an IRGC navy and air force in the early 1980’s, but none of the plans came to fruition until Khomeini gave his order. According to Rezaei several military and political leaders objected to the plans, but immediately after Khomeini’s order, the IRGC commanders started training programs for the operation of ballistic missiles, surface-to-surface missiles, anti-ballistic missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, and piloting for jets and helicopters.   

The military division of the IRGC Air Force was established in 1989, and became active after it borrowed fighter jets from the army. After the end of the war in 1988, the IRGC’s main priority was to expand its military presence by establishing missile bases across the country.

The second phase of the expansion took place in 2009, when the IRGC’s space program started and transformed its air force into the IRGC Aerospace Force.

The most recent phase was in 2015, when the IRGC’s Aerospace Force handed its helicopter fleet to the newly established IRGC Aviation Unit (Nirooy-e Havanirooz) of the IRGC Ground Forces. The IRGC Aerospace Force has expanded its influence in Iran and the region through developing new missiles. The IRGC commanders claim that they have the strongest missile capacity in the Middle East and rank seventh strongest missile force in the world.


Chief Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force

The supreme leader, as the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, appoints the chief commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force upon the recommendation of the chief commander of the IRGC. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh has been chief commander of the Aerospace Force since October 2009. Former commanders were: Musa Rafan (September 1985-May 1990), Hussein Dehghan (May 1990-January 1992), Mohammad-Hussein Jalali (January 1992-November 1997), Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf (November 1997-July 2000), Ahmad Kazemi (July 2000-September 2005), Alireza Zahedi (September 2005-February 2006), and Hussein Salami (February 2006-October 2009).


The Aerospace Force structure

The Aerospace Force is organized and managed through commanding headquarters, located in Chitgar, Tehran. The force’s four military subunits are: ballistic missiles, anti-aircraft warfare, fighter jets and helicopters, and  drones. The deputy commander of the force is appointed by the chief commander of the IRGC. Other divisions include coordinator, operations, cultural, and public relations and publications. 


The Supreme Leader’s Representative in the IRGC Aerospace Force

The supreme leader’s representative in the IRGC Aerospace Force is appointed by the supreme leader’s representative in the IRGC. The representative has his own office and is responsible for the appointment of the head of public relations and promotions within the force.


Airborne Operations Command (Farmandeh Amaliat-e Hava’ee)

The Airborne Operations Command conducts airborne support operations for other IRGC forces. The center has one helicopter department, and three airplane departments: logistics, transportation, and war. One of the center’s most important tasks is supplying aerial emergency help at times of natural disasters such as flood, earthquake and fire.


Missile Systems (Samaneha-ye Mooshaki)

The Iranian surface-to-surface missile program is exclusively orchestrated by the IRGC Aerospace Force. It has two missile systems, Sam VI and HQ II. These systems are controlled by the Aerospace Defense Unit and operate in coordination with the Khatam-al-Anbia airbase of the Islamic Republic’s Air Force.


Missile Cities (Shahrha-ye Mooshaki)

During recent years, the Aerospace Force has unveiled three missile cities, but, according to IRGC commanders, the force owns and operates even more secret “missile cities.” According to  IRGC commanders, “These cities are built in the hillside of high altitude mountains, 500 meters below the ground surface and contain missiles with different ranges. The missiles are installed on launchers and are ready to be launched within a few seconds.”

The IRGC officials have also talked about the existence of between 300 and 500 underground missile depots across the country, but it is not clear how many of them belong to the IRGC Aerospace Force.


The Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces

The Chief Commander of the IRGC

The Supreme Leader’s Representative in the IRGC

The IRGC Security and Intelligence Agencies

The IRGC's Social, Cultural, Scientific and Educational Institutions

The IRGC Commercial and Financial Institutions-(Khatam-al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters)

The IRGC Commercial and Financial Institutions-(Bonyad-e Ta’avon-e Sepah)

The IRGC Headquarters

The IRGC Provincial Corps

The IRGC Ground Forces

The IRGC Quds Force

The IRGC Navy

The IRGC Aerospace Force

The Organization for the Mobilization of the Oppressed 

The Basij Cooperative Foundation 

Cyberspace Institutions and The Physical Training Organization of the Basij

Basij Headquarters and Military Organizations

Basij Social and Cultural Organizations

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps: Structure and Missions


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