The Remote Control Assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh: Beware the Killer Robots

This big teddy bear of a guy was actually Iran’s chief nuclear bomb maker.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was an Iranian scientist born in 1958 in Qom, Iran. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, he joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In 1987 he earned his BS in nuclear physics from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. Literally translated Shahid Beheshti supposedly means “Martyr Paradise.” I would find it a bit unsettling to attend “Martyr Paradise University” myself. If nothing else I doubt it was much of a party school. He later earned a Ph.D. in nuclear radiation and cosmic rays.

The Iranians seem absolutely rabid to join the nuclear club. Given their unfettered institutional antipathy toward Israel, the Israelis find this prospect justifiably unsettling.

Fakhrizadeh technically taught physics at the Imam Hossein University. However, in 2007 the CIA announced that this was simply a cover story. Apparently, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was actually scrambling madly to build a nuclear bomb.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was the public face of the Iranian nuclear program.

The AMAD Project ran from 1989 until 2003 and was suspected of being the cover for an Iranian nuclear weapon program. The Iranian government denied its existence, but keep in mind that these are some sneaky rascals. Fakhrizadeh subsequently founded the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND). I have no idea how they got that acronym out of that name. I don’t read Farsi. Fakhrizadeh was SPND’s director from 2008 until 2011.

One can only speculate as to how fascinating this technical conference might have been.

Fakhrizadeh also chaired FEDAT, the Field for the Expansion of Development of Advanced Technology. That acronym I can understand. I’m pleased to see that the creation of bizarre acronyms is not solely an American disease. While the Iranian government has claimed throughout that their nuclear program is entirely peaceful, apparently somebody else felt otherwise. This all came to a head one fateful day in November of 2020.

The Attack

This is Qasem Soleimani. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think this guy looks like the Devil.

Fakhrizadeh was a strategic national asset for Iran, and everybody involved knew that there were forces at play in both the US and Israel who felt that the world might be better off without him. Donald Trump came to a similar conclusion about Qasem Soleimani and blew him straight to hell. Soleimani was known locally as “The Shadow Commander” due to his propensity to skulk about killing people, equipping terrorists, and generally fomenting chaos. Good riddance.

This part of the Middle East is literally forever at war. Truly, it never ever stops.

In the year leading up to November 20, 2020, tensions escalated between Iran and the US as well as Iran and Israel. There were rumors of a pending assassination attempt, but these reports got lost in the mind-boggling clutter that is intelligence gathering in the Information Age. There has been some fairly impressive retrospective self-flagellation in Iran as a result.

The Fakhrizadeh hit was undeniably elegant in its execution. Somebody really outdid themselves on this one.

Fakhrizadeh’s security team begged him not to travel. However, he had an important meeting and claimed he also needed to lecture his students. He was traveling on a rural road in his Nissan Teana near Absard between Tehran and his weekend villa. His Nissan was part of a three-vehicle convoy. He had eleven trained security operatives in tow and sat alongside his wife. Along a deserted stretch of road, the little convoy approached a Nissan truck parked on the shoulder. During a subsequent debriefing, the security forces claimed it looked like the pickup truck was carrying a load of wood.

Ewww…gross.

The attack lasted less than three minutes. Fakhrizadeh was shot a total of thirteen times from a range of 150 yards. His chief security officer purportedly threw himself on top of the Iranian scientist and caught four rounds for his trouble. Fakhrizadeh’s wife was sitting some ten inches away and was unharmed. Apparently, Fakhrizadeh was hit, climbed out of the car, and was then cut to pieces. The gun clearly tracked him as he moved. Once the attack was complete the Nissan pickup truck simply exploded.

The intrinsic precision of the Fakhrizadeh attack was just incredible.

In the immediate aftermath, the Iranian government spun an elaborate yarn about multiple attackers and a suicide bomb. They claimed that three bodyguards died while either three or four of the attackers were killed. They even dredged up a few witnesses who corroborated part of the story, claiming that the suicide bomber lingered on for a bit after the blast before succumbing to his injuries. Apparently, all of that was made up.

The Fakhrizadeh killing proved that it’s a brave new world out there.

The Fars News Agency later reported that Fakhrizadeh had actually been killed by some kind of killer robot. They stated that a remotely-controlled machinegun linked to Israel by satellite and utilizing both Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition had identified Fakhrizadeh and gunned him down. A subsequent article in The Jewish Chronicle quoted unnamed intelligence sources claiming that the attack was indeed the work of the Israeli Mossad using a remote-controlled automatic weapon. Holy crap.

The Fakhrizadeh assassination reflected a remarkable degree of sophistication.

The article went on to state that the entire system weighed about a ton and was smuggled into Iran in small components before being assembled and deployed. They asserted that it was Fakhrizadeh’s predictability in going to his villa every Friday that ultimately killed him. The operation purportedly involved some twenty individuals between Mossad operators and disaffected Iranian resistance fighters. The Chronicle article claimed that there were actually operatives onsite but that the explosive destruction of the gun was adequate to cover their escape. We’ll likely never really know the details.

The Iranians claimed that their favorite nuclear bomb scientist also developed their own home-grown COVID vaccine. While that is some sweet sentiment, I remain skeptical. Conjuring life-saving vaccines and building atomic weapons require some very different skillsets.

After his untimely death, the Iranians even announced that this Ph.D. physicist with a specialty in nuclear radiation and cosmic rays was actually the primary force behind the Iranian COVID-19 test and vaccine. Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami went so far as to say that Fakhrizadeh had made “great strides in the field of developing COVID-19 vaccine.” He added that the center led by Fakhrizadeh went through the first phase of clinical human trials in the field of developing corona vaccine and “did great things for our dear people.” I struggle to believe that, however. The Iranian government lies a lot.

Modern life is complicated. Getting really good at something requires some degree of specialization.

I’m no scientist myself, but in my experience, nuclear physicists do not develop vaccines. Those are two very different disciplines. It would be like having an auto mechanic regulate your cardiac medications or your plumber cook your meals. Once again, consider the source.

The Weapon

I thought The Jackal was a simply epic movie. If you haven’t seen it give it a watch. You’ll thank me later.

The 1997 thriller The Jackal starred Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, and Jack Black and orbited around a shadowy international assassin who used a remote-controlled machinegun to try to take out a high-value target. This was one of Jack Black’s first major roles. Though the critics were not kind to the film, I thought it was awesome. At the time it seemed fairly far-fetched. Nowadays it appears technology has caught up with the filmmaker’s vision.

The CROWS is a tactical game-changer. This nifty trinket allows the US warfighter to run his primary weapon system from under cover. However, it is no great technological leap to let Snuffy run that same gun from the comfort of his living room.

The CROWS (Common Remotely Operated Weapon System) is a fixture on US military vehicles operating downrange today. The CROWS will host a variety of automatic weapons and allows the operator to deliver effective fires while under armor. Whether it is an Mk19 automatic grenade launcher, an M240 GPMG, or a Ma Deuce .50-caliber machinegun, the CROWS allows more accurate fire while keeping the friendly operator safe.

The Talon from Paradigm SRP is a drop-in remotely-operated precision weapon mount.

The Talon gyrostabilized weapon mount from Paradigm SRP takes things one step farther. The Talon compensates for movement to provide a stable and accurate firing platform even from a maneuvering vehicle. The mount accepts a variety of conventional rifles and machineguns and has an effective range in excess of 700 meters. The Talon was originally designed to operate off of helicopters, though it is comparably at home on ground or maritime mounts as well.

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh may seem a small thing in a geopolitical sense. It isn’t. This remote killing signals a sea change in covert direct action operations. The mind boggles as to where this technology could take us.

As soon as mounts like the Talon could be operated wirelessly they could be managed from anywhere in the world. A system like the Talon could be placed in an ambush position and left for a protracted period of time before a target or vehicle came within range. Solar cells could even free you from battery constraints. Powerful long-distance cameras allow the host weapon to be accurately and precisely targeted.

I’m fairly certain this improvised killer robot began life as some little kid’s Power Wheels ride-on toy.

Remotely operated weapons are actually becoming more and more common in the internecine conflicts that seem to define the Middle East and elsewhere. I couldn’t find any specific references to the weapon system used in the Fakhrizadeh hit beyond that it might have been built around a modified FN MAG gun. However, I did find images of a wide variety of improvised remote-controlled gun stations.

Behold, the tasteless DIY skateboard of death.
You need not have particularly mad tech skills to improvise one of these things out of stuff you can order off of Amazon.
A disposable gun, a little scrap steel, a cellular camera, and some servos are really all you need to build your own killer robot at home.
Teleoperated weapon systems are the wave of the future in the exploding field of remote control assassination. It’s clearly a growth industry.

The current term is “teleoperated weapon systems,” and they are rapidly becoming commonplace. Several companies make commercial versions like the Paradigm SRP Talon and Smart-Shooter Smash Hopper. However, the most impressive to me are the homebuilt improvised DIY versions. The ready availability of inexpensive servos, immensely capable high-resolution cameras, and widespread cell coverage make improvising these things ever easier. Anyone with an Internet connection and a credit card can track down the components. 

Wow. Just wow. What a waste.

I found references to improvised mounts using SVD Dragunov sniper rifles, FN FALs, PKM light machineguns, MG74 LMGs, and AKM rifles. All that is required is to construct a gimbaling mount, equip it with a remotely accessible video camera, and rig a solenoid to the trigger assembly. Surplus rifles can be used to build these things up on the cheap. The most compelling example I found came out of Syria and was built around a WW2-era MP44 assault rifle.

The WW2-vintage German MP44 is the gift that keeps on giving. Apparently, folks are still killing each other with these things even today in Syria.

Syrian rebels purportedly captured around 5,000 of these vintage weapons from Syrian government stocks. A friend who has been over there recently tells me that these classic guns sell for between $25 and $50 apiece. However, he said magazines are rare and 7.92x33mm ammunition is all but nonexistent. Suffice to say that transferable examples on this side of the pond are quite a bit spendier.

Ruminations

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was indeed a setback for the Iranian nuclear program.

Whoever carried this out covered their tracks beautifully. Without a literal and figurative smoking gun, Iran cannot retaliate without risking a massive international outcry. Meanwhile, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh remains quite very dead. 

Iranian honor guards are such snappy dressers. I’m particularly digging the spiffy white disco boots.

It is only a matter of time before the Iranians do indeed complete an operational nuclear weapon. It may yet take a while, but the fateful day is coming when Iran joins the rarefied ranks of nuclear-capable nations. Let us hope that when that time comes cooler heads prevail and the Iranians do not opt to exercise their sparkly new plaything. If recent events are any indicator, however, the Israelis, or whoever it was that actually ganked Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, will be thoroughly prepared come what may. Lord help us all.

Personally, I suspect the Iranians are using their nuclear weapons program primarily to wrest concessions out of the West. Nobody in their right mind would want to touch off one of these puppies in Israel given the inevitable and overwhelming retaliatory carnage that would invariably ensue. However, the Iranians have a long and illustrious history of being institutionally out of their minds. We live in such fascinating times.

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About the author: Will Dabbs A native of the Mississippi Delta, Will is a mechanical engineer who flew UH1H, OH58A/C, CH47D, and AH1S aircraft as an Army Aviator. He has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning and summited Mount McKinley, Alaska, six times…always at the controls of an Army helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains. Major Dabbs eventually resigned his commission in favor of medical school where he delivered 60 babies and occasionally wrung human blood out of his socks. Will works in his own urgent care clinic, shares a business build-ing precision rifles and sound suppressors, and has written for the gun press since 1989. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three awesome adult children, and teaches Sunday School. Turn-ons include vintage German machineguns, flying his sexy-cool RV6A airplane, Count Chocula cereal, and the movie “Aliens.”

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Scott September 20, 2021, 8:59 pm

    You know….”The Jackal” was not a great movie but the choice of a KPV was cool and Bruce Willis and Jack Black make it worthwhile, their performances are really pretty awesome. As for the rest of the actors, they just kind of phoned it in, IMO. I think it was very loosely based on “Day of the Jackal” from the ’70’s….

  • Lee Johnson September 20, 2021, 3:41 pm

    The Times of Israel’s article a week ago was even more specific. I was most impressed with the fact Fakhrizadeh’s wife was setting in the passenger seat and didn’t get a scratch. Bet he listens to his body guards next time about not taking the same back roads each time they returned home.
    An amazing feat from how many thousand miles away?

  • Kent September 20, 2021, 2:41 pm

    When you are dealing with religious fanatics that want to hasten the return of the mahdi from the well so they can end the world and achieve paradise, all things are possible doc. Even mushroom clouds… Zionist fanatics and Islamic fanatics both with nuclear weapons in close proximity to one another. What could possibly go wrong?

  • archie brown September 20, 2021, 2:11 pm

    Wasn’t there a scene in one of the Alien movies of remote control auto weapons used against the slobbering lizards? Good read, Mr. Dabbs.

  • Kane September 20, 2021, 11:02 am

    “Fakhrizadeh was a strategic national asset for Iran, and everybody involved knew that there were forces at play in both the US and Israel who felt that the world might be better off without him. ”

    It would is impossible to find any one that has do more damage to the world and mankind than either the Zionists or the Globalists. The Persians have been fighting for survival as much or more so than any other group and certainly did NOT start “terrorism. ”

    Depending on who is telling the story both the US and Israel could attribute the establishment of their own two nations to terrorism. Israel could also be accussed of waging a war of terror on the British Empire that was just a few years ago liberating concentration camps in Western Europe. Of course the Soviet Army of rapists would have an even worse fate as their female decendants would be sold into sexual slavery on the streets of Tel Aviv. There is your “Blessings” for “blessing Israel” and what the Holy land has been made into.

    After Bobby Sands died the Iranians changed the name of the street on which the British Embassy was located to Bobby Sands Street. Most of the rest of the world scoffed at the Irish Hunger Strikers. The Iranians have much less blood and crimes on their hands than the Zionists and Globalists.

    • KOldman September 21, 2021, 9:14 pm

      No nation or culture is guilt free on all counts when you deep dive history, but to imply a victimhood justification for Iran’s (and other Persian nations’) spoken out loud policy of “wipe out all Western, Zionist and/or non-Islamic/Sharia-based-totalitarian-rule-states and individual population members” is idiocy. I hear the Iranians are eager for apologists like you to join their martyr corps. The benefit package is awesome but has a very limited term.

      • Kane September 22, 2021, 11:04 pm

        ” (and other Persian nations’) ”

        Update, Persia is the ancient name for Iran.

        Point out where I supposedly “imply victimhood justification” for Iran? Nothing you wrote in response to my posts makes sense.

        Why did you avoid talking about the “victimhood justification” that Israel was founded upoun and which the British troops were killed by Zionist terrorists. Maybe you could explain why the bombing the King David Hotel was justified. Maybe you can explain why you are OK with the Israeli bombing of the USS Liberty? Do more that attribute vague words to Iran, list some acts by Iran that are worse than what I listed by Israel.

        Maybe an “apologist” like you could explain the Talmud? Purim? Talk about that hate.

        Maybe it’s you that hopes to be the “martyr” and committ suicide on top of Mount Massada but you sound like an unwelcome and foolish ‘Goy” that will never be welcome with the “chosen people.”

    • Frank September 24, 2021, 11:04 am

      Never fear, “Persian” apologist! Ezekiel explains in some detail what will happen to Persia (Iran) and a host of other Islamist nations when they take on Israel’s God. Check out chapters 38-39, and a good expository study of same.

      • Kane September 26, 2021, 12:31 am

        “You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bulls—all of them fattened animals from Bashan. ” -Chapter 39

        Thanks Frank, you really helped to bring the issue into a sharper focus. I guess the British Soldiers and American Sailors that were stabbed in the back are of concern to only “‘Persian’ apologists” like me.

  • Mike in a Truck September 20, 2021, 10:56 am

    Many people here in the West dont understand the Persian mind. Highly intelligent,resourceful and under the right conditions single mindedly deadly.Find pics of life under the Shah. Can you say bikini? Look at them now. The sole driving purpose under these new age Islamic kooks is to bring on Armageddon. A nuke in thier minds is the best way. Israel is the target. Israel should act accordingly.

  • Wilko September 20, 2021, 10:04 am

    I heard of a livestock depredation control specialist who built a rig using two Remington 1100 shotguns. He sets it up over watching a livestock kill, loaded with #4 buckshot. When the predator(s) return to feed, his laptop alerts him. If the motion detected is indeed the animal needing removal, it gets done.

  • LJ September 20, 2021, 9:43 am

    “STOP RIGHT THERE” … “NOW HOLD UP THAT PACK OF CIGARETTES” The Jackle with Bruce Willis is a great movie! The weaponry our country has developed over the years is just short amazing – and terrifying. Let just hope our government never decides to use it on it’s own people.

  • TomD September 20, 2021, 9:42 am

    Nobody in their right mind would want to touch off one of these puppies in Israel given the inevitable and overwhelming retaliatory carnage that would invariably ensue.

    The Iranian leadership has never been in their right minds. Nuclear martyrdom is still martyrdom.

    Lord help us all.

    That’s about right.

  • survivor50 September 20, 2021, 9:03 am

    So a Robot Nissan Pick Up truck, armed to the GRILL with remote controlled machine guns and explosives, drives to IRAN and shoots up the place then commits Arkancide…

    And nobody noticed it ???

    Hmmm… sounds plausible to ME !!!

    • Big Al 45 September 20, 2021, 12:56 pm

      No, the article states that it was smuggled in piecemeal. That truck is a very common vehicle in Iran, so no one drove it “to” Iran with the weapon in place
      Gotta work on those reading skills.

  • Ron Clayton September 20, 2021, 8:49 am

    And the trunk-mounted, remote M-60 machine gun in BREAKING BAD’s final episode!

  • Nanook12 September 20, 2021, 8:17 am

    Well…he did graduate from Martyr U…

  • David K September 20, 2021, 7:37 am

    I wonder how many CROWS Biden gifted the Taliban to kill Afghan citizens and resistance fighters with!

  • Jesse H Scott III September 20, 2021, 7:02 am

    He is enjoying his 21 virgin pigs now.

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