The current research and training capabilities in observational astronomy in Iran is unable to meet the growing demand due to a rapid growth in higher education over the past two decades. While almost every big university in Iran has an astronomy department or group, the existing observational facilities consists of a number of small telescopes in various university campus observatories generally used for undergraduate and graduate training.

A medium size optical telescope is thought to be a step to facilitate research in astronomy and observational cosmology. The geographic location of Iran, 32N 53E, relative dry climate and high altitude mountains, offer suitable locations for optical telescopes to carry out surveys and time critical observations. Site selection study for a proposed medium class telescope started few years before the INO project received administrative approval.

At the present the flagship of the INO observing facilities is a 3.4m optical telescope under construction.