July 08, 2014

ISIL displays captured weapons

ISIL had one T-62 tank running and another on a transporter for the parade. Source: State of Al-Raqqah

The Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) held a parade in the eastern Syrian city of Al-Raqqah on 30 June to show off weapons captured in Iraq and Syria, including a non-operational 'Scud' ballistic missile.

The 'Scud' missile that was displayed by ISIL on 30 June. (State of Al-Raqqah)The 'Scud' missile that was displayed by ISIL on 30 June. (State of Al-Raqqah)

The missile was on a static launcher that had been put on a trailer so it could be towed through the streets by members of the Sunni radical group, which recently shortened its name to the Islamic State.

The launcher was identical to ones found by insurgents when they overran a facility 80 km to the southeast in February 2013. The facility consisted of a large shed containing at least three such launchers, two of them with missiles, that had been built on top of the site of the nuclear reactor that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in September 2007.

While there was speculation at the time that the missiles could be launched through hatches in the shed's roof, the shorter-range 'Scud' missiles found at the site could not reach Israel from that location and the exhaust from the first launch would endanger the other missiles and associated equipment.

One of the M198 howitzers that was captured from the Iraqi Army. (State of Al-Raqqah)
One of the M198 howitzers that was captured from the Iraqi Army. (State of Al-Raqqah)

The facility is consequently more likely to have been for training purposes or part of a deception plan to conceal the site's previous usage from the international community.

The parade also included equipment taken from the Iraqi Army, including several up-armoured Humvees and three M198 howitzers being towed by Oshkosh MTVR vehicles. Similar, if not the same guns and trucks were seen in militant hands in Mosul after the Iraqi Army units in the Iraqi city collapsed on 10 June.

While ISIL will probably struggle to use the guns to deliver accurate indirect fire in support of its forces, it might be able to use them against large area targets for as long as the supply of captured ammunition lasts.

Soviet-origin armour was also displayed in the parade, including two T-62 tanks (one on a transporter), a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer, and a BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle. These vehicles were probably captured from the Syrian military as Iraq only has a limited quantity of Soviet-origin vehicles in service.
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