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Insurgencies and Their Equipment: Modern Challenges on the Field of Battle

Insurgencies and Their Equipment: Modern Challenges on the Field of Battle

Ukrainian T-64 Tank

With the ISIS forces entering the outer region of Baghdad, the move towards Iraq’s capital lead to a lot of equipment being captured by those forces. This new and advanced equipment will likely play an important role in future battles. It is important to look at some of the tanks and artillery that might become key players on the battlefield in various conflicts around the world. Previously, limited help was given to Syrian rebels despite many requests for ammunition and weapons. Small arms and anti-tank rockets may only have been highlighted with the occasional Stinger anti-aircraft missile, or more likely the updated SA-7/SA-14 style Russian Stingers.

ISIS has captured many towns and the city of Mosul in Iraq and likely obtained many combat systems used by U.S. forces that were given and sold to the Iraqi army since the U.S. pulled out. Combat systems like the M1 Abrams and Humvees may already be in the hands of ISIS troops. Beyond the ground equipment, Iraq recently obtained some Apache attack helicopters with 500 Hellfire guided anti-tank missiles. While they might not be in the ISIS territories, some of this equipment might find its way into Syria and add to the conflict in both Syria and Iraq. It is unknown if they have obtained M1 Abrams tanks or how many might have been taken or lost, but for the first time ISIS and the rebels in Syria have some advanced equipment to use against the Syrian Army and their opponents in Iraq.

Assad’s army had been resupplied by Russia and Iran, but while older equipment was lost or ran out of ammunition, new equipment that has come from Russia is often modern, deadly and made for the battlefield of 2014. The main tank that has been seen all over YouTube is the T-72 main battle tank used by the Syrian Army. Many videos can be seen online being hit several times in rebel videos, sometimes succumbing to RPG fire but often surviving such attacks.

Some of the most deadly equipment sent to Syria may be advanced anti-aircraft systems, replacing their aging ZSU-23-4 anti-aircraft artillery systems with missile systems, like the SA-11 BUK-M1 medium range SAM or the SA-15 TOR-M1 short range SAM system. BM-21 multiple rocket systems and the 2S4 Tulypan, the biggest caliber mortar system currently in operation, are weapons that have been supplied to Syria and are some of the most destructive systems in operation against civilian populations. It is unclear if the TOR-M1 is present or how the rockets and 2S4 mortars are being used, but with the ballistic missiles like the FROG-7 system being a strong candidate for the system that launched chemical weapons, modern version of these missiles may have found their way into the conflict.

According to NATO and local Ukrainian sources, last week there was great concern that Russian tanks have passed over the border into Ukraine along with the BM-21 rocket systems. These tanks were considered to be inactive, but there have been claims that Russian T-64 tanks are now operating in Ukraine. The T-64 tank was one of the first truly modern tanks, never being exported outside of the USSR. Initially it was kept secret due to the technological advancement of the T-64, serving only within Soviet borders. Some 1,500 T-64s serve in a converted format in the Ukrainian army; until last week it was assumed Russia has none in operation and all were scrapped in 2013. Some claims suggest that these tanks are in Ukraine as they resemble Ukrainian T-64s. In either case, the T-64s have passed their time in the front line of many modern armies and can be confidently eliminated by modern weapons systems. This does not quell concerns by Ukraine and NATO, however, as any Russian tank, even one that has seen better days, is still a threat whether it is driven by a Russian soldier or Ukrainian separatist.

It is hard to predict what military challenges will be faced with an increasingly assertive Russia and various armies in the Middle East that will keep fighting without fail, but with regional powers in both parts of the world coming in direct conflict, it will surely involve many modern combat systems.




Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration