Armoured Units of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL depending on the context) has coalesced into a nation state, it has acquired a diverse selection of military hardware. This includes armoured units.  Among the various pieces of equipment deployed by ISIS are the Badger MRAP, Humvees, T-54/55, T-62, and T-72 main battle tanks (MBT), as well as M1117 armoured cars, MT-LB, BMP-1, and M113 APCs. The tanks, MT-LB and BMP-1 are Soviet Stock, and the Humvee, M1117, and M113 are all native to the United States. Depending on the sophistication of ISIS armoured vehicle recovery and repair, possible additions include the US native M1 Abrams MBT. ISIS armoured stock are spoils of war; possibly captured from a variety of places including the Iraqi Military, the Military of Syria, and other militant groups, as well as Iran. On the ground ISIS is currently fighting against a multitude of opponents; this could include any of the following,

  • Other militant groups
  • Kurdish forces
  • The Military of Syria
  • The Military of Iraq
  • The Military of Iran

Given the nature of the acquisition of ISIS’s military equipment and the highly fluid nature of the conflict in which she is fighting, her inventory of Armoured Fighting Vehicles has the potential to change rapidly. Future acquisitions could easily include more of the above as well as: M1 Abrams MBT, BMP-2, et al..

The actual size of ISIS’s armoured units is difficult to estimate given ongoing acquisitions and attrition; although it had been noted as being approximately 40 strong for two of the MBTs: 30 T-54/55 and roughly 10 T-72 tanks. Although these estimates were from earlier in the year regarding the T-54/55 and T-72. ISIS employs a strong collection of Technicals; pick-up Trucks with mounted weapons (and possibly armour as well); ISIS’s limit for these vehicles realistically is limited to her desire as pick-up trucks and supporting mountable weapons should be in ample supply. In a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article it was estimated that ISIS employs approximately 30 M1 Abrams already. Given the state of the war, it is not a question of if, but rather when ISIS will expand it’s inventory of US military hardware. However despite this fact the M1 Abrams is an iconic weapon system; given ISIS’s documented interest in lauding its perceived attacks on the West, including the murder recently of US journalists, it would seem logical that an M1 Abrams would prove an excellent backdrop for an ISIS propaganda video.  As such I do not believe ISIS currently has any M1 Abrams.

Based on my own research (with an emphasis on visual evidence) I estimate the following numbers for ISIS’s AFV inventory,

  • T-54/55 MBT – 10 to 20; stock from either of the Syrian or Iraqi military. Likely from the Syrian civil war including all combatants.
  • T-72 MBT – 3 to 5; stock from either of the Syrian or Iraqi military. Likely from the Syrian civil war including all combatants.
  • T-62 MBT – 20 to 30; stock from either of the Syrian or Iraqi military. A large stock of these were captured from the Iraqi military however the Syrian Civil War would have also fostered an environment to acquire these.
  • MT-LB – 3; seized from the Iraqi military; also possibly in use by Syrians.
  • M113 – 3 to 5; including two captured from the Iraqi military.
  • BMP-1 – 3 to 5; stock from the Syrian military from the Syrian civil war including all combatants.
  • M1117 – 3 to 5; several seized from the Iraqi military
  • Badger MRAP – 3 or less; seized from the Iraqi military.
  • 2S1 Gvozdika Self Propelled Artillery – 3 or less; stock from either of the Syrian or Iraqi military.
  • 2K12 Kub (SA-6 Gainful) SAM missile systems – 3 captured in Iraq from the Iraqi military.
  • Humvees – perhaps 10 to 20 acquired from the Iraqi military.

I estimate ISIS total inventory at approximately 80 vehicles at most; this does not include Technicals and related vehicles such as Humvees. Technicals by far represent the majority of AFVs employed by ISIS; with the above representing a small fraction: perhaps as little as 1 to 3% although likely 1% or less. Given ISIS’s resources, she is well equiped to use and maintain these systems; the exception being the 2K12 Kub system’s main armament. There are claims that the US weapons systems will prove difficult to maintain; with a lack of spare parts and technical expertise. This is false; ISIS’s arrary of Technicals includes many illustrating a high degree of inginuity and resourcefulness. It is hubris to think that ISIS is incapable of maintaining its inventory of AFVs; her real limits will be with missiles of any size including captured ballistic missiles and aircraft. Further, ISIS is well equipped with mobile man operated anti-aircraft systems such as shoulder fired manpad systems. These systems provide a degree of secuirty for ISIS’s AFVs; while not absolute, they are a major factor for consideration in any airstrike targeting ISIS AFVs.

A video showing captured T-62 MBTs in a field; ISIS captured these from the Iraqi Military. They sit with a few APCs, possibly Soviet MT-LB APCs. I estimate in this video 10 T-62 and 3 MT-LB AFVs along with possibly 2 more MT-LB and 3 more T-62 in the far background.

Another video showing a parade of armour including T-62 MBTs and a BMP-1.

A video showing ISIS Technicals and an M113 APC.

Works Cited

Bender, Jeremy. “As ISIS Routs The Iraqi Army, Here’s A Look At What The Jihadists Have In Their Arsenal.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 8 July 2014. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.businessinsider.com/isis-military-equipment-breakdown-2014-7>.

Parrish, Brent. “The Growing ISIS Arsenal, Pt. 1.” The Right Planet. 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.therightplanet.com/2014/08/the-growing-isis-arsenal-pt-1/>.

Firik, Mehmet Kemal. “ISIS’s Weapon Inventory Grows.” Daily Sabah. 7 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 Sept. 2014. <http://www.dailysabah.com/mideast/2014/07/03/isiss-weapon-inventory-grows>.

“ISIS Ambushes Iraqi Army in Anbar Province.” HubPages. 15 July 2014. Web. 4 Sept. 2014. <http://perrya.hubpages.com/hub/ISIS-Ambushes-Iraqi-Army-in-Anbar-Province>.

PREGENT, MICHAEL, and MICHAEL WEISS. “Exploiting the ISIS Vulnerabilities in Iraq: The Terrorists’ Heavy Military Equipment Is Hard to Maintain, Easy to Target from the Air.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 4 Sept. 2014. <http://online.wsj.com/articles/michael-pregent-and-michael-weiss-exploiting-the-isis-vulnerabilities-in-iraq-1407884145>.

In Pictures: The Italian Fiat-Ansaldo (Carro Armato) M13/40 Medium Tank

Italy’s Fiat-Ansaldo (Carro Armato) M13/40 medium tank was the main tank used by the Italians during the Second World War.

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The Soviet KV-1 Heavy Tank By Version

The KV is a series of Soviet heavy tanks; that take their namesake from People’s Defense Commissioner and political statesman Kliment Voroshilov (KV). The KV-1 was designed by TsKB-2 design bureau lead by chief engineer Zh. Kotin. The design characteristics of this initial vehicle invovled an all-wielded hull with cast turret, with wide reinforced tracks and a torsion-bar suspension. The production of the KV-1 was approved by Joseph Stalin himself. The tank should have been named KS-1 or Kotin-Stalin. By April of 1939 a wooden mockup had been made which was presented to the General Staff in September. Two prototypes were tested at the Kubinka test grounds near Moscow and later under combat conditions during the war in Finland.

The first 50 preseries KV-1 and the two prototypes were almost identical; the preseries having some redesigns related to ease of production. The design for the KV-1 borrowed the same hull, transmission, optics, and torsion bar suspension from the SMK; also designed by the TsKB-2 design bureau. An initial problem encountered with the KV-1 and the SMK also during design was that no existing transmission was able to cope with the mass of the vehicle; roughly 45 tonnes or more. The wheel train utilized front idler wheels as well as the same rear drive sprockets of the T28; as well as 6 twin roadwheel bogies utilizing an independent torsion-bar system. Additionally there were three return rollers. For both vehicles, an existing caterpillar system was used; which proved unreliable during operation.  The first 50 KV-1 tanks, all model 1939, were produced at the Kirov Factory, ChTZ but delivered in March of 1940.

For crew placement the driver was placed in the middle, the radio operator who doubled as the machine gunner (turret) sat to the driver’s left, and the other three crew members were either in or below the turret. The vehicle suffered from poor visibility as only narrow vision slits were provided; with the driver’s frontal slit made of a poor quality laminated glass that was often blurred. Further the vision periscope had limited traverse. The commander who also doubled as the loader for the main gun, had two turret periscopes.

There were a number of different models in the Kliment Voroshilov series of tanks. This article reviews the first model by version.

KV-1 Model 1939

The KV-1 model 1939 was the first in the KV-1 series and the first of the tanks to bear the name of Kliment Voroshilov. As the first production model, this tank demonstrated problems that led to frequent breakdowns. 141 of this initial model would be made. These vehicles would have a major impact on the battlefield were they were extremely difficult to knock out. The main armament of this version was the 76 mm L-11 tank gun although the F-32 was planned;  the L-11 is recognizable due to a recuperator above the  barrel. Many of these vehicles lacked a secondary hull machine gun.

At 76.2 mm or 3 inch, and 30.5 calibers in length, the L-11 tank gun was used on both early model T-34 medium tanks, and early KV-1 heavy tanks. The DT 7.9 machine gun was utilized in two positions; one in a hull ballmount and another in the rear of the turret, also in a ballmount. Many of the model 1939 vehicles lacked the hull machine gun.

KV-1 Model 1940 or KV-1A

The KV-1 model 1940 (German designation: KV-1A) was the main production model by the time of the German invasion. This new version was armed with the F-32 76 mm gun and had a new mantlet; however initially 50 would continue to use the  76 mm L-11 tank gun due to production delays. Approximately 250 of this model were made.

The F-32 was capable of firing AP, F-342 rounds or BR-3502 and HE shells. The BR-3502 AP rounds were capable of a speed of 612 m/sec. and 66 mm of armour-piercing capacity at 500 m.

KV-1 Model 1939/1940/1941 s ekranami (“with screens”) or KV1-E

The KV-1 model 1939/1940/1941 s ekranami (“with screens”) or KV1-E had additional armour bolted-on in the form of appliqué armour; this was done to model 1939, 1940, and 1941 tanks. Model 1939 tanks were also upgunned to the F32 tank cannon. This modification was intended to counter German tactics learned on the battlefield that assisted in disabling and destroying KV-1 tanks.

KV-1 Model 1941/1942 (KV-1B)

This model introduced a cast turret and additional armour. Prior models had welded turrets. Additional armour came in the form of 25 to 35 mm on the turret, hull front and sides. Additionaly a new armament in the form of the F-34 and later the ZiS-5 76.2 mm tank guns.

Weighing 45 tonnes, the vehicle was 6.75 m long, 3.32 m wide, and 2.71 m high with a crew of 5 with a maximum armour of 90 mm.

KV-1 Model 1942 (KV-1C)

The KV-1 model 1942 (KV-1C) was armed with a 76 mm ZiS-5 tank gun and possessed an improved engine and additional armour. Further, this vehicle used either a fully cast turret or welded turret.

KV-1S

The KV-1S was a lighter variant of the late 1942 model; with improved speed but thinner armour as well as a new, smaller, cast turret and a redesigned rear hull. 1370 were built.

KV-85

The KV-85 was a revision of the KV-1S design.

KV-1(r) (Panzerkampfwagen KV-IA 753(r) and Panzerkampfwagen KV-IB 755(r) )

The Germans captured a number of KV-1 tanks and gave them the designation KV-1(r). Of these captured vehicles, some would be fitted with the German KwK 40 L/43 75-mm gun; the same gun as used in the German Panzer IV Ausf F2.

Works Cited:

1. “Kliment Voroshilov tank.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 5 Oct 2013. Web. 12 Nov 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kliment_Voroshilov_tank>.

2. “KV-1 identification thread [PRELIMINARY].” Armchair General. N.p., 15 May 2009. Web. 17 Nov 2013. <http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=77660>.

3. “KV-1 (Kliment Voroshilov).” Tanks Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Tanks Database. N.p.. Web. 19 Nov 2013. <http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/soviet/soviet_KV-1.php>.

4. “ARMOURED VEHICLES PART 9: KV-1 AND PzKw IVJ TANKS.” Jaeger Platoon: Finnish Army 1918 – 1945 Website. N.p., 21 Jul 2013. Web. 24 Nov 2013. <http://www.jaegerplatoon.net/TANKS7.htm>.

5. “L-11 76.2 mm tank gun.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 22 Sep 2013. Web. 24 Nov 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L-11_76.2_mm_tank_gun>.

The Soviet KV-VI Behemoth

There is a plethora of information on the internet; the scale and variety of the information available is the best aspect of the web. Unfortunately the downside invariably relates to the subject matter, and more specific to this article the quality of the information online. In this article we will be discussing a vehicle that has been discussed on the internet by several names, one of which is the KV-VI. The Soviet KV-VI, or Behemoth, is described as a KV series tank made to excessive proportions; specifically an elongated chassis supporting multiple turrets, both main and secondary. This vehicle never existed.

The Kliment Voroshilov series of tanks are known to have been heavily armoured; and during the beginning of the invasion of the Soviet Union, difficult to knockout. It is claimed that the KV-VI was ordered, possibly by Stalin himself, as a response to stories of KV series tanks (KV-1 or KV-2) that single-handedly changed the course of a battle. It is claimed that two prototypes were created. The following quote is oft repeated:

“The first prototype was completed in December 1941 and was rushed into the defense of Moscow. In its first action during a dense winter fog, the rear turret accidentally fired into the center turret. The resulting explosion completely destroyed the vehicle. The second prototype was completed in January 1942, and was sent to the Leningrad front. This one had indicators installed to show when another turret was in the line of fire. In its initial attack on the Germans, the tank broke in half when crossing a ravine.” (“Secret Weapons: KV-VI Behemoth.”)

Purportedly called Stalin’s Orchestra by those Germans who encountered it; it is claimed the vehicle had a crew of 15 men and one Commissar.

A model of the KV-VI was made by modeler Brian Fowler:

Fowler’s model has been show in a number of articles on the KV-VI; and was the basis for other representations of the vehicle including a diagram of the KV-VI by deviantART user VonBrrr. Click here to see VonBrr’s page. VonBrr’s representation also is popular in articles on the subject. VonBrrr notes:

Half way through illustrating I found that the thing never really existed[...]

Although the KV-VI didn’t exist, it is not likely a fake as it is often described as being. The KV-VI is more likely the result of harmless creations by enthusiasts that went viral. Advanced modelers for example are known to be extremely creative with their designs; including reusing parts left over from kits. This may be what Fowler’s model was born from; and in my opinion his work is likely the beginning of the KV-VI’s life.

Works Cited:

1. “Secret Weapons: KV-VI Behemoth.” Geheimkrieg. Blogger, 27 May 2011. Web. 28 Nov 2013. <http://geheimkrieg.blogspot.com/2011/05/secret-weapons-kv-vi-behemoth.html>.

2. “The soviet behemoth — KV VI.” The Order Of The Iron Phoenix’s Blog. N.p., 17 Jul 2013. Web. 28 Nov 2013. <http://theorderoftheironphoenix.com/wp/the-soviet-behemoth-kv-vi/>.

3. “T-28.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 29 Oct 2013. Web. 28 Nov 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-28>.

Download PANZER GENERAL, SSI’s Classic Military Strategy Game Circa 1994

In 1994 Panzer General, SSI’s classic turn-based military strategy game was released. The game was based on Germany’s fortunes and failures from the Second World War. Today the game can be downloaded for free; as it is abandonware or an intellectual property abandoned by it’s owner. Click here to download.

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World of Warplanes is Now Live!

World of Warplanes is Now Live!

World of Warplanes was finally released today; I hope everyone has been enjoying themselves!

The Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 Howitzer

This article is on the Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer circa the First World War. I wanted to write this when I noted a number of pictures of this piece that were misidentified; and no details. After finding some good Italians sources I can now write something. Often described online as an Italian self propelled gun; nothing could be farther from the truth. This is the antiquated Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer circa the First World War.

The Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer circa the First World War.

Often described online as an Italian self propelled gun; nothing could be farther from the truth. This is the antiquated Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer circa the First World War.

As can be seen from the photos below, the howitzer could be set in a fixed position or in the wheeled version which was a portion of the De Stefano (D.S.) carriage which compensated for it’s recoil from the use of inclined ramps. The tracks pictured on the wheels are likely for transport only when it isn’t on it’s rail assembly; they are pedrail wheels. Designed in 1908 and built between 1914 and 1917, a total of 44 were built by Armstrong-Pozzuoli and Vickers-Terni. This howitzer was 305 mm.

The Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer required a team of individuals and equipment to disassemble and move it; the below pictures illustrate the gun along with it disassembled for transport by tractors.

Works Cited:

1. “305/17.” Wikipedia: L’enciclopedia libera. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 14 Jun 2013. Web. 11 Nov 2013. <http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/305/17>.

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