During 13th November 2016 merged a lot of images about a Hezbollah parade on the Syrian-Lebanese border town of Al-Qusayr it was very interesting as far as we could saw an unexpected huge armored force owned by the group.
We will divide the article in to three parts, the first will be dedciated to the material found on the images in general, the second will treat the images on their own and in the third part I am going to expose my conclusions.
There were a lot of unconfirmed rumors about Assad supplying heavy material to Hezbollah, even during the 2013 battle for Al Qusayr the Institute for the Study of War said that Hezbollah probably operated T-54 or T-55 tanks however we never see before such evidence of heavy material in hands of Hezbollah this represnts a quality leap on their improvement as a military force able to fight in hybrid and now more conventional conflicts.
Resume of vehicles recognized
Tanks: T-54A, T-62 Obr. 1972, T-72M1, T-72AV also very likely T-55s
IFV: BMP-1s some of them with cage armor on the turret and some with the rail to fire 9M14P ATGM
Close range AA (normally they act as direct fire support vehicles): ZSU-57-2, M-113A1 with ZPU-2, GM chassis series with KS-1 and KS-19, trucks with KS-1 and KS-19
Direct fire support vehicles: technycals
Electronic Warfare Vehicles: probably R-330Ps or externally similar
Self-propelled guns: 2S1 Gvozdika
Supplier: mostly came from SAA, T-72M1s and T-72AVs could also be from Russia but this is unlikely, M-113A1s came from Lebanon but it is not sure if they were captured years ago by Hezbollah or they have been sent by Lebanese Army (LAF)
Part I – General analysis of the material
Unuseful material from the SAA
Most part of this old material could have been stored inside SAA depots until now so it is not a strange thing that SAA gave it to arm Hezbollah.
Here we include KS-12, KS-19, GM series chassis and ZSU-57-2s
Useful but outdated material from SAA
In this category we include all the weapons with a certain degree of activity and usefulness during the war but with outdated capabilities that make them expendable for the SAA.
Here we include the T-54, T-55, T-62 and BMP-1.
In the case of the T-54 it is interesting because until now as we probed no more than twenty T-54s from T-54-3, T-54A and T-54B variants have been documented until now during the five years of war so find them on Hezbollah hands is quite interesting also it is true that T-54 is the baddest tank in active use in Syria and probably hundreds of them are still stored in depots so they would probably be the first option for the SAA to arm Hezbollah.
Good and expensive material from SAA
Here we include T-72AV and T-72M1.
Both are good tanks for the Syrian war standards so it is very strange that they have been donated to Hezbollah, it is also right that just a few of the tanks look T-72s but anyway this supply aims to a strong will to supply Hezbollah with very capable weapons, finally must be noted that the T-72AV and T-72M1 could came from Russia but this is a less likely option as far as those are both Syrian tanks so if they were Russian supplied T-72Bs or just T-72Ms or T-72M1s would be more likely.
It is not a secret that Hezbollah has a lot of influence inside Lebanon and its army as far as the group is a very deep part of Lebanese society, so It would not be a surprise for anybody to find that weapons from LAF ended on hands of Hezbollah but also is true that there is a big step bertween get some light weapons from LAF and get heavy weaponry.
We think that there are enough evidences on this photos to think that it is a possibility that actually could exist a incredibly high degree of corruption/infiltration of Hezbollah inside LAF and who knows if this is an example of corruption or a true hidden support to Hezbollah by the State or the Army of Lebanon .
First of all the Lebanese Army is one of the fews in the world still operating big amounts of T-54s when I did the document about T-54s in Syria I was able to see that all of them were very “battered” from years of storage and fights so it is very suspicious to see all those T-54s so well preserved on Hezbollah hands. Also their colors look closer to Lebanese T-54s than those from Syria but this is not a definitive evidence.
It is important to note that the M-113A1s of the images are mounting a ZPU-2 double KPV machine gun. The M-113 was never operated by SAA and the closer thing to it was one or two normal M-113A1s captured by Jabhat al-Nusra to the 8th Mechanized Brigade during August 2014 while fighting LAF on Arsal Valley but those M-113A1s were for .50 caliber machine gun not for ZPU-2 a much heavier artifact.
And also if we look at what M-113s of the world are mounting ZPU-2s nearly all of the images come from Lebanon where they were used even during 1982 war this is specially relevant as noted Tobias Schnider because those M-113s were provided by USA as free supplies for the LAF, it must be said that they could have been spoils of war with the South Lebanon Army.
Images taken from the excellent “Military in the Middle East”
Part II – Images
On the first two photos we can appreciate various tanks probably they are T-54A or T-55, and they mount the DShK 12.7 mm HMG on the turret. They all look very well preserved and possibly they have received a recent “fine tunning”.
Also on the first image we can appreciate what looks the emblem of this new Hezbollah’s armored unit.
On the next image at the right we can see the dome shaped ventilator that indicates us that we are facing a T-54, and taking in to account photos before those are probably T-54As
On the foreground a GM series chassis with a KS-1 85 mm gun mounted on it more interesting is that on the right side there is a column of tanks headed by a T-72AV and followed by a T-72M1 and some T-62s and other tanks that could be T-72M1s or T-55AMs. At the left side there is a column of M-113A1 APCs with ZPU-2 montage.
On the left side column there are three M-113A1s with ZPU-2s and at the right side there are three T-62 Obr. 1972, the unit shown here is the same of the upper photo.
On the foreground of the next image we can see a BMP-1 with a 9M14P or 9M14P1 ATGM Malyutka ready to be fired it also has a cage armor surrounding the turret of the vehicle.
Along with the BMP-1 on the foreground is a very uncommon electronic warfare vehicle called R-330, however the image shows us a little so could be another version like a R-370B or a R-381.
Probably it is a R-330P because this is a very uncommon vehicle likely coming from SAA and as Oryx show us there are R-330Ps in service with the SAA.
Also on the background we can appreciate more BMP-1s and T-62s.
On this image we can see two ZSU-57-2 a very old self propelled AA based on T-54/55 chassis those are quiet uncommon in Syria because most of them probably were until now in storage but also a few of them appeared during the course of the war.
At the front we can see two GM series chassis the one on the left mounts a 85 mm KS-1 WWII designed gun and the one on the right mounts a 100 mm KS-19 this piece was used before in Syria but still it was a very uncommon and outdated one. In the same manner as the GMs there are a few trucks behind them with KS-1s and KS-19s.
At the background we can appreciate three 2S1 Gvozdikas those are 122 mm self propelled guns widely used in Syria by SAA and rebels. At the right side background we can also appreciate two likely R-330s.
Finally there are a lot of technycals some of them likely supplied by Iran.
On the image below we can appreciate five BMP-1s almost two of them have cage armor around the turret and the first one has the rail to fire the ATGM 9M14 Malyutka.
Part III – Conclusion
The magnitude and impact of this weaponry must be calculated throughout the course of the time but there is no doubt that this represents a big step for Hezbollah, now they are not just an asymmetric warfare group able to defend by using a hybrid warfare with a mix of guerrilla and light infantry tactics now Hezbollah is a much more capable group with an armored unit with enough power to deal with some regular army units of the LFA. To illustrate this idea we just need to know that Hezbollah’s T-72AV with an advanced AP round or missile could be able to deal even with Israeli Merkava tanks.
This is a huge force specially for a skirmish-war like it is that of Syria also it is going to be interesting to see what lessons Hezbollah can learn about the use of combined arms forces with fire support vehicles, AA, self propelled artillery, IFVs, mechanized infantry, EW vehicles and tanks.
On one hand I want to note the big importance of the fire support forces inside their armored unit as far as we have been able to see KS-1s, KS-19s, ZSU-57-2s, M-113A1s with ZPU-2s and tonnes of technycals in comparison with the relatively few tanks and IFVs on the other hand Iran recently produced its own KS-19s and KS-12s this is strange as far as this kind of guns were discarded decades before by the USSR because they were unable to effectively shoot down planes because their design was based on WWII lessons and technologies but inexplicably Iran decided to produce a new variant of those guns! taking it in to account my point is that the equipment of Hezbollah looks strongly influenced by Iranian ideas because otherwise would have been very unlikely that the leaders of Hezbollah would have decided to acquire this kind of strange weaponry on their own.
The resume is easy we are facing a new step forward of Hezbollah in the short term it will mean a new armored unit for the SAA and in the long term a new field of opportunities for Hezbollah to learn about combined arms, conventional and armored warfare and also this is going to give them a bigger military power that could weight a lot on Lebanese internal affairs, negotiations or potential future civil conflicts.