Made on the Caliphate Attack Drones: Brief Analysis of the Threat

Along 2016 and 2017 have emerged images and videos showing us an exponential increasing use of drones as attack platforms by ISIS and some rebel groups in Syria and Irak, on this article we are going to treat the evolution we have been able to see in their use their capabilities and the projectiles designed by Islamic State.

At first drones were used just for propaganda to record images from above, lately they were used for reconnaissance and intelligence and finally following the logical development  ISIS used them on ground attack role.

How threaty they are?: Knowing their secret weapon

At first ISIS used them as SVBIEDs but with not a very high effectiveness, for example on the New York Times on October 2016 was stated: “Of the three known drone attacks in Iraq, only the one involving the Kurdish soldiers caused casualties. “The explosive device inside was disguised as a battery — there was a very small amount of explosives in it, but it was enough to go off and kill them[…]”.

The relatively low degree of effectiveness is related to the relatively cheap series of drones available for ISIS and their small payload capacity.

Normally civilian drones are designed for especific missions and most of them are not designed to wear big payloads as ISIS needs, still they offer a safety space between the capability of the engines and its total weight letting ISIS install relatively small explosives and devices on them.

On December 2016 in the besieged city of Deir ez Zor the pro-Assad forces were able to down two ISIS drones by presumably using some kind of electronic warfare equipment, both drones can be seen on the images below.

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Both are civilian drones, the first uses a PG-7V and the second an improved PG-7VM warhead. These ones were rocket-propelled grenades originally intended to be fired from the Soviet rocket launcher  RPG-7  with multipurpose capability, and they are able to penetrate more than 20 cm of armor (RHA) or to roughly create an explosion like that of a hand grenade but more powerful.

A PG-7 warhead alone would weight around 1 kg but it would also need a dropping mechanism if it is a tactical support drone, or even a phone or a special device to make the SVBIED exploit at the desired moment unleast the plan is launch the drone straight to the target and make the impact fuze exploit, what could be a difficult task.

While we are not sure if those drones were intended to be SVBIEDs or to be support attack drones they were using typical war material from the region adapted to their new purpose, in spite of use especially designed projectiles.

On November 2016 Conflict Armament Research documented some interesting DIY ” Made in the Caliphate” mortar round fashion artifacts, as can be seen on the images below.

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We have calculate that the lenght and the radius of the cylinder containing the explosive must be 4,5 and 1,85 cm approximately

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The projectile is formed by five elements: (5) The plastic tail designed to gain stability and so accuracy during the flight (4) The main part of the body is united to the tail and made of the same plastic, it is cylindical and inside (3) it is the manufactured explosive  mixture, (1) then it is the pin point steel plain impact fuze and (2)  it also has an ingenious safety system by using a pin that needs to be removed to get the projectile armed.

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Behind these artifacts there is a much bigger project that includes design, production, know-how and testing, what tells us a lot about ISIS State-like capabilities, but still if we have a closer look to some of them we will see that they are not mass pruced but manufactured because their lines are not equal and perfect on every product, we may call this kind of middle way between DIY and industrial product a “DIY/2”.

We have been able to make a rough estimation of the explosive inside the projectiles on the images above, and they have a volume of 40 to 70 cm3 to be filled with an ISIS produced DIY/2 explosive mix with less power than a military one.

Conflict Amamente Research show us on its excellent document  that ISIS has been able to produce plastic fuzes so, why do not use those on these artifacts?. In my opinion when the projectile is falling it is good for the accuracy that most of the weight is on the nose where the fuze is and so if the projectile is so light a fuze composed of steel has a great advantage over a plastic one providing the desired “nose-falling” effect.

Also some may think that this looks like a DIY/2 mortar round, but this can not be true because the “projection cartridge” (as we call it in Spanish) needed to fire a mortar round would destroy the whole projectile if it was made of plastic.

Finally if we compare the ISIS designed projectiles with the adapted PG-7s we will find out that for every PG-7 at least 3 ISIS projectiles probably can be carried by a drone, but to attack an armored vehicle, even like a humvee, just a PG-7 can be effective so If I were a terrorist I would use PG-7s against highly protected targets while ISIS projectiles against enemy exposed infantry or unprotected vehicles. In the end even a M1 Abrams hasn’t got protection enough on the roof to deal with a PG-7.

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Soviet RPG-7 along with a PG-7V (green) and a PG-7VM (black) both used on ISIS drones and very popular warheads in the world

But here comes the other question: Accuracy.

These drones can fly very high but if it is too high they can loose a lot of autonomy and also their payload is very low so there is no possibility to install even some kind of primitive aim device so everything must be done literally by the eye of the operator. If conditions are good without wind nor rain and the altitude is low, I would say no more than 100 metres, a well trained operator might be able to calculate with some precision the dropping, but if we are speaking of a PG-7 warhead not designed to fall from the sky it is very probable that the operator needs to send the drone as a SVBIED straight to the target in order to let the fuze of the PG-7 impact on the target.

Let’s have a closer look to another recently released ISIS video, on this one we see another civilian drone, some claimed that it was one called “X8 Skywalker” while I don’t think it is this model probably they are quite similar products, so for example there is a video on Youtube of a flying X8 that goes extreme and flies at an altitude of 5.341 metres!. Also its payload can be as much as 2 kg, and its price is around 180$ to 250$. This could be considered as a representative example for a typical ISIS  drone.

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View from the camera of a X8 drone
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ISIS drone with two small bombs, it is possible that they were inert and were used just to record the propagandistic part of the video

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On the images above we see more interesting projectiles, in this case the drone mounts two artifacts, one per wing, and they are composed by a similar tail of that of the projectile treated above.

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ISIS produced projectile being dropped

In the case of the artifact used on the attack while we can’t know its size I would say that it has a similar white plastic tail as other ISIS designs while in this case it is coupled with what looks like a 40 mm grenade typical from Western grenade launchers or even a OG-7V HE-Fragmentation warhead designed for RPG-7s.

 

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The ISIS projectile may use a typical Western grenade like one on this image. A normal HE  40 mm grenade has a weight of around 0,25 kg and a kill radius of 5 metres and so is ideally suited for the low payload capacity of a civilian drone

Also when this artifact exploits just at a  few metres from a group of 5 men it produces minor injuries to two of them while heavy injuries to the other three, and this with a relatively accurate attack.

If we do a comparison, what could be the cost of an ISIS SVBIED including car, oil, the man, the explosives and the typical add on armour?. Just the car should cost several times the drone, but still both are different weapons meant for different situations. For example in my opinion every unit of ground based VBIEDs can be a very powerful tactical weapon while a few drones can be useful for a squad or a company of ISIS but not for a whole offensive, and even more if the enemy is digged in fortified areas.

Would also be interesting to see if ISIS includes thermal or infared cameras on its drones, what could be an interesting option for them.

Also I know that this is speculation, but what about the use of big formations of like 20 drones or so, a true unmanned air force ideally suited for non-state actors, maybe the combination of something we may call mini-carpet-drone-bombings could be effective in some situations, or the use of small wings of drones to attack objectives in succession looking if the first drone has succeed and sending another if not, like a true air force does. If this hasn’t happen yet it could be for two reasons: The less important is that the drones, specially those with a certain size are available for ISIS just in limited quantities, but the most important is that they would need a real training program of drone operators, what must be the real challenge for non-state actors. The money should not be an issue as far as buy for example 100 X8s might cost, going extreme, as much as 40.000$ what isn’t a problem for an organization able to earn billions of dollars every year.

I must also say that during the propagandistic video a drone was recording the other drone so it is possible that ISIS has some ability operating at least small groups of drones simultaneously.

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It is obvious that the drone on the image was recorded by another drone

Finally I would like to say that new imaginative and unpredictable tactics using bigger drones formations could be expected if ISIS has time enough.

They are vulnerable

Teach the ground soldiers to fire at the drones could be okay if they are able to mass enough muzzles firing and there is no risk of betray their positions to other ISIS weapons like mortars, but still it is a relatively costly measure. From my point of view the best way to deal with them would be to make troops aware of the threat and so survey the sky and hide when they see or hear something.

Finally as equipment especially designed to combat drones we should not forget that these are civilian drones with badly protected links between the machine and the operator and so they are very vulnerable to minimum electronic warfare countermeasures so apart from specialized EW units I think that the use of relatively cheap devices designed to inhibit the link between the operator and the machine could be enough to effectively deal with the increasing threat that apparently drones possess on the hybrid battlefield.

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China A2/AD

En este artículo escrito por mi y publicado en Ejércitos.org se aporta una visión bastante más crítica y escéptica de lo que viene siendo habitual acerca de las capacidades chinas para llevar a cabo la estrategia A2/AD contra Taiwan y EEUU.

This article provides us a much more critical and skeptical point of view than commonly seen about the Chinese true capabilities to make its A2/AD strategy really effective.

http://www.ejercitos.org/2017/01/18/refutando-las-capacidades-del-material-militar-chino/

How to defeat ISIS SVBIED fleet

Translation by Victor Lledó.

  1. Introduction
  2. The VBIEDs Conceptual Framework
  3. Outlining the Threat
    1. Heavy Machine Guns and Others
    2. ATGMs
    3. Tanks and Heavy Guns
    4. Obstacles
  4. How Can We Fight Them?
    1. Open Terrain
    2. Urban Enviroment
    3. The Junction Defensive Approach

Also do not forget that we offer military analysis and OSINT services.

  • The B of VBIED means “Borne” we did not correct that fail when the article was released

Introduction

Firstly, and before we start,  we would like to point out that in this analysis we are going to use the more widely used acronym “VBIED” or “SVBIED” which means Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, however we believe acronyms like VB or simply SVB would be equally appropriate. Also we must stress that the terms “Suicide” SVBIED and the “Non Suicide” VBIED are namely used as synonyms because at the moment we have just seen very few unmanned VBIEDs, however in the future it is very likely that this difference is going to be more relevant.

The use of Suicide Bomb Vehicles  with Improvised Explosive Devices is not new and for what interest us it mainly dates back to the days of the Iraqi insurgency against the U.S starting in 2003, however throughout history we have seen somehow similar behaviors like the infamous Japanese Kamikazes at the end of WWII.

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While the use of “kamikazes” is not new when they are used in mass it can be associated to desperate measures and military situations

During the war on terror SVBIEDs were mainly used as strategic terror weapons rather than as tactical weapons on the battlefield, this is because the availability of “volunteers” eager to sacrifice themselves on these kind of actions has always been relatively low and so very valuable for terrorist groups that preferred to use them as terror weapons, however never in history a terrorist group, a State and an army were combined together to get the necessary resources to recruit such a high number of suicides drivers, allowing for the VBIED to be considered by Daesh as a tactical weapon rather than just a terror weapon.

ISIS created a new situation thanks to a proto-state organization able to group together a large powerful media, military and political brainwashing machine capable to assemble a true organization with logistics, experts, technicians and operators ready to be the bone and the muscle of the fleet of suicide vehicles that support ISIS military operations on the field.

The VBIEDs Conceptual Framework

As “ISIS Study Group” released, there is a branch of the ISIS Operations Planning Team specifically dedicated to the IEDs, however we are not exactly sure about what this acronym truly stands for,  whether it is just IEDs or VBIEDs or something else.

isis-org-chart

From a “philosophical” point of view the SVBIED concept is far wider than previously thought of because it is an organic composition created as a strike force element, as a fully contained design, as a vehicle, as a suicide operation and as an explosive device.

  • Force: as part of the elements comprising ISIS military forces in the battlefield every SVBIED acts as a unit that can also operate along other VBIEDs and drones while remaining under the orders or the direct guidance of a supervisor.
  • Design: every VBIED is produced out of a different civilian vehicle, from cars to tanks every job is different and every job requires a certain degree of specific design to determine its payload, speed and armour which requires some level of experience and technician.
  • Vehicle: a VBIED is a moving object propelled by a combustion engine and moving on tracks or wheels and able to be directed at will.
  • Suicide: SVBIEDs have a human driver willing to die with the vehicle and who is going to drive it until the objective and set off the charge when at the desired right moment.
  • Explosive: a VBIED is never complete without a big payload comprised of explosives to be detonated on the suicide driver’s command.

From these fundamental elements we can make out that ISIS have created an effective support network to fulfil the requirements of SVBIEDs operations on behalf of the Caliphate both for terror and tactical operations.

One key factor is the training of the suicide drivers, because they are the true brain of the operation. First of all they must be acquainted with the area where they are going to operate so at first they probably use Google Earth and similar tools to get an overall impression, then they probably do an eye inspection to determine the most convenient avenues of approach, finally and if available they do additional reconnaissance by drone.

It is also likely that the drivers get some training both to drive through rough terrain and special driving to avoid being hit by enemy weapons, also they are trained to choose their objectives and establish a priority list between them. It is also possible that they receive a psychological preparation and even some kind of narcotics or stimulants for the accomplishment of their mission.

The overall design of vehicle, modifications and explosive payload are specifically interrelated elements, a key factor relies on the engine and the weight of the vehicle, thanks to those elements they can determine the approximate maximum payload, and the weight of the armour and explosives to be added.

VBIEDs used to be true lone wolves in the battlefield acting on a few vague and general instructions, but over time we have witnessed the use of increasingly sophisticated tactics including VBIED “fireteams” with 2 attacking vehicles to take advantage of their full potential and even a “live” survey and command network supporting and guiding them by the use of drones, a true improvement in the command ability that leads to a far better effectiveness.

Also there must be some sort of a logistic element able to put out with the amount of VBIEDs needed by the military planners whom would determine which units are going to receive them in first place.

Outlining the Threat

A typical ISIS VBIED is a civilian 4×4 with homemade armour at the front and side fenders with a maximum thickness at some parts of the front between 70 to 150 mm, a payload of 1.500 kg and able to reach high speeds, more than 90 km/h with a lethal air blast range of 60 metres.

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This VBIED even has a cage armor at the front to defeat some warheads, like the PG-7
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Toyota Hilux payload is between 1,3 and 1,6 Tn.

As a general estimate we believe that a normal ISIS VBIED has much more than various hundred of metres of effective shrapnel radius, while that of a tank and its crew would be between 5 to 50 metres depending on the model of the tank and the characteristics of the VBIED and other elements.

All of these characteristics mix up resulting in a powerful weapon that is very fast and very difficult to disable just by using ordinary bullets and also very hard to destroy just by using ordinary infantry weapons at a certain range, like RPGs, recoilless rifles or low rate of fire weaponry. The reason for this is the high speed of the VBIEDs.  Most of the long-range ground-based anti-tank weapons were designed to deal with older tanks (and APCs), and often times, especially with older models, these were never faster than 60 km/h, thus intended for targets moving about a 33% slower than the typical VBIED in the best of the cases which is why most conventional AT weapons are not so effective.

The effective use of a VBIED depend on a lot of external factors like the type of terrain, the cover offered in the area for the targets, obstacles like trenches, earthen bags or barriers, the dispersion of the enemy troops and also depends a lot on the ability of the driver to choose the targets.

Finally one of the main advantages of the VBIEDs over other weapons is their demoralizing and shocking effects among the troops, this happens mainly because nobody likes to run away from an armed terrorist trying to blow up its own vehicle nearby and because human psychology tends to overestimate the enemy in a state of shock, hence most troops at the front might get develop bad habits which hamper their effectiveness in future engagements. This psychological shortcoming must be properly addressed through training and clear cut and well known-by-all procedures to allow the soldiers to have a clear idea of what to expect and how to react in these cases instead of allowing themselves to be dominated by panic.

Finally it must be said that ISIS is constantly improving the efficiency of its VBIED attacks by using a more sophisticated survey and command network which eventually use drones to guide the suicides during their attacks posing a much bigger threat than in the older methods of operation.

Heavy VBIEDs

While most ISIS VBIEDs have just a light reinforced skin, quite a relevant number of them are based on tanks, IFVs, APCs and bulldozers with certainly heavy amour plating.

In these less frequent cases the use of HMGs is less effective while obstacles like trenches require much more work to be effective and only AT mines are able to defeat these kind of threats.

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This VBIED is based on a T-54/55 chassis

Although ATGMs are very efficient against this kind of targets but also slow firing guns like recoilless rifles, AT guns, and tanks guns can also be very effective in the right circumstances.

Required Weaponry

Heavy Machine Guns & Others

The M2 Browning with a 12,7 x 99 mm cartridge, the DShK and the NSV with a 12,7 x 108 mm cartridge or the KPV with a 14,5 x 114 mm cartridge can all penetrate at 100 to 200 metres most of the ISIS VBIEDs by using AP ammunition.

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The 14,5 mm HMG KPV because of its large caliber, is very well suited to defeat lightly armored vehicles also it can be mounted on single (ZGU-1), double (ZPU-2) and quadruple (ZPU-4) mounts

For example the company Igman produces two AP rounds, the BZT-44 API-T and the B-32 API, the first one can penetrate 15 mm of armour plate (HPA-10) at 100 metres while the second can penetrate 20 mm under the same conditions so they are effective against most of ISIS VBIEDs more even if we take in to account that the armour of ISIS VBIEDs is of less quality than the HPA-10 against whom BZT-44 and B-32 have been tested.

Maybe the bigger problem is that 100 metres is not even a safety distance against a VBIED, however the plates installed by ISIS are of less quality than HPA-10 so they should be vulnerable at distances up to 300 to 500 metres in most cases.

So in our opinion to use DShKMs with 12,7 x 108 API rounds as they are being used is a good feature, but the problem is that most times there is not enough training, discipline or clear operational methods so the full potential of these type of heavier weapons is wasted.

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The powerful 14,5 x 114 mm cartridge

Also in general SVBIEDs have some design flaws like unprotected wheels, partially exposed flanks or big windows at the front to let the suicide drive the vehicle, all of these soft spots can be targeted with all kind of calibers, including 5,45, 5,56 and especially 7,62 mm and so massed firing over the vehicles can also help a lot to deal with SVBIEDs.

Also what is applied to HMGs can be applied to high rate of fire guns, like 57 mm S-60s, 23 mm ZU-23-2, 30 mm 2A42 or 2A72s…

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23 mm AA ZU-23-2 gun has ahigh rate of fire and can be also a good weapon to defeat VBIEDs

ATGMs

The ATGMs are relatively low efficient weapons in so far as they are scarce and primarily designed to defeat highly protected objectives like tanks and bunkers, however their characteristics like high speeds, long ranges and high  levels of accuracy even against fast moving targets have proven like real silver bullets against VBIEDs.

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Iraqis and Kurdish have added ATGMs like the Chinese HJ-8A/S on its Humvees to defeat ISIS VBIEDs

We have seen the U.S SFs using the FGM-148 Javelin, the French and Kurdish using the Milan and most commonly the Iraqi and Kurdish forces using the Chinese HJ-8s mounted on Humvees to defeat ISIS VBIEDs.

As we mentioned already ATGMs are scarce and so they should be carefully assigned with the main spearheads attacking in open terrain to protect them from VBIEDs.

Tanks and Heavy Guns

Tank guns like 100 mm D-10, 120 mm M256 or 125 mm 2A46 or heavy guns like 85 mm KS-1s or 100 mm KS-19s can have a role dealing with SVBIEDs but their use tends to be more complex, we will try to cover their use and operations anyway.

The procedure includes spotting, aiming and shooting at a target moving at speeds around 90 km/h and again, we must take into consideration that tanks were designed to deal with tanks which are significantly slower and bigger than SVBIEDs.

But in spite of all of the disadvantages a properly trained crew by Western standards must be able to deal with the threat if it has a good Fire Control System (FCS), and in this case “good” means fast and accurate. Finally the ammunition used is very important, for example a kinetic APFSDS round fired from a German 120 mm L/44 gun, very similar to the M256 of the M1 Abrams can reach speeds around 1.675 m/s at 20º Celsius while in similar circumstances a HEAT round can reach 1.405 m/s and this difference is much bigger in Soviet tanks between APFSDS and HE rounds.

If a VBIED advances at 90 km/h it means that it is going at 25 m/s at this velocity and distance because of their trajectory and speed APFSDS are much effective than HEAT or HE rounds and in the best cases they are even 16% faster, which relates to the speed of the VBIED, meaning that if you calculate the speed of the vehicle as being 25 m/s you will have to predict the distance and velocity to reach the target with 16% more calculations in the best of the cases to fire other non-kinetic rounds.

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

However as we mentioned, a properly trained crew firing at high rate can deal with VBIED threats.

Obstacles

Trenches and barriers are old but still very effective mobility counter measures, however and foremost time is needed to build them but still this is a cheap and easy counter measure, at the end of the day if Rome Legions were able to build a camp every day in their marches through Germania, Iraqis should not have problem to build trenches or barriers with modern equipment when the advance is stopped for a few hours.

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SVBIED detainedby a trench, when established in long time defensive positions this kind of constructions can help a lot to prevent surprises

Also the use of caltrops and spiked roadblocks can be very effective against the civilian wheels of most of the ISIS VBIEDs. While this could sound strange we believe that the design of caltrops even with the addition of very small explosive charges to improve their efficiency could help a lot to deal with most civilian VBIEDs.

We must take in to account that caltrops have not changed essentially since the ancient Roman but new designs can help yo deal with SVBIEDs.

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Modern caltrops. Thanks to Amo del Casillo for the image
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Ancient caltrops. Thanks to Amo del Castillo for the image

How Can We Fight Them?

In Open Terrain

The open terrain is key to defeat ISIS VBIEDs because it allows for earlier awareness on the incoming threat and thus it provides more time to react. In our opinion when a VBIED is spotted some procedures must be automatically put in to action, first of all the dismounted infantry must get cover on the ground or if there were not natural covers they must stay behind the vehicles to avoid the deadly shrapnel.

The dispersion, especially that of unarmored vehicles is highly important to avoid unnecessary losses, and the use interlocking fields of fire with HMGs and automatic guns especially set within fast response teams sufficiently spaced from other force elements ready to coordinate and quickly establish killing zones  would be key factors to ensure defeat SVBIED tactics.

In our view most of the ISIS VBIEDs attacking in the open could have been perfectly avoided if a greater level of training and coordination had been available, in most cases VBIEDs were successful it was thanks to the ensued panic and shock among Iraqi units forcing a “stampede” that allowed Isis “wolves” to choose better their prey from among those who were panicking.

Urban Enviroment

The engagements with VBIEDs in urban environment are characterized by:

  • High level of unpredictability about VBIEDs approach routes
  • Lack of early warning
  • High speed of the events
  • Shortened reaction time due to limited visibility in urban environments

The Junction Defensive Approach 

At this stage we have already managed to provide a definite method to defeat ISIS SVBIEDs in urban environments.

First of all urban fighting is very chaotic and the avenues of approach of ISIS VBIEDs can be too many and even difficult to foresee under certain circumstances like after big terrain gains or when the force is overextended, therefore in our opinion it is essential to do a quick but methodical planning of every advance and take into account the paths available for VBIEDs and place there some security forces and a small fast response force.

For example, in our opinion a good enough blocking and security force would be comprised of a Humvee with a driver, a shooter operating a 14,5 mm KPVT HMG, a couple of ready to use RPG-7 against heavy VBIEDs and a couple of combat engineers/sappers specialized in light obstacles, altogether with the usual rifle unit assigned to deal with ISIS infantry.

The specialized light obstacles 2 man team would be the key, their mission would be to establish the best suited place for a disruption point, that would be an area with some distance to the own forces that can close the path just by placing a few obstacles.

The main obstacles would be caltrops but remotely controlled explosives could be used as well, something like a small charge of C4s placed in an armoured box on the disruption point, that explosive would be activated by the operator when the VBIED is close to it.  The armoured plate be to prevent light weapons from detonating it. Also mines, especially cable ones can be very effective but they would need further terrain preparations to be installed at the disruption point something difficult if we take in to account that usually those points are exposed to enemy fire.

Regarding the caltrops would be very important to be easily deployed just by throwing them even randomly or the ability to deploy them individually or in lines adhered to a rope or chain (one of the easiest to make).

The Humvee would be operating alongside the caltrops roadblocks and the explosives/mines and rest of the force would take cover on the nearest building at the same time they would fire all of their weapons against the VBIED before it reaches the block position

Screenshot_15

The “Junction Defensive Approach” is appropriated for small and narrow streets but in wider ones we propose the next formation: The best armored MBT would be at the tip of a wedge formation, while high rate of fire light armored vehicles like BMP-2s, MRAPs or BTR-80s would be slightly backward at the sides of the wedge ready to concentrate their fire on the VBIED if the tank is too slow to destroy it in time.

Screenshot_16

The addition of a Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RWS) with 12,7 or 14,5 mm HMGs at the top of the tanks and with a mode allowing them to be connected to the gunner and commander sights would provide a much faster response for the tanks that at the moment tend to be too slow to deal with SVBIEDs at close range.

der-kampfpanzer-leopard-2-pso
Upgrades like this Leopard 2 PSO with RWS, a shovel and reinforced side armor are ideally suited for urban enviroment

The addition of improved armor plates and spall liners to most of the lightly armored vehicles like M-113s or Humvees can be a good upgrade to prevent them from the effects of shrapnel and close explosions.

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Effects of an IED on a Panthera T6 APC at the Sinai. Photo via Mohamed Mansour

The discipline and diligence of the security elements during the operations is one of the keys to defeat ISIS VBIEDs because as we have been able to see so far, most times the troops manning certain positions were mostly unaware of what they were supposed to protect.

Also the use of surveillance drones, even civilian ones overlooking the forward positions can be very effective to deal with VBIEDs by providing some level of early warning.


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Also we want to recommend this excellent article about the history of VBIEDs.

Also do not forget that we offer military analysis and OSINT services.


Looking out for other Mister X articles?

  1. Achtung Leopards in Syria! Full analysis of the Leopard 2A4TR in Syria
  2. A deep look at the heart of ISIS war machine: From tactics to doctrine
  3. Made in the Caliphate attack drones: A brief analysis of the threat

Combate contra helicópteros

A pesar de que el helicóptero lleva existiendo desde los años 40 en la forma en que lo entendemos hoy y que ha formado parte del arsenal de múltiples ejércitos desde los años 50, los enfrentamientos entre este tipo de aeronaves han sido una rareza. Queremos hoy aportar un nuevo punto de vista sobre las capacidades aire-aire de los helicópteros, así como sobre su potencial utilidad para el futuro ya que, si bien hasta ahora esta ha sido una capacidad secundaria, destinada únicamente a misiones concretas de escolta, creemos probable que en el futuro todo discurra de forma diferente y quizás este poco explotado concepto pueda tener mucha mayor importancia y otorgue una ventaja clave a quienes lo hayan estudiado en profundidad.

ah104
AH-64 disparando misiles aire-aire de corto alcance AIM-9 Sidewinder

Este artículo fue originalmente publicado por la revista digital de defensa en castellano “Ejércitos” el día 3 de enero de 2017 y fue escrito por mi. Si quieres leerlo al completo haz clic aquí.

Pax Syriam

A lo largo de este texto voy a exponer mi opinión y análisis acerca de lo que va a ocurrir para que acabe la guerra y en que condiciones se va a llegar y a desarrollar la paz en Siria.

Situación internacional

Hasta ahora se estaban manteniendo una serie de infructuosas negociaciones en Ginebra, como es típico mientras estas se desarrollaban los múltiples actores se afanaban en demostrar su fuerza en el campo de batalla para así estar en una posición de superioridad durante las negociaciones, sin embargo debido al relativo equilibrio de fuerzas reinante las conferencias de paz sólo lograron acuerdos puntuales que apenas duraron unos días tras ser incumplidos por alguna de las partes, al problema de las negociaciones se sumaba el que uno de los grandes actores de este conflicto, el Estado Islámico, por ser un grupo terrorista no estaba representado en Ginebra, limitándose así los efectos de cualquier pacto que hubiera podido ser alcanzado.

De un lado en septiembre de 2015 se produjo un aumento vertiginoso del apoyo ruso a Assad, hasta entonces se habían limitado a darle un fuerte apoyo diplomático, político y de suministros, sin embargo desde septiembre de 2015 todo el apoyo anterior de Rusia a Assad se reforzó y además se dio el paso de intervenir directamente en las operaciones de combate. Es posible que esto se debiera a que durante el verano de 2015 el Ejército Árabe Sirio (EAS en adelante) estuviera en su momento de mayor debilidad, porque durante el verano se habían venido sucediendo las derrotas, a las que además iba unido al desgaste propio de cuatro años de guerra. De hecho se llegó hasta el punto de que durante aquel verano se acondicionaron obsoletos vehículos guardados en la reserva, como el ZSU-57-2 para poder abastecer a las fuerzas Assadistas.

zsu_57_2
Esta anticuada pieza antiaérea ZSU-57-2 data de los 50 y fue sacada de los depósitos para volver a servir en el EAS durante el verano de 2015

Pero la intervención rusa cambió el signo de la guerra, se enviaron asesores, oficiales de enlace para dirigir los ataques aéreos realizados por los aviones que habían sido desplegados, se construyeron varias bases y se ampliaron las existentes, se enviaron unidades de artillería, zapadores, fuerzas especiales, así como cuantioso suministro de material avanzado para el EAS y sus aliados, por ejemplo la entrega del T-90A, uno de los mejores carros de combate rusos da idea de este intenso apoyo.

ea625529e02dd8c29e81dcadb0970c0c_cropped
El suministro de material avanzado como el T-90A de la fotografía ejemplifica la escalada del apoyo por parte de Rusia hacia el Estado sirio

Todo este nuevo material, potencia de fuego, inyección de moral, así como el esfuerzo realizado por el otro gran aliado de Assad; Irán dieron como resultado que a día de hoy los rebeldes se encuentren en una situación muy precaria, por ejemplo en la Alepo en la que durante septiembre de 2015 los rebeldes luchaban por expulsar a los oficialistas en 2016 son los rebeldes los que están completamente rodeados y sin esperanza alguna de salir victoriosos, además la caída negociada de numerosas bolsas rebeldes situadas al sur de Damasco y las derrotas sufridas entre Hama y Homs han agravado aún más la situación rebelde.

Sin embargo no todo estaba perdido, la administración Obama aunque de forma cauta y lenta había procurado apoyar a los grupos rebeldes y kurdos, en especial entregando a los primeros los eficaces misiles contracarro TOW, sin embargo contra todo pronóstico las elecciones de Estados Unidos de 2016 encumbraron a Donald Trump, un político que se había mostrado muy amigable con Rusia y muy poco receptivo respecto a los grupos rebeldes, con lo que desde el momento en que Trump pase a ostentar oficialmente el cargo de Presidente podremos ver como la actuación de EEUU se moverá dentro de la siguiente horquilla:

  • En el mejor de los casos los rebeldes seguirían recibiendo el apoyo recibido hasta ahora, limitándose este a un envío de cantidades significativas pero insuficientes de material, junto al apoyo político y diplomático estadounidense.
  • En el peor de los casos la administración Trump podría retirar totalmente su respaldo e incluso pasar a dar apoyo a las fuerzas de Assad.

En cualquier caso una idea parece muy probable, y esta es la desaparición o disminución del contrapeso de Estados Unidos al apoyo de Rusia a Assad, lo que implica que los rusos tendrán vía libre o como mínimo un mayor margen de maniobra para actuar en Siria.

Hubo momentos en los que se habló de una posible intervención al estilo de la de Libia por parte de EEUU y sus aliados en Siria, sin embargo a nuestro entender tal intervención a día de hoy sería excesivamente riesgosa debido a la presencia de baterías antiaéreas de largo y corto alcance desplegadas por Rusia, lo que podría provocar un conflicto de impredecibles consecuencias a un coste que ningún político occidental razonable debería estar dispuesto a asumir por un país con una importancia modesta para nuestros intereses.

1030805102
El despliegue de sistemas AA de largo alcance rusos como los S-300VM o los S-400 en Siria hacen mucho más compleja cualquier intervención militar contra Assad

Sin embargo no todo podrían ser buenas noticias para el régimen, ya que Trump siempre se ha mostrado muy beligerante respecto al acuerdo nuclear alcanzado por la administración Obama con Irán, en este sentido se podría jugar con la importante intervención iraní en Siria a la hora de negociar la revisión del mentado acuerdo nuclear, lo que podría atraer de nuevo a EEUU al conflicto.

Situación bélica

A día de hoy podemos dar por sentado que la eterna batalla por la simbólica urbe de Alepo va a terminar en unos meses con una victoria total por parte del régimen, sin embargo en ese momento se le plantearán dos grandes disyuntivas respecto a las dos posibles grandes campañas estratégicas. Dichas campañas serían la de la provincia de Idlib, que tendría por objetivo final volver a controlar toda la frontera con Turquía y expulsar a los rebeldes de su principal bastión en Siria, asestándoles así un golpe mortal, o bien se podría iniciar una campaña para que el EAS pueda tomar antes que nadie la simbólica capital de EI, Raqqa. Cada campaña presenta unas ventajas y unas desventajas.

un-syria
En este mapa de Siria, al norte se aprecian las provincias y ciudades de Raqqa e Idlib respectivamente

Hasta ahora el régimen ha seguido una estrategia conservadora que buscaba mantener y asegurar bajo su poder la espina dorsal de Siria, que sería toda el área al oeste del eje Damasco-Alepo, esto es porque estas son las zonas más pobladas y ricas de Siria, así que legitiman y otorgan diversas ventajas estratégicas a quien las posea.

syrian-road-map
En este mapa se aprecia que la principal arteria de Siria va en línea “recta” desde Damasco hasta Alepo, este ha sido el esqueleto sobre el que se ha colocado la estrategia gubernamental

Siguiendo esta estrategia lo más lógico sería decantarse por la campaña para recuperar Idlib y no por la campaña contra EI, además EI hasta ahora no ha sido la mayor amenaza para el régimen debido a que el Califato se está enfrentando sobretodo a los kurdos apoyados por EEUU y a los rebeldes apoyados por Turquía en el norte de Siria, a esto hemos de sumar que mientras Idlib permanezca en manos rebeldes la llama de la esperanza rebelde permanecerá encendida, y dicha llama podría verse alimentada por sucesos impredecibles de la arena internacional, así como por el aumento vertiginoso del envío de material a los grupos rebeldes, un aumento que por cierto parece estar experimentándose ahora mismo, cuando están llegando semanalmente cantidades nunca vistas de cohetes de 122 mm para los BM-21 Grad rebeldes.

De otro lado la campaña contra EI podría ser muy interesante sobretodo de cara a lavar la imagen del régimen a nivel internacional, hay que tener en cuenta que Raqqa va a ser la última capital del Califato, por lo que quien la conquiste se llevará todo el mérito y alabanzas de la prensa internacional, y desde luego los titulares anunciando que el EAS ha conquistado Raqqa sin duda alguna mejorarían mucho la imagen y predisposición del público mundial hacia el régimen, sin embargo si se toma esta opción y los rebeldes reciben un repentino y cuantioso apoyo desde el extranjero toda la provincia de Idlib podría convertirse en una daga apuntando a la espalda de los oficialistas mientras estos están centrados en Raqqa.

Es posible que se de un híbrido de ambas campañas, de tal forma que después de que acabe la batalla de Alepo pero antes de que empiece el verano se tome alguno de los principales nudos de comunicaciones de Idlib, alguna localidad como Muraat an-Numan, Saraqib, Kafarya o la propia ciudad de Idlib, dificultando así posteriores ataques rebeldes, y de esta forma, una vez asegurados esos puntos claves, podrían concentrarse sobre EI. Además antes de llegar a Raqqa se encuentra la localidad de Tabqa donde en su momento se produjo una sonada masacre de soldados por parte de EI, por lo que reconquistarla aumentaría el prestigio interno de Assad.

También cabe decir que dentro de lo que cabe la tarta que es el Califato en un momento u otro va a ser repartida, y si los rebeldes jugasen bien sus bazas y su apoyo externo aún podrían quedarse con la mayor parte de los territorios de EI reforzándose así y por tanto manteniendo las esperanzas y ganando tiempo, sin embargo esta opción sería complicada, ya que además existe una importante guarnición embolsada en Deir ez Zor, en medio del territorio de EI, y dicha guarnición probablemente sería usada como cabeza de puente para realizar ulteriores operaciones para conquistar territorio de EI a la vez que se realizan los avances desde el oeste hacia Raqqa.

La cuestión kurda

Seguramente la parte más compleja e impredecible de todas es la que tiene que ver con los kurdos de Siria, esos que pretenden crear el estado de Rojava, que ocuparía toda la cornisa de Siria incluyendo los cantones de Efrin, Kobane y Yazira, sin embargo la operación turca “Escudo del Éufrates” ha invadido territorio sirio, impidiendo que los cantones de Efrin y Kobane puedan unirse.

rojava
En amarillo el Estado ideal de Rojava, en realidad la extensión territorial que poseería Rojava no está unificada y hay varias posturas al respecto

El régimen nunca tuvo especial simpatía por los kurdos, ya que eran una minoría tradicionalmente marginada, problemática e independentista, de hecho en su momento incluso se les retiró la nacionalidad a todos ellos, sin embargo a medida que la guerra se ha ido desarrollando el régimen ha encontrado en los kurdos un aliado, a pesar de los diversos encontronazos y tensiones existentes, ejemplo de esto es que en la provincia de Hasakah existen varias bolsas oficialistas en las que hay una gran tensión con los kurdos y de hecho se producen esporádicos enfrentamientos cuando dicha tensión se eleva demasiado.

A nivel internacional los kurdos gozan de un gran prestigio, cuentan con el apoyo de EEUU quien ya desde 2003 en Iraq estableció unos fuertes lazos con los que parecían los únicos aliados estables, y dicha imagen se ha visto reforzada cuando EI ha realizado su “blitzkrieg” particular hasta ser frenado por aquellos lugares habitados por kurdos donde la resistencia a los yihadistas fue feroz.

Aunque en menor medida también Rusia, y otros países de Occidente en general, ven a los kurdos con buenos ojos, sin embargo por una cuestión de coherencia muchos de estos Estados no apoyarán abiertamente la independencia de los kurdos debido a la existencia de movimientos independentistas en sus propios países.

Los estados de la región como Siria, Iraq, Irán o Turquía que sí cuentan con población kurda a menudo los ven como una fuente de problemas, y en especial Turquía; que es quien alberga a la mayor cantidad de kurdos, quiere evitar que se cree un santuario kurdo en el norte de Siria junto a la frontera turca que de alas a los separatistas en Turquía.

Teniendo en cuenta el estado de la cuestión kurda en Siria mi opinión es que Rusia y EEUU van a presionar para que se permita la creación de una región autónoma kurda al norte de Siria, al estilo del Kurdistán iraquí, de esta forma la legalidad internacional dará cobertura a los kurdos de Siria, haciendo que cualquier intervención turca en su suelo suponga una violación de la soberanía siria, sin embargo con ese grado de autonomía los kurdos podrían ser usados como arma de presión estratégica contra Turquía, lo que otorgaría a Rusia y a Siria una baza muy importante a la hora de entablar negociaciones con los turcos. Además Bashar al-Assad podría presentárselo al pueblo sirio como parte de la victoria final, esto es mantener la integridad territorial de Siria, aunque es posible que existan elementos que estén en desacuerdo con la decisión de otorgar tanta autonomía a los kurdos, por último EEUU mantendría a su tradicional aliado kurdo y además podría presentar Rojava como una victoria contra Assad, ya que los kurdos se encuadran en la “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) una organización principalmente compuesta por kurdos, pero de la que también forman parte diversos grupos árabes rebeldes apoyados por EEUU, así, siguiendo esta vía Estados Unidos podría “escurrir el bulto” del desgraciado apoyo a los rebeldes en Siria, que a la hora de la verdad parece que acabará en saco roto aduciendo que se ha logrado un estado autónomo para las SDF.

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La SDF “Syrian Democratic Forces” engloban a varios grupos, aunque la YPG y la YPJ  kurdas son las principales fuerzas

La cuestión turca 

A finales de agosto de 2016 Turquía lanzó la operación militar “Escudo del Éufrates” en la que participó directamente el Ejército turco junto a grupos rebeldes apoyados por Turquía para conquistar toda una serie de territorios controlados por los kurdos y el Califato en el norte de Siria.

A mi entender los objetivos de Turquía con esta operación eran, evitar que tras el desmoronamiento de EI los kurdos llegaran a unificar todos sus cantones, asegurar la supervivencia de al menos una parte de los grupos rebeldes, utilizar ese territorio para reasentar a parte de los refugiados sirios y quizás tener una nueva baza en las futuras negociaciones.

Resulta obvio que las Fuerzas Armadas de Siria no están ni con mucho en condiciones de expulsar al Ejército turco, y los rusos no se van enfrentar a Turquía que está respaldada por la OTAN por un pequeño pedazo de territorio, por lo que parece obvio que deberá haber una solución negociada, sin embargo creemos que en realidad ese territorio va a ser anexionado a Turquía de facto y que en realidad no va a poder ser recuperado por Siria.

Screenshot_1.png
En azul la zona controlada por la operación turca “Escudo del Éufrates” en la que también participan los grupos rebeldes apoyados por Turquía

Pax Syriam

Pero ¿en que condiciones alcanzará el país la paz?

Las cifras son apabullantes 13,5 millones de sirios necesitan ayuda humanitaria, 6,1 millones se encuentran desplazados dentro de Siria y 4,8 millones han huido del país y se encuentran asentados en Jordania, Turquía, Líbano, Alemania y la UE en general.

Una parte muy importante de las negociaciones van a tener que ver con el futuro de los refugiados, ya que no está claro si estos van a querer volver a territorio controlado por el gobierno, donde las represalias son previsibles y donde en muchos casos no les quedará nada, ya que sus hogares han sido destruidos por la guerra, y en el mejor de los casos habrán sido saqueados por unos u otros. Además muchos de los que han escapado son jóvenes desertores que huyeron del país cuando fueron llamados a filas y que por tanto están perseguidos por el ordenamiento sirio.

La pregunta es ¿para quien es una ventaja en las negociaciones esta situación? a priori parece que lo normal es que Assad quisiera recuperar al menos a una parte de la población que huyó, pero en realidad puede no ser así, ya que al fin y al cabo los sentimientos que albergan quienes huyeron al extranjero seguramente no son positivos respecto a Assad, además para Líbano, Turquía, Jordania y la UE en general los refugiados con una carga de la que quieren desquitarse, por lo que Assad podría usar esto para presionar a la hora de las negociaciones.

En materia humanitaria es absolutamente imprescindible que la acción de todas las naciones bajo el auspicio de la ONU y con el consentimiento del Estado sirio se unan para satisfacer las necesidades mínimas de todos los sirios, sin realizar sesgos políticos.

De un lado tenemos la cuestión de las infraestructuras, carreteras, centrales eléctricas, sistemas de agua, instalaciones de extracción de recursos naturales como gas, petróleo, fosfatos o sulfuros, instalaciones militares, fábricas y hogares destruidos por la guerra. Actualmente no hay cifras fiables a cerca del porcentaje de destrucción que ha sufrido el país, sin embargo podemos asumir que los daños han sido altísimos a todos los niveles, y en especial en todas las urbes, salvo aquellas situadas en las provincias de Tartus y Latakia, a donde la guerra como tal nunca ha llegado.

De otro lado es una teoría personal que China va a tratar de influir al máximo en la economía Siria a través de ayudas y acuerdos como aquellos a los que se llegó con Angola o Sudán, estos consisten en que China construya o reconstruya numerosas infraestructuras con mano de obra china y que el pago por parte del gobierno sirio se realice en especie mediante recursos naturales, y en especial gas, petróleo y campos cultivables, al fin y al cabo la forma de actuar de los chinos recibiendo pagos en especie podría funcionar especialmente bien en Siria, ya que ahora mismo las arcas del estado no están ni estarán listas para afrontar las contraprestaciones mediante el pago de dinero.

luanda20international20airport
El gran aeropuerto internacional de Luanda (Angola) ha sido totalmente construido por China usando mano de obra china, esto refleja la fórmula que utiliza China para ganar influencia en el mundo en general y en África en particular

De otro lado después de esta guerra nadie va a estar más en deuda con Rusia y Vladimir Putin que Bashar al-Assad, por lo que es de esperar que las relaciones en todos los sentidos, pero sobretodo el militar se afiancen aún más entre Rusia y Siria y Siria e Irán.

¿Y España?

Dentro del espacio político delimitado por la UE las posturas de los estados miembro han variado mucho respecto a Siria, desde la posición británica más proclive a la intervención militar hasta la postura neutral de los países mediterráneos, incluida España quien a pesar de todo a lo largo de la guerra siempre ha mantenido una actitud de cierta simpatía por el régimen de Assad.

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La capacidad de construcción de infraestructuras por parte de España es notable, y en especial en lo que se refiere a vías de ferrocarril, ¿por qué no aprovechar esta capacidad para obtener lucrativos contratos en Siria?

A mi entender existen dos elementos que le podrían resultar interesantes a España:

  • Seguridad: es obvio que Siria ha sido un criadero de yihadistas, y que la cantidad ingente de armas, incluidas las armas químicas que han caído en manos “inestables”; en el sentido más amplio, podrían derivar en numerosos problemas de seguridad en el viejo continente, incluido el regreso de yihadistas potencialmente peligrosos, es por ello que al igual que se hizo con Marruecos, será importante que se establezca una cooperación fuerte en materia de seguridad e inteligencia para enfrentar al terrorismo islámico.
  • Económica: como ya hemos comentado este país está completamente arrasado y va a requerir de ingentes obras de reconstrucción tanto de infraestructuras complejas como vías de ferrocarril, aeropuertos, centrales eléctricas, depuradoras, potabilizadoras etc, como de estructuras simples como edificios de viviendas, en este sentido las numerosas empresas españolas dedicadas al sector de la construcción en general y de las infraestructuras en particular podrían buscar su espacio para obtener beneficios económicos, eso si, uno de los problemas será la financiación, ya que ahora mismo por lo obvio el Estado sirio tiene las arcas vacías y ya de por si está sumamente endeudado, por lo que no está nada claro la capacidad que posee para hacer frente a futuros pagos de esta clase de obras relativamente costosas.
15-11-05-russian-airstrikes-on-raqqa-bridges-4-1024x575
Las infraestructuras de Siria han quedado abandonadas, inutilizadas o han sido destruidas, en la imagen un puente sobre el Éufrates en la capital del Califato, Raqqa, que fue destruido por la Fuerza Aérea de Rusia

 

 

Document 2: NBC equipment in Syria

An article in Spanish will be published few days after the English version of the document.

Este mismo artículo será publicado en castellano días después de la versión en inglés.

Click here to download the document “NBC equipment in Syria”:

aqw

This is an  article about the NBC equipment in Syria.

 

Anaconda 2016, Cuba

In this article we are going to do a fast ID of images recorded about the recently done Cuban national defense exercise “Anaconda 2016”.

Special thanks to Oryx for his great article about Cuban fighting vehicles

En este artículo vamos a hacer una breve identificación de los vehículos que hemos podido observar durante los ejercicios de defensa nacionales de Cuba “Anaconda 2016”.

Agradecimiento especial a Oryx por su excelente artículo sobre los vehículos de combate de Cuba.

aap-t-130
APP-T-130
bmd-1
BMD-1
bmp-1
BMP-1
brdm-2-2
BRDM-2 modified to have transport capabilities. BRDM-2 modificado para tener capacidad de transporte de tropas
brdm-2-local
Modified BRDM-2 with a 120 mm M-1938 mortar. BRDM-2 modificado con un mortero M-1938 de 120 mm
btr-50
What looks like a BTR-50. Lo que parece un BTR-50
btr-60pb-2
BTR-60PB
btr-60pb
BTR-60PB
jupiter-i-o-ii
Júpiter I or II
l-39zo
L-39C
s-125-sobre-t-55
S-125
mi-8tbk
Mi-8TBK
t-34
Unknown name, local variant it is a T-34 chassis with KS-19 gun. Nombre desconocido, fabricación local, es una barcaza de T-34 con un cañón KS-19
t-55a
T-55
t-62-obr-1967
T-62 Obr. 1967
t-62-obr-1972
T-62 Obr. 1972
t-62m
T-62M
torre-zsu-57-2-en-buque
ZSU-57-2 turret on ship. Torre de un ZSU-57-2 sobre un barco
zis-2-o-zis-3
What looks like a ZiS-2 or ZiS-3 AT gun. Lo que parece un cañón AT ZiS-2 o ZiS-3
uav-unknown
Unknown UAV. Dron de reconocimiento desconocido