Achtung Leopards in Syria! Full analysis of the Leopard 2A4TR in Syria

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Operation Euphrates Shield, Syria
  3. Details about Leopard 2s in Syria
  4. Leopard 2s on the stage
  5. Does the cat have a thick fur?
  6. Final analysis and recommendations

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

Introduction

In this analysis we are going to have a closer look at the performance of the Turkish Leopard 2A4TR tanks in Syria, to do that we are going to know the machine itself, the doctrine and the environment where it has operated and other things thanks to a very detailed OSINT analysis.

In 2005 Turkey acquired 298 second-hand Leopard 2A4s from Germany, later those were called Leopard 2A4TRs and they have just a slight difference in comparison with the originals, that is the addition of improved air filters, something very important for the dusty terrain generally faced in the Middle East.

CzPvkgZWEAAFoHB
Leopard 2A4TR in Syria.

Operation Euphrates Shield, Syria

At the end of August 2016 Turkey launched an offensive with rebel groups from FSA at the north of Syria mainly against the Islamic State but with an eye kept on the Kurdish.

At first M-60Ts were deployed but after some time of rumors and Leopard 2s near the Syrian frontier on the 8th of December 2016 the first batch of Leopard 2A4TRs were seen near the town of Al-Bab firing its guns against ISIS VBIEDs.

Antes de 2
Before the final apparition of the Leopard 2A4s in Syria images like this merged near the Turkey-Syria border.

In theory a few armored and mechanized units probably totalizing no more than two brigades were deployed in Syrian territory, but deployed is not the same as used in the offensive, because it was the FSA infantry and technicals who normally led the attack what resulted in a  new hybrid warfare mixture for the Turkish army.

First of all Syrians speak Arabic, while Turkish speak Turkish even using different alphabets so the communication was not very fluent what is very important if you want to take advantage of the firepower that tanks and artillery offer, also there was lack of training and morale among FSA because this group was mainly comprised of men recruited from refugee camps in Turkey with a fickle morale to fight.

Finally but not less important as Russia or USA have done in Syria the Turkish do not use their conventional units as the bulk of the force, in spite of that they stay in reserve and just some support units are sent to the front, this is important because it means that they are far away from exploiting their full offensive potential in the battlefield.

Let’s see what Heinz Guderian, the father of the so called Blirzkrieg can tell us from his book Achtung-Panzer! first published in Germany on 1937.

“This force [in reference to armored forces and tanks] that actually has the biggest offensive power has also the right to use this power under its own rules, and so anywhere it is empoyed it will be the main force and the others will depend on them ” 

The tank is normally the central piece of the ground warfare but to fully exploit its firepower, mobility and protection it must have an accompanying force to reach all the possbilities that it offers.

C
When tanks are badly accompained and operated they become very vulnerable that is why ISIS has been able to defeat a small Turkish Leopard 2s unit and capture its cats.

If a high intensity campaign would have been done against ISIS the mechanized or armored forces would have been comprised of the next accompanying elements: Mechanized infantry, engineers, self-propelled artillery and air support, all of them used at the same time, in high numbers and at the key points of the ISIS defenses to break their lines and continue the advance cutting their rearguard until Raqqa, but this has never happen, but why? Because as we said Turkey is acting like Russia or the USA and they just do not want to do that kind of high intensity but also high losses warfare, in spite of that they prefer to use their tanks as a mere support for the FSA avoiding to use them in the attack to deeply penetrate ISIS lines alongside a combined arms force.

This is the first main reason for the Leopard 2A4s losses in Syria, they are not being used as tanks must be used, they can not be just mobile guns to support rebels because for that purpose a cheap T-55 captured from SAA depots or even a technical would be nearly as useful as an expensive Leopard 2.

Screenshot_13
Use an advanced tank like a Leopard 2A4 just to provide fire support from the distance is an obvious underutilization of a very capable tool.

But what else did Heinz Guderian told us 80 years ago? Let’s have a look:

“The rights claimed result in the next tactical needs:

  • Surprise
  • Massive employ
  • Suitable terrain”

Surprise was not reached in Al Bab and in fact it is the opposite, the Turkish low profile performance  letting most of the weight of the fight to fall on the FSA and doing just a slow advance was not going to result in any surprise.

The massive employ was not reached because tanks were used in small units, normally just platoons of three or four tanks and sometimes even individually.

Suitable terrain, the only thing that did not depended on the Turkish High Command was given by the nature of the Syrian terrain with a lot of plains and ground with just some snow during the winter.

Leo 2
Leopard 2A4s were deployed in certain numbers but were not used in mass nor concentrated.

Teacher Guderian said “The high speed of the armored attack is essential to determine the results of the combat”

Most of all of the basic rules about the use of armored forces were not applied by Turkish military planners probably due to political pressure to avoid losses and because the chief of the operation, the Lieutenant general Zekai Aksakallı is from SF so he is not very familiar with the usage of armored forces.

So what was the only way of use of the Leopard 2A4TRs in Syria? Just go to one position overlooking the area and give some fire support with the help of a link officer between the FSA and the tanks or just by the own capabilities of the steel monsters.

The lack of ground reconnaissance and link with the rebels ultimately led to the Leopard 2A4 crews to take some bad deccissions and place their tanks at vulnerable positions, those ones were observated by ISIS and its experienced tank hunter units equipped with ATGMs that ultimately were able to hit the MBTs on the exposed flanks.

While we will have a closer look about protection in the section “Does the cat have a thick fur?”  first of all we want to point a few things.

Most of the missiles that hit the Leopard 2s probably were 9M113 Konkurs that attacked from the flanks, anyone with some knowledge about this subject knows that there is no modern MBT able to resist these kind of missiles at the sides if they have no ERA or cage armor attached. Apart from that German designers relied in isolate the most sensible compartments that could led to a catastrophic explosion in case of perforation, especially thinking about fuel and ammunitions.

If a tank like a Leopard 2A4 get an ATGM impact on the side the damages are unavoidable but limitable thanks to automatic fire supression systems, heavily protected ammunition boxes, fireproof garments for the crew etc At this point we can say that Leopard 2A4 resisted well those terrible impacts taking in to account that heavy damages are mostly unavoidable in a situation with these characteristics.

Details about Leopard 2s in Syria

Before being sent to the frontline most of the Leopard 2s were painted with a new arid scheme camouflage but a few Leopard 2s even maintain their old green scheme as we can see in the images.

C3QxxUBW8AAHVeA
While they are uncommon there are still some green Leopard 2A4s in Syria.

While Syria is in general a dry country the north gets some snow and very low temperatures during the coldest months of the winter but in fact that is not a problem for the Leopard 2s that are very well suited for low temperatures.

C3QnBXWWIAAW9ou
Syria is not as hot as some would expect.

Also the Leopard 2 can mount a 7,62 mm MG-1 or MG-3 on the turret in front of the commanders hatch, those MGs tend to use an AA sight but in this case it wouldn’t have sense for Turkish crews and so they probably use the normal sights. This machine gun is especially famous because of its deadly rate of fire around 1.200 bullets per minute. However it is a feature that we have seen just in a few cases while most of the turret MGs have been removed.

C4Ul3TxXUAI0cPh
Covered by a plastic is the MG-1/3 machine gun over the turret.

About the ammunition used, as far as what has been released we have seen M325 HEAT-MP-T (Multipurpose Tracer) rounds along with advanced Turkish (MKEK) copy of the KE German rounds DM-43 or DM-53 and Israeli KE APFSDS M322 or M328.

  • KE or APFSDS – Kinnetic Energy (Only against very well protected targets)
  • HEAT –  High Explosive Anti Tank (Multipurpose)
  • HE –  High Explosive (only against soft targets)

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

 

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

In theory the DM-43s or DM-53s of the last group of images don’t exactly match with a German produced round, in our opinion those are DM-43 or DM-53 rounds produced by MKEK because we have find 120 mm APFSDS-T KE rounds produced by MKEK as we can see on the image below, but these rounds do not appear in the MKEK webpage.

C6JZx_uWQAAWWNz
Under the M325 round we can see cartridge containers for 120 mm APFSDS-T  rounds produced by MKEK, this caliber is just for tanks and the type APFSDS is just for Kinnetical Energy (KE) rounds.

The use of HE and HEAT rounds should be the rule in Syria as far as they are the best suited to deal with personal behind field fortifications or walls, and the HEAT can even engage some armor that ISIS could rarely deploy, like BMP-1s or certain outdated tanks.

The KE APFSDS are penetrators designed to pass through the armor of advanced tanks like T-72s or T-90s and they are no effective against buildings, technicals or lightly armroed vehicles, for example during 1991 Desert Storm we saw that M829 or M829A1 KE rounds were able to penetrate from  side to side of a T-72 and left the tank without destroy anything, so if they can go across all the vehicle and get out whithout affecting it, why deploy them in Syria?

As we all know ISIS has been making a massive use of SVBIEDs mounted in armored civilian vehicles moving at high speed, those are pretty destructive and difficult to hit targets while HEAT and HE projectiles could deal with VBIEDs armors their trajectories are much parabolic because of their lower muzzle velocity in comparison with KE rounds which are around 1.600 m/s in comparison with around 1.000 m/s of HEAT or HE rounds.

This is important for several reasons, for example the DM-53 (KE)  is much faster than the M325 (HEAT) and so it has a much more flat and easy to aim trajectorie what leads to a higher level of accuracy and rate of fire both very important capabilities to deal with VBIEDs. But at this point the sharpest might argue that as I have said before this rounds tend to penetrate all the armor and leave the vehicle without cause any important damage, while this is true we must remember that VBIEDs are loaded with huge amounts of explosives and so the probability that the projectile hits one of them during the perforation is very high.

In most world doctrines including the Turkish, tank platoons are comprised of 4 tanks each with one leading tank, however sometimes some especial forces use platoons of three tanks each, this is for example more typical in expeditionary forces like marines or naval infantry units.

What is strange is that at some point we have observed what appears to be Turkish tank units of 3 tanks each while it would have sense because you do not need to mass a lot of vehicles to fight ISIS but rather be flexible with the vehicles you have, but anyway we are far from absolutely sure about this point.

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

Leopard 2s on the stage

Almost all of the fighting where the Leopard 2s have been involved was linked to the battle for Al-Bab town, and especially about the clashes for its hospital located at the west of the town.

Desastre Hospital
Al-Bab town.
Desastre Hospital1
Al-Bab hospital.

For recovery purposes the main vehicle is the M88A1 originally based on the M-48/M-60 powerplants, while the A1 is an improved version with a more powerful engine.

We do not know the numbers of M88A1s deployed but what is sure is that they have not done or they have not been able to do a good job at certain times, because we have been able to see how Leopard 2A4s destroyed or heavily damaged were not recovered event a mptnh after the event, what says a lot about coordination and maybe about the ISIS pressure in the area.

M88A1
M88A1 in Syria.

At the moment we have been able to verify the existence of 43 Leopard 2A4TRs deployed in Syria along two batches: The first one was comprised of 18 tanks that were seen on 8/12/2016 while the second batch included 25 tanks that were sent on 10/12/2016 this numbers suggest a deployed force equivalent to an armored brigade and as Christian Triebert published in Bellingcat the license plates of the Leopard 2s corresponded to the 2nd Armored Brigade from the First Army.

But how are they normally operated?

Normally they fire from hastily constructed field fortifications originally intended for the infantry and built with soil walls, they are not specifically designed for tanks because otherwise they would have much higher walls covering their sides and fronts. If they would have enough time and resources they would have dug firing positions for the tanks because those protect them much more than those walls made with soil.

We have not seen any well prepared dig in fire position for the tanks what suggests a low participation and low coordination with engineer units who would have build much better positions an effort that in the end could have saved a lot of vehicles and crews.

Look at the images above and just compare the levels of protection offered by the fortifications done in both firing positions for tanks, on the left one a M1 Abrams during some drills, on the right one a Leopard 2A4TR in Syria.

Normally Leopard 2s stay behind the soil walls and provide fire support from positions overlooking ISIS territory and firing the main guns and the coaxial machine guns, however we do not know their level of coordination with the FSA.

We also think that apart from the own abilities of the tank, the Turkish are using their Cobra OTOKAR light wheeled vehicles to support fire control of the MBTs during the operations, this technique is also used by other armies like for example the French AMX-56s along the VBLs.

C53Vc-OXEAEXoG_
OTOKAR Cobra in Syria.

It is also interesting to note that there are a lot of photos of Turkish soldiers with relatively rare and specialized weapons like the AIAW sniper rifle posing with the Leopards, these kind of rifles would be just used in very specialized sniper units particularly from the SFs a kind of forces that you would not normally expect to be operating with armored units, this gives us an idea about how hybrid the warfare is where the Turkish Leopard 2s are acting.

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

As the Leopard 2s are normally acting as mere means of fire support and not as part of purely offensive and advancing forces they are not probably expected to need fire support and so probably the artillery and mainly the 155 mm SPH T-155s are not acting primarily under the tank units requisitions what is always  a defect.

C4sd1z2W8AAQL-_
In normal conditions the 155 mm SPH T-155 Firtina would have operated in close coordination with the Leopard 2A4s.

However we are still speaking about a low-intensity operation and so the tanks deployed do not act in a normal way and in the end they are being used such as during urban fighting, that is disperse tank units and decentralize at a certain degree the command, so for example if tanks are needed at some area they do not deploy even a single squadron but just one or two tanks to provide fire support, this is because ISIS has so low numbers of troops deployed that you do not need the whole unit to be participating during the fire support phase.

While in a normal situation Turkish armored units would be coordinated with jets, helicopters, artillery and other assets, in Syria they just look to be coordinated with small units of mechanized infantry mounted on ACV-15s (a heavily improved Turkish version of the M-113 APC) that in our opinion normally act as security elements for the small tank units.

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

Most times the true spearhead of the OES is the FSA units supported by tanks and by the artillery provided thanks to the SFs accompaining the FSA and using recognisment technics, the air force looks to be operating both attacking predetermined objectives and providing immediate air support.

But the main problem is that the FSA that in theory is supposed to be the infantry spearhead has a different language (Arabic) a lot of times they have no experience, low moral and a low level of training, and finally they are mainly a light force without their own heavy material what in the end and in spite of the Turkish heavy material supporting them does not compensate their deficiencies.

Also it must not be underestimated the high proficiency that ISIS tank hunter units have reached in Al-Bab, a sophistication never seen before in Syria or Iraq with even simultaneous double ATGM strikes and a good coordination to attack from different sides, and a good knowledge of the terrain that has allowed them to take some advantages and produce some small but jazzy successes.

Does the cat have a thick fur?

While some have argue that the tanks were hit by TOW-2A ATGMs we find it very unlikely, first of all because throughout the war just a few TOWs have end on hands of ISIS, and secondly because ISIS has plenty of Soviet/Russian ATGMs, some of them captured and some of them bought to rebel groups.

Those ATGMs are mainly 9M111 Fagot, 9M113 Konkurs, 9M133 Kornet and 9M115 Metis, the last one depending on its variant 9M115 or 9M115-1 has a medium range from 1 to 1,5 km, also all of them work with HEAT warheads and the less powerful one is the 9M111 with a penetration capability around 400 mm of RHA.

In theory the frontal armor of the Leopard 2A4 would resist the Fagot, could resist the Metis and the Konkurs and would not resist the Kornet.

However the sides is another story, maybe at the frontal part of the sides of the Leopard 2A4 where the heavy skirts are situated we might be speaking about a 40% of the armor on the front, while in  the other parts of the sides it would probably be even less.

Leo2DK6_k
Look at how thin the side armor is.

We estimate that the armor of the chassis would be between 3 to 8 cm thick of conventional steel depending on where are we speaking while at the low part of the chassis we should add the wheels and the light skirt acting as spaced armor what adds an unknown protection, but still the most exposed parts are the sides of the turret and the high part of the chassis because there is no extra armor on both.

C5RxvH6WAAAE4JR
At the left of the soldier we can appreciate the heavy sideskirt blocks of first generation that were later replaced in the Leopard 2A5 version.

However Leopard 2s are designed to also protect the critical flammable or explosive components inside the tank, and overall the ammunition racks wich are protected and even every round has its own plated container.

The tank has two main ammo racks, the first one with 27 rounds  storaged at the front of the chassis at the height of the gunner, that one is very well protected but it could be vulnerable to mines that hit the low glacis or beneath the hull, the other rack is at the left-back part of the turret and it has 15 ready to use rounds, these ones are by far the more exposed, especially to hits on the sides of the turret.

v5
Leopard 2A4 ammunition storage

It is not necessary to say that every ATGM would be able to penetrate the side of the Leopard at almost any place and after the penetration just the protection measures and the luck in some way foreseen by the designers will allow the tank and its crew to survive.

Also it must be said that normally just one penetration is not able to destroy a tank but rather to cause it heavy but repairable damages including heavy wounds and even some deaths to the crew.

In the case of Syria all of the hits documented were on the right side of the Leopard 2s leading to one of the worst situations, also some tanks were captured and utterly destroyed by ISIS or by Turkish airstrikes.

Let’s have a look at the image below, it shows an absolutely annihilated Leopard 2A4, everything that could have exploited did it, but let’s have a closer look at the front of the chassis because that part is the one that has suffered more damage, for example the ammo rack of the turret has also exploited but it has not meant that the turret has been cut in to pieces, while the chassis has been. In our opinion what these evidences suggest is that such damage can just had been done by an air launched missile, in the case of the Turkish Air Force probably an AGM-65 Maverick, because the frontal chassis is very hard to destroy as it has been done in this case.

C2oOOFZXEAIsazV
The damage over the frontal part of the chassis is incredible moreven if we take in to account that it is the most armored part of the MBT.

Also during the ISIS video about the captured Turkish positions with a few Leopard 2s apparently they were all well preserved and so posterior images of Leopard 2s could have been taken after those captured ones were destroyed by ISIS or the Turkish. In the end those are too complex and unknown vehicles for ISIS and they are as useless as those M1 Abrams captured by Daesh in Iraq that were later destroyed.

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

Disgracefully we have not been able to establish the conncetion between any of the ISIS ATGM videos and other tank photos, with the exception of the next  group of images where we can see an attack on two Leopard 2A4s, thanks to Christian Triebert for help us at this point.

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

In this case the ATGM was more likely a Soviet 9M111, 9M113 or 9M133, at the position  attacked there were two Leopard 2s and one T-155 SPH. The position was comprised of a soil wall divided in two spaces at the front where both vehicles were situated to fire, for the protection of the sides they mistakenly trusted in to a civilian wall that did not cover even the taller part of the chassis.

The after effects of the engagement can be seen on this image.

a3f2774f1ef1ce97caa1076243e076cf

Despues de capturados 1
The second tank that was hit: Here we can appreciate the effects of the penetration.
Despues de capturados 2
The first tank that was hit: In this case we can see the hole on the turret to allow the energy of the explosion get out upwards in case of the 120 mm ammo rack was penetrated.

 

While both tanks suffered a brutal impact the second one got completely burnt off, judging the angle for the ATGM we can clearly see that the most exposed part of that tank was the rear turret, where the ready to use 120 mm rounds were placed, the weaker spot of the tank. The impact led to a catastrophic kill that probably disembogued in the death of some members of the crew.

The first tank resisted much better the impact, as we can see on the images of the strike and the images above the tank chassis was very angled and also the missile hit the heavy sideskirts what might have helped to decrease the power of the shaped charge once it entered inside the tank, while some damage and injuries may have been caused the crew still was able to turn back the turret, this hit could have also been close to affect the main 120 mm rack storage but it looks like it wasn’t able to reach it what shows why German designers added those heavy sideskirts at the flanks, to protect that side where a powerrful hit could ultimately reach the main 120 mm storeroom.

V8

Also it is interesting to note that on the image above we can see how the upper part of the turret where the 120 mm ammo rack is has been opened, in theory this part of the tank was deisgned to blown up to direct the explosion of the cartridges outside the tank, that is why it is very typical to see that part of the Leopard 2 turret blown up in cases of penetration.

Cuarto Leo 2
ATGM 1:  9M-115-2 Metis-M approaching to its target in Syria.
Cuarto Leo 2 2
ATGM 1.2: 9M115-2 hits the target

On the sequence of images ATGM 1 and ATGM 1.2 we can see the impact of a powerful 9M115-2 Metis-M medium range ATGM with a high penetration capability on the side of the Leopard 2 again a very weak spot for a powerful ATGM as the Metis-M is.

In similar hits in T-72 series tanks in Syria where the better frontal armor of the Leopard 2A4s is not an advantage because the T-72s have around 80 mm of steel in the sides probably nearly the same as the Leopard 2s, we have been able to observe that catastrophic kills are much rare in the German tanks.

Some tanks were destroyed by IEDs or mines, the fact is that normally AT mines are designed to disable the tank by destroying the tracks but not to completely blow them of, however IEDs which are “homemade” and can be produced with different amounts of explosives can be very powerful, especially if common 152 mm or 155 mm HE artillery rounds are used.

In the next image we can see a totally destroyed tank whose number plate was “195 | 526” and according to some sources it was disabled by an IED or a mine.

V1
The “195 | 526” tank.
C2oZgbMXgAAup3h-678x381
The “195 | 526” tank.
C2oZgbZW8AExK18
The “195 | 526” tank.

If we have a closer look at the paper from an unknown source that has proven itself very accurate the tanks that revceived heavy damages had a “Ağır hasarli” (heavy damage) note, while those with very light damage did not have any indication as we can see in the original paper by comparing it with those tanks in the videos released by ISIS.

V2
The original paper with the information that later proved very reliable and accurate.

But the “195 | 526” tank appeared with no damages measure and in theory it was affected by an IED or a mine, so why the images show exactly the opposite? In our opinion it is just part of the ISIS propaganda, also the turret does not look to have suffered a prolonged fire of its 120 mm ammunition but rather a huge explosion after the ammunition was taken out, what explains the lack of burning marks and how the terrorists would have placed the explosives on the floor of the tank.

In the end it is very likely that this tank suffered a mobility kill because of a mine and later ISIS was able to loot and then put some explosives inside it to prevent the Turkish from recover their cat.

For example the Leopard 2 that appears below looks to have step over an AT mine or an IED because the right track is destroyed while the other one is in well state, and also it has not caused the destruction of the tank because it would not have been able to reach the main racks, this matches with the description given about the tank with the number plate 195 | 541.

C2oPD3QXgAU_Wbt
Leopard 2 MBT right track destroyed.
C2oooXsUkAE5boK
Leopard 2 MBT right track destroyed.

Also the next one looks like the 195 | 537  tank because in the description it was said that it was “under the wall”.

Screenshot_5
Very likely the 195 | 537

In social media it is claimed that it was loaded with a bomb and the fired with a M82A1 Barret what caused its destruction.

Interestingly almost a 100% of the hits of mines, RPGs and ATGMs over the Leopard 2s happened on the right flank of the tanks, this has a lot of sense as far as the position of ISIS was in Al Bab, and Turkish tanks were approaching from the west while approximately two kilometres at the south were placed the ISIS AT positions within range to fire the long range ATGMs two kilometres inside FSA-Turkish held territory to hit the Leopard 2s that were aiming at Al-Bab letting their flanks exposed as the next image explains

V4

 Final analysis & recommendations

Improve the coordination with FSA or even mix them with mechanized units would lead to a better level of effectiveness in te battlefield while it would also help to strength the FSA forces.

A much high level of coordination with the engineers for recovery missions and to build better protected firing positions for the tanks would help a lot to prevent ISIS from detect and hit Turkish tanks, while also the Leopard 2s should take more advantage of their mobility and do not stay in  the same position after a few shots it is important to speed up the fire support processes tor reduce detection, engage and fire by ISIS AT weapons against Turkish armor.

dug-in_panzer_iv
Panzer IV dug in a well built position, this kind of fortification must be provided by Turkish combat engineers.

About the recovery missions they are very important because some of the tanks captured by ISIS were taken because they have small mobility problems that could have been solved by repairing them or by evacuating them from the frontline before ISIS took the position, also some destroyed tanks that should also be taken out from the battlefield were abandoned and stayed in the same places even one month after they were destroyed.

Better use of ground reconnaissance assets in this kind of low intensity hybrid warfare is vital, it is needed a major use of armored vehicles and infantry survey to find places to be attacked by the tanks in ISIS lines and to determine what firing positions are best suited to protect the tanks from ISIS AT weaponry, along with the reconnaissance the use of more anti-mine warfare equipment and even vehicles would be useful to prevent some dangerous situations.

ara2ot8
The Cobra MARS-V is the survelliance version of the Cobra, a vehicle that could have been very useful against ISIS during the battle of Al-Bab.

The organization of self-destruction air units 24/7 ready to destroy enemy tanks captured by ISIS could be a good idea to prevent them to use those tanks as propaganda or give us disgusting susprises in the future.

Also some of the actions of ISIS able to take some small positions where the Leopard 2A4TRs were stationed shows a certain lack of sedulity about the security element comprised of mechanized infantry mounted in ACV-15s that should establish a strong perimeter around the tanks to prevent ISIS to sneak in to their positions something that tends to happen in hybrid warfare.

Also allocate more M88A1 recovery vehicles for the units in the front to provide them better means for recovery missions along reserves of armored units as full time quick reaction forces to counter-attack, even with support of helicopters against possible ISIS nigh raids or similar ones could be a very good idea.

All the measures told above are free or very cheap however some heavy measuers could be taken to directly protect the Leopard 2s as we are going to see.

The Turkish company ASELSAN designed a very interesting prototype based on the Leopard 2A4 called Leopard 2 NG (Next Generation) which between other things adds a lot of modular armor and a cage armor on the sides.

leopard_2ng_l3
Leopard 2 NG designed by ASELSAN a very interesting upgrade from which part of the technology could be aplplied to the Leopard 2A4TR, pay attention to the enhanced protection on the sides.

While Leopard 2A4 is probably protected enough against most threats at the front the sides are another story and in our opinion the addition of the Leopard 2 NG armor to the sides and some ERA could make them well protected against ISIS threats however it is unlikely that without the ERA even the Leopard 2 NG could stop a Konkurs or even less a Kornet at the sides, along with these measures the study of new better protected ammo racks even by reducing them a little could be a great idea.

Finally the addition of a LWR or a similar system to alert the crew from enemy incoming ATGMs could help to save a lot of tanks and lives.

If you have enjoyed the article you can help us by donating via Paypal here.

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

We also want to thanks Christian Triebert for helping us and for his excellent article in Bellingcat.


Looking out for other Mister X articles?

A deep look at the heart of ISIS war machine: From tactics to doctrine

Made in the Caliphate attack drones: A brief analysis of the threat

 

Armamento de la Alemania nazi en Siria

Entenderemos por armamento nazi todo aquel que fue diseñado en el II Reich, III Reich o República de Weimar y que fue inscrito en el inventario oficial de las fuerzas armadas alemanas en la época del régimen nacionalsocialista (1933-1945) . Además incluiré las versiones de posguerra directamente derivadas de la MG-42 por considerarlas extremadamente similares.

Inventario estimado

MP-44: 5.000 aproximadamente

Máuser C96: 1, probablemente más, posiblemente son copias

MG-34: 2-3, probablemente unas pocas más

MG-42, MG-3, MG-1: 3 a 5 confirmadas, probablemente unas pocas más

Máuser 98k: 2, probablemente más

LeFH-18M o M18/61: 3 confirmados, puede que haya alguno más. Su munición se limita a la que se haya almacenado en Siria

LeFH-18M o M18/61

Es la única pieza de material pesado alemán de la Segunda Guerra Mundial que ha participado en la guerra de Siria.

Fue una pieza estándar en la Wehrmacht entre los años 1939 a 1945, posteriormente de la misma forma en que probablemente llegaron las MP-44, MG-34 y MG-42 también llegó el LeFH suministrado por países pertenecientes a la URSS. Por otra parte el equivalente al 18M era un cañón yugoslavo llamado M18/61 que también pudo haber llegado a Siria y que no era más que una copia con unos ejes de rueda diferentes al alemán, y que me hacen dilucidar que en realidad es un M18/61, no obstante el cañón es tan sumamente idéntico que igualmente lo llamaré LeFH-18M.

Su calibre es de 105 mm y su alcance máximo de unos 10 kmtrs. a pesar de ello es una pieza totalmente anticuada. La versión concreta es la LeFH-18M y tal y como me comentó Oryx se distingue de otras versiones gracias al freno de boca.

Lo cierto es que en Siria hay por lo menos tres piezas que han entrado en combate en mayo y agosto de 2015 respectivamente tal y como se aprecia en los dos primeros vídeos. El tercer vídeo también data del verano de 2015. (vídeo 1vídeo 2vídeo 3)

En el caso del segundo vídeo se aprecia como es un anciano el que parece realizar todos los cálculos de tiro y el que “enseña” a un miliciano a tirar del cordel para disparar el cañón. Apuesto a que ese anciano hace unos 50 años estuvo en el ejército sirio y operó el LeFH-18.

Los cañones en sí parecen estar en buen estado, aunque el hecho de que permanecieran por décadas en la reserva indica que probablemente han necesitado algún tipo de mantenimiento antes de ser usados.

En cuanto a la munición resulta obvio que junto a las piezas se suministraron cantidades importantes de proyectiles ya que de hecho en la foto de abajo se aprecia un montón muy bien apilado de contenedores de proyectiles de artillería.

Screenshot_4.png
A la izquierda se aprecia la pirámide de contenedores para proyectiles que de hecho parecen en su mayoría vacíos, lo que indica que el arma ha sido usada intensamente

Además resulta curioso porque en ambos vídeos se aprecia una especie de “bombonas de oxígeno” similares a las usadas por los submarinistas. Y no es una coincidencia, esas botellas con toda probabilidad contienen nitrógeno que se usa para limitar el retroceso del arma. No estoy seguro al cien por cien ya que no he hallado información al respecto pero creo que dicho nitrógeno se introduce en una especie de tubo que sobresale en el lateral derecho del cañón.

Screenshot_5.png
Bombona de nitrógeno junto al LeFH-18M, en el segundo vídeo de agosto de 2015 se aprecian unas botellas similares de color gris.
Screenshot_2.png
LeFH-18M en mayo de 2015, Siria. Nótese que el cañón pertenece a Frente Islámico y dentro de este a Ahrar al Sham
Screenshot_3.png
LeFH-18M durante agosto de 2015 en Siria. En la foto se aprecia al anciano que parece ser un veterano en la manipulación de este cañón. También en el lateral derecho se aprecia claramente el tubo en el que se introduce el nitrógeno para frenar el retroceso
Screenshot_1.png
Mismo LeFH-18M de agosto de 2015 en Siria tras haber sido disparado. A la izquierda del mismo se aprecian las reconocibles botellas
jdujfnw
LeFH-18M del tercer vídeo, nótese las bombonas de nitrógeno tumbadas a la izquierda del cañón
fexjddi
LeFH-18M del tercer vídeo

Sturmgewehr 44

El Sturmgewehr, que significa literalmente “rifle de asalto”, más conocido como MP-44 o StG-44 y menos conocido como MP-43 es considerado por muchos, incluido el que escribe como el primer rifle de asalto de la historia (con permiso del Fedorov)

Su diseño comenzó en 1942, entró en servicio de forma limitada en 1943 y su debut en grandes cantidades llegó a partir del año 1944. Utilizaba un innovador calibre 7,92 x 33 mm Kurz a medio camino entre las balas para corta distancia 9 x 19 mm  Parabellum usadas en los MP-40 y las balas para muy larga distancia de 7,92 x 57 mm de los rifles de cerrojo.

Al fin y al cabo ese es el objetivo del rifle de asalto, cubrir distancias intermedias en el campo de batalla sin llegar a ser un rifle de precisión pero con capacidad para responder allí donde una pistola o un subfusil no llegaría.

En Siria se han encontrado 5.000 MP-44 en un arsenal capturado por los rebeldes en agosto de 2012 tal y como se aprecia en este vídeo. Las armas a pesar de estar amontonadas con total desorden parecen estar en perfecto estado.

Justo un mes después, el 10 de septiembre el ejército sirio interceptó un camión que iba de Hama a Homs cargado con varias armas entre las que había un MP-44 que con toda probabilidad procedía del arsenal capturado. (fuente)

Lo cierto es que cuando Siria se preparaba para la que posteriormente fue la Guerra de los Seis Días se armó precipitadamente de ingentes cantidades de armamento ligero y pesado. Entretanto sus aliados de la URSS tenían un importante e inservible inventario de armamento alemán capturado de la 2ª GM, así que se lo suministraron, ello sumado a las compras que este país hizo en el extranjero provocó una amalgama insólita de material militar.

Baste decir que allí acabaron T-34-85 combatiendo junto a 17 Panzer IV comprados a España, y cazacarros Jagdpanzer IV entre muchos otros. Junto a este material es probabilísimo que se entregaran los MP-44.

El MP-44 a pesar de ser el primer rifle de asalto era un arma aceptable con un mantenimiento y manejo sencillo y fiable, y un cartucho bastante potente. Eso sí, es muy probable que su munición se suministrara en cantidades importantes pero limitadas.

Después de que los rebeldes encontraran aquellos 5.000 MP-44 han ido apareciendo fotos de estos rifles siendo usados en combate, lo que en mi opinión hace ver que seguramente cerca de aquellos MP-44 se almacenaba una cantidad importante de balas de 7,92 x 33 mm Kurz.

A su vez una cierta cantidad de StG-44 han sido vistos montando diferentes tipos de miras telescópicas, la utilidad de las mismas reside en que permiten al soldado hacer las funciones de un tirador selecto con mayor capacidad que un soldado normal en disparos a cierta distancia, si a esto le unimos la gran potencia de su bala Kurz el MP-44 podría ser adecuado para equipar a un tirador selecto.

Por último el cañón del MP-44 tiende a calentarse rápidamente por lo que habitualmente se agarra desde el cargador para apuntar, a no ser que se usen unos guantes especiales para dispararlo. En el momento en que se utiliza el cargador como punto de apoyo su precisión disminuye ostensiblemente.

242343-660x398
MP-44 modificado para ser disparado por control remoto en Siria
tumblr_nnxtq0vikx1u9heyso1_500
MP-44 en Siria
ChVNo3nU0AAqoMs.jpg
MP-44 con mira telescópica en el norte de Alepo, Siria 2016

Máuser C96

A lo largo de la Segunda Guerra Mundial las dos pistolas reglamentarias más típicas de la Wehrmacht fueron la Luger P08 y posteriormente la Walther P38, sin embargo y aunque era menos numerosa la C96 también estuvo en servicio en la Luftwaffe.

La C96 fue diseñada en 1896 en la Alemania del II Reich, posee un raro calibre 7,63 x 25 mm que hoy día sería muy difícil de encontrar en Siria. Utiliza cargadores de 10 balas.

Es muy probable que las pocas C96 encontradas en Siria e Iraq sean en realidad copias probablemente de origen chino que en realidad usarían un calibre 7,62 x 25 mm Tokarev de origen soviético y que a su vez es hermano del 7,62 x 25 original. Sin embargo el 7,62 x 25 mm es mucho más común en Siria.

La C96 es un arma considerada elegante y típica de coleccionista, por lo tanto es cuestionable su uso en combate ya que de hecho su alcance preciso seguramente no supera los 100 metros.

Este arma habitualmente lleva una culata de madera para ayudar a aumentar la precisión a la hora del apuntado, no obstante en principio dicha culata es prescindible.

Por último respecto a las cantidades hoy día en Siria parecen más bien bajas, no obstante es probable que se pueda adquirir en el mercado negro como objeto de lujo a un alto precio.

C 96.jpg
Este armero de Jaish Al Islam expone entre otros una Máuser C96 con culata de madera

MG-34

La ametralladora multipropósito MG-34 fue la principal ametralladora en dotación en las fuerzas armadas alemanas durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial.  Podía ser usada en múltiples roles en función de la configuración. Desde ametralladora coaxial o arma principal de los vehículos blindados hasta arma antiaérea de corto alcance pasando por arma de las unidades de apoyo siendo esta última la versión encontrada en Siria.

Emplea la potentísima bala de 7,92 x 57 mm Máuser y tiene una cadencia de entre 600 y 1.000 disparos por minuto.

Un poco como ocurrió con los MP-44 parece muy probable que esta arma haya acabado en Siria a raíz de ese material sobrante de la 2ª GM exportado desde las naciones de la antigua URSS hasta Siria antes de la Guerra de los Seis Días (1967). No en vano algunas MG-34 por un procedimiento similar acabaron en manos de las fuerzas norvietnamitas en la guerra de Vietnam contra EEUU.

Algunas MG-34 pueden proceder de los carros Panzer IV que España le vendió a Siria y que al parecer portaban esta ametralladora.

Consume mucha munición que a su vez es muy difícil de encontrar, además es muy delicada y requiere de un mantenimiento continuo.  También necesita cambiar el cañón cada cierto número de disparos.

No obstante las cantidades vistas en Siria no tienen nada que ver con el MP-44 ya que de hecho yo hasta ahora sólo he encontrado dos imágenes.  Eso sí, ambas nos presentan unas MG en perfecto estado, por lo que no me extrañaría que hubieran sido sacadas de algún tipo de arsenal donde podría haber algún ejemplar más.

MG 34 2012 Syria
El hombre con gafas de sol a la derecha lleva una MG-34 con munición. Foto de rebeldes en Latakia, finales de abril de 2012
MG34
MG-34 capturada en perfecto estado en Siria

MG-42 y MG-1/MG-3

Lo cierto es que la MG-34 era demasiado compleja a la hora de ser fabricada como para satisfacer las necesidades de ametralladoras de la Wehrmacht, por lo que se diseñó un arma más barata aplicando técnicas de fabricación y soluciones técnicas muy innovadoras, dando como resultado la MG-42.

La MG-42, también apodada la “motosierra de Hitler” por el característico ruido que hacia al disparar tenía una velocidad de disparo de hasta 1.200 balas por minuto y al igual que en la MG-34 era necesario cambiar el cañón cada 250 balas.

Tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial se hicieron múltiples versiones, aunque todas ellas prácticamente iguales, dichas versiones incluían cambios menores e inapreciables a no ser que se tenga físicamente el arma y se desmonte. La principal diferencia de las MG-1 y MG-3 actuales respecto a la MG-42 de la 2ª GM es el paso del potente calibre 7,92 x 57 mm Máuser al 7,62 x 51 mm de la OTAN.

Si la diferencia entre una MG-42 y una MG-3 es inapreciable, las diferencias entre una MG-1 y una MG-3 son incluso menores por lo que a no ser que dispongamos de fotos de una gran calidad no podremos saber si en Siria hay MG-42, MG-1 o MG-3.

En el caso de la MG-42 podría haber llegado a Siria de la misma forma que la MG-34 o el MP-44, en el caso de las MG-3 y MG-1 podrían existir cinco vías diferentes.

Por un lado que algunas MG-3 operadas por el ejército turco que apoya a los rebeldes hayan acabado en Siria, por otro lado que algunas de las MG-3 suministradas por Alemania a los kurdos iraquíes y capturadas a estos por Daesh acaben en Siria, versiones yugoslavas de las MG y por último y más improbables es que las MG-3 fabricadas por Irán o poseídas por Arabia Saudita hayan acabado en Siria.

La munición Máuser que necesita la MG-42 seguramente sea extremadamente difícil de conseguir, y menos aún teniendo en cuenta la cantidad de balas que consume esta arma. Por otro lado el calibre 7,62 OTAN aunque tampoco es que sea muy común en Siria se puede obtener con mayor facilidad a través de Turquía o incluso Iraq.

Teniendo en cuenta la falta de conocimientos técnicos y militares de la mayor parte de los combatientes de Siria cuesta imaginar que pudieran sacarle partido a una saga de ametralladoras tan complejas. Digo esto porque tácticas como la de disparar sin apuntar tan típicas de Siria producen un desgaste excesivo a los cañones de las MG, y además consume cantidades ingentes de una munición que además no es fácil de conseguir.

MG 3.jpg
MG-42/MG-1/MG-3 en Siria
MG 3 2
MG-42/MG-1/MG-3 en el norte de Alepo, Siria (2016)
Screenshot_2.png
MG-42/MG-1/MG-3 en Alepo, Siria
Screenshot_1
Rarísima mira antiaérea montada en la MG-42/MG-1/MG-3 en Alepo, Siria
mg.png
MG-42/MG-1/MG-3 en Alepo, Siria

Teniendo en cuenta que las ametralladoras vistas estaban en el área de Alepo cabe imaginar que la procedencia de las mismas se halle en Turquía.

Máuser karabiner 98 Kurz 

El Máuser 98k fue un diseño del año 1935 que tuvo gran éxito y fu exportado o producido bajo licencia en numerosas naciones. Es un rifle de cerrojo con un alcance que podría llegar hasta un kilómetro y que utiliza peines de cinco balas del potentísimo y raro calibre 7,92 x 57 mm Máuser.

Junto a los 5.000 MP-44 se aprecian imágenes de muy mala calidad pero que nos permiten confirmar que había algún que otro Máuser entre aquellos.

Screenshot_4.png
Máuser 98k junto a MP-44 en el almacén capturado por los rebeldes en Siria

Además hay un coleccionista de armas que afirma que en 2011 adquirió un “Máuser sirio”.

Lo cierto es que existen diversas versiones tanto a nivel interno de Alemania como de versiones producidas bajo licencia en terceros países.

De hecho una cantidad muy importante de kar 98k acabaron en Israel y fueron utilizados por tropas de retaguardia en la Guerra de los Seis Días (1967) y en la Guerra del Yom-Kippur (1973). Algunos podrían haber sido capturados acabando así en manos sirias.

Además en Iraq se han usado por parte de grupos insurgentes en cantidades limitadas. El 98k de hecho ha sido capturado por tropas norteamericanas en numerosas ocasiones. Existe una importante venta de este tipo de rifles en el mercado negro por todo Iraq y en especial entre los kurdos iraquíes.

Screenshot_1
Segundo Máuser 98k en el mismo almacén que el anterior en Siria

Resulta obvio que un rifle como este en operaciones reales en la guerra de Siria tan sólo podría tener un rol aceptable en el campo de batalla actual como rifle de francotirador de la misma forma en que está siendo usado el Mossin Nagant. En este papel aún puede tener una actuación más que decente ya que el 98k si se distinguía por algo es precisamente por su precisión.

Eso sí, las delicadas miras telescópicas que requeriría para disparos a grandes distancias seguramente serían extremadamente difíciles de conseguir.

tumblr_nki42lfrhu1u9heyso1_500
Máuser 98k en un mercado de Erbil, en el kurdistán iraquí. Nótese la mira telescópica
tumblr_nki5slgqgh1u9heyso1_1280
Kurdos en Sinjar, Iraq en 2014. Se aprecian dos Máuser 98k de dos versiones diferentes

 

El origen de las municiones

7,92 x 57 mm Máuser y 7,92 x 33 mm Kurz

Esta potentísima munición 7,92 x 57 es la utilizada por el rifle de cerrojo Máuser 98k, y las ametralladoras MG-34 y MG-42. Por otro lado el MP-44 usa el menos potente cartucho 7,92 x 33.

Ambas municiones se podrían obtener de tres formas hoy día.

  • Es posible que cuando aquellas armas fueron suministradas a Siria como es habitual junto a ellas se suministraron cantidades importantes de munición. Si la misma no ha sido consumida a lo largo de las guerras en que ha participado Siria es posible que aún se puedan usar gracias a la susodicha munición almacenada
  • Desde Pakistán hasta Siria por todo el mundo islámico hay excelentes artesanos armeros que han demostrado ser capaces de crear imitaciones de cualquier arma o bala, en este sentido es posible que por encargo se pueda adquirir esta rara munición, eso sí puesto que la producción sería artesanal los precios probablemente serían muy altos
  • En países como Estados Unidos existen empresas que fabrican municiones de otras épocas, y la 7,92 Máuser no es una excepción, por lo que traídas directamente desde EEUU o adquiridas a comerciantes sirios que a su vez las hayan adquirido de EEUU no sería del todo imposible

En cualquier caso teniendo en cuenta la enorme cantidad de munición que consume una MG-34 o una MG-42 no parece probable que alguien vaya a molestarse en gastarse dinero en comprar munición para las mismas. Eso sí, para el 98k sí tiene más sentido ya que al buscarse la precisión comprar esta munición en pequeñas cantidades resultaría asequible.

En el caso de la MP-44 llama la atención la profusidad con que se ha usado en Siria ya que encontramos ingentes cantidades de imágenes del mismo siendo usado en combate años después de haber sido capturados en 2012. De hecho a principios de 2007 aparecieron unas imágenes borrosas en Líbano en  las que se apreciaba claramente un MP-44, lo que indica que de alguna forma disponían de munición.

Parece ser que en Serbia y Pakistán aún se fabrican balas semejantes que podrían ser empleadas en el MP-44. Además en Bulgaria se estuvo fabricando ese mismo calibre hasta los años 80.

No obstante teniendo en cuenta la gran cantidad de MP-44 que han sido utilizados muy poco tiempo después de haber sido encontrados aquellos 5.000 me atrevería a decir que al igual que ha ocurrido con el LeFH-18 junto a aquellos rifles se almacenó una importante cantidad de munición que permitió a los rebeldes usarlos rápidamente en combate.

Me parece improbable que tantos rebeldes se hubieran podido molestar en obtener su rara munición pagando precios probablemente altos en los mercados de armas de Siria.

Contrabando

Las relativamente pocas armas de origen nazi que Siria ha mantenido almacenadas hasta ahora son perfectas para los contrabandistas de armas. El porqué es claro, son armas que poca gente sabe como utilizar bien en Siria, con dificultad para encontrar munición e incluso es probable que los lugares en que fueron almacenadas sean desconocidos o no se hayan abierto desde hace más de 50 años.

Que los rebeldes encontraran la increíble cantidad de 5.000 rifles MP-44 nos debe hacer notar dos cosas. En primer lugar la gente de Siria no es consciente del valor que podrían tener en el mercado negro, ya que de otra forma hace tiempo que este tipo de arsenales habrían sido saqueados y habría cantidades ingentes de MP-44 circulando por toda Siria, Jordania, Líbano, Iraq o Palestina.

Esto de hecho ha ocurrido pero sólo a pequeña escala. Por ejemplo a principios de 2007 aparecieron un par de imágenes de un hombre en Líbano con un MP-44.

sniper-Jan25-2007_02
MP-44 en manos del libanés

Los más probable es que en un momento u otro este MP-44 llegara ilegalmente a Líbano.

Además en Jordania en un registro de las fuerzas de seguridad se encontró un pequeño arsenal que incluía una MG-34 que había perdido su culata.

descarga.jpg
MG-34 requisada en Jordania. Su precio en el mercado legal puede rondar los 3.000$ (fuente)

De nuevo esta MG-34 con toda probabilidad procede de Siria y lo cierto es que a pesar de faltarle la culta parece en excelente estado.

Este tipo de imágenes nos demuestran que los arsenales donde estas armas se guardaban se hayan semiabandonados, aunque ello no significa que las armas en su interior estén en mal estado.

Esta situación de descontrol intrínseco, sumado a la corrupción de un país de la naturaleza de Siria unido a la poca atención que se le presta a este tipo de cosas a raíz de la guerra dan como resultado obvio que todas estas joyas históricas que en mercados occidentales se pagarían a precios de miles de dólares acaben en todas partes en manos de gente que muy a menudo no sabe lo que tiene entre las manos.