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.


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.

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



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.


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.

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.

View from the camera of a X8 drone
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



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.

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.


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.

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.


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


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.

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.


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.

This VBIED even has a cage armor at the front to defeat some warheads, like the PG-7
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.

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.

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.

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…

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


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.

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.


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.

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.

Modern caltrops. Thanks to Amo del Casillo for the image
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


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.


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.

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.

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

BMP 1, BMP 2 y derivados en Siria

La familia BMP fue la primera de los llamados vehículos de combate de infantería (VCI) y apareció por primera vez en 1967 con el BMP 1 que fue diseñado para que la infantería pudiera acompañar a los carros de combate soviéticos que necesitaban el imprescindible acompañamiento de los infantes.

Izquierda: BMP 1 Derecha: BMP 2

Para que la infantería pudiera avanzar a la par que los carros se requería de vehículos con la suficiente protección, potencia de fuego y movilidad como para operar en entornos de grandes amenazas. De esta necesidad surgió el BMP 1.

En la zona frontal protege de hasta un calibre de 15-20 mm en función del tipo y época de la munición. En conjunto está protegido frente a cualquier proyectil de 7,62 mm y metralla. También puede operar en entornos de guerra nuclear o químico biológica.

Cuenta con un cañón 2A28 “Grom” de 73 mm que a su vez comparte munición con el SPG-9. Su alcance preciso es de 300 metros. Además junto a este lleva una ametralladora PKT de 7,62 mm. Requiere tres tripulantes.

La principal diferencia entre un VCI y un tanque es que el primero puede transportar infantería, y además suele tener una menor protección y potencia de fuego que un MBT. A su vez la diferencia entre un VCI y un transporte blindado de personal es que este último tiene menor potencia de fuego al contar únicamente con ametralladoras.

A pesar de todo en ocasiones es complicado diferenciar un VCI de un carro ligero o de un transporte blindado de personal.

En el caso de Siria los BMP fueron suministrados a partir de los 70 y tuvieron su debut en la guerra del Yom Kippur de 1973. La cifra sobre la cantidad de vehículos operados por Siria mas aceptada es de unos mil, de los que aproximadamente 100 son BMP 2 operados en unidades de la Guardia republicana, y el resto BMP 1.

A su vez de los BMP 1 entre un 40 y un 50 por cien han sido destruidos, y entre un 10 y un 20% capturados. Por contra en el caso de los BMP 2 entre capturados y destruidos la cifra ronda entre 10 y 20. Esta amplia diferencia de cifras se debe a que los BMP 2 son operados por unidades mucho mejor entrenadas y equipadas que las que operan el BMP 1.

En cuanto a las versiones oficiales encontramos dos:

BMP 1 (versión de base):

Es la versión de BMP  más popular en Siria con diferencia.

Es el más numeroso en Siria, a menudo puede llevar sobre el cañón una especie de raíl sobre el que se puede montar el misil 9M14 Malyutka, también conocido como AT-3 Sagger. Dicho misil fue de los primeros ATGM que vio un uso efectivo en combate. A pesar de ello es un tanto antiguo por lo que su precisión es muy baja siendo inferior al 30 por cien en cualquier caso (seguramente no llegue ni al 20%)

Ver al BMP 1 portar  o disparar el Malyutka en Siria es hoy día una rareza, aun que sí hay prueba de que ha ocurrido, tal y como se aprecia en este vídeo.

BMP disparando malyutka.png
Malyutka poco antes de ser disparado en Siria, nótese el pequeño periscopio binocular que sobresale, imprescindible para guiar al misil en su trayectoria hasta el objetivo


Fue la primera versión con diferencias de envergadura respecto a los primeros BMP 1. La forma más fácil de distinguirlo es fijarse en los seis lanzadores de humo instalados tras la torre. A día de hoy son relativamente raros en Siria.

BMP 1P en Siria, atrás se aprecian los lanzadores de humo

Además el BMP 1P podía instalar lanzadores de misiles Faggot o Konkurs.

BMP 1 búlgaro con lanzador de misiles

A pesar de que ambos misiles son comunes en la guerra civil siria lo cierto es que no he visto ningún BMP 1 que los haya instalado, aun que en teoría la posibilidad esta ahí, y no sería raro encontrar algún caso aislado.

 Puesto que el BMP 1 ha sido el vehículo de combate más difundido en los diferentes bandos de la guerra civil Siria, es también el que ha recibido mayor cantidad de mejoras caseras, que van desde lo más simple hasta verdaderas nuevas versiones.

En la inmensa mayoría de los casos las mejoras han sido de la protección, habiendo alguna en la potencia de fuego.


BMP 1 modificado en Siria

Incluye esa especie de cilindros al frente del VCI, si son macizos pueden ser una buena forma de aumentar notablemente la protección del vehículo sin aumentar su peso o realizar complejos trabajos de ingeniería.


BMP 1 modificado en Siria

Seguramente una de las mejores modificaciones caseras que hemos visto en el conflicto sirio. La foto lo dice todo.


Como se aprecia en la foto de abajo hay un BMP 1 con blindaje reactivo (ERA) tipo Kontakt 1, que son esa especie de ladrillos.

BMP 1 modificado en Siria

Existen diversos BMP a los que se les ha añadido blindaje reactivo. Lo que en un primer momento puede parecer una buena idea en realidad es muy poco recomendable ya que el blindaje principal del BMP 1 no resiste bien la explosión del blindaje reactivo, por lo que seguramente causaría bajas entre sus ocupantes. Es por eso que cada vez se ven menos BMP 1 con bloques de ERA.


BMP 1 modificado en Siria

Este BMP, probablemente perteneciente a la 4ª División acorazada lleva uno de los mejores blindaje de rejilla de BMP que he visto en esta guerra. Y lo lleva tanto en los laterales y frontal del vehículo como en la propia torre.

El blindaje de rejilla es útil frente a proyectiles de RPG o CSR (cañón sin retroceso) ambos muy comunes en Siria.


Ese artilugio sobre la torre del BMP 1 es al parecer un sistema de contramedidas frente a ATGM. A día de hoy se desconoce su eficacia.

En cualquier caso está claro que puede ser y ha sido instalado en vehículos tipo BMP 1

BMP 1 ECM.png
BMP 1 con el sistema Sarab 1

BMP 2:

La principal diferencia entre el BMP 1 y el BMP 2 es sin duda el arma principal que en el caso del BMP 2 es un cañón de tiro rápido 2A42 de 30 mm similar al instalado en los helicópteros Mi 28. Dicho cañón por sus características es mucho más adecuado para la guerra de Siria, así como a las doctrinas de VCI modernas.

Este cañón ha demostrado ser muy eficaz en su cometido contra infantería.

BMP 2 en Siria

Una de sus principales diferencias respecto al 2A28 es que este tiene una elevación máxima de 15º, mientras que la del 2A42 alcanza los 75º, lo que resulta mucho más útil en entornos urbanos. Además el 2A42 está estabilizado, al contrario que el del BMP 1.

Por último el BMP 2 puede incorporar los mismos lanzadores de misiles que el BMP 1P, aun que al igual que en este no he encontrado ningún caso en que se haya instalado en Siria.

La única versión reconocida a día de hoy en Siria es la del BMP 2 de base (1980), eso sí, existen varias mejoras caseras:


BMP 2 modificado en Siria

En este han colocado una plancha metálica a modo de faldón, y entre esta y el blindaje principal lo que parece un somier a modo de blindaje de rejilla, lo que a priori no tiene mucho sentido, ya que el blindaje de reja sólo sirve si este actúa como la primera barrera frente al proyectil entrante.


BMP 2 modificado en Siria

En este caso vemos un faldón algo más serio con lo que parece una caja que supongo contendrá algún tipo de material denso que hará las veces de blindaje. En función de su contenido el blindaje podría verse notablemente aumentado.


BMP 2 modificado en Siria

En este caso observamos un blindaje de rejilla un tanto rudimentario, y seguramente no demasiado eficaz. Esta tipología se ha observado en más vehículos, en especial carros de combate T-55 o T-62.

d) (Probablemente BMP 1)

A la izquierda BMP 1 o 2 modificado junto a T-55 con mejora norcoreana también modificado en Siria

En este caso vemos un blindaje de rejilla que también es casero pero de apariencia más avanzada que el anterior. Dicho blindaje cubre los laterales y la torre, pero no  el frontal del vehículo.

Parece que este BMP o uno similar fue destruido, tal y como se ve abajo en la foto.

A la hora de la verdad por muchas mejoras que se hagan el BMP sigue siendo un vehículo con un blindaje muy delgado.

El mismo BMP o similar al de arriba destruido en Siria

Además de los BMP 1 y 2 en Siria también existen dos vehículos derivados, que son:


Es la versión de ambulancia del BMP, no dispone de armamento para su propia defensa y es relativamente raro, ya que al igual que el BMP 2 se suele encontrar en las mejores unidades del ejército sirio.

AMB S 2.jpg
AMB S en Siria


Es la versión de ingenieros del BMP. No es especialmente común, pero tampoco es tan raro como el AMB S.

BREM 2 modificado con cañón en Siria

Además el grupo EI ha utilizado de forma continua el BMP como vehículo bomba, ya que tiene la ventaja de que no puede ser explotado mediante balas antes de alcanzar su objetivo. Para adaptarlo a vehículo suicida suelen retirarle la torre.

BMP convertido en vehículo bomba

Las armas tipo cañón/ametralladora antiaérea se caracterizan por su alta cadencia de disparo y un amplio grado de elevación para hacer frente a aeronaves, es por ello que son armas idóneas para prestar fuego de apoyo en una guerra como la de Siria y en especial en entornos urbanos donde las amenazas pueden proceder de lo alto de los edificios.

Por todo lo dicho en el caso de un vehículo como el BMP 1 con sólo 15º de elevación no sería mala idea sustituirlo por un arma antiaérea de las que ya hay en Siria. Armas como la ZPU-4 (14,5 mm), un M1939 61K (37 mm) o un ZU 23-2 (23 mm) entre otros.

En el caso del ZU 23-2 ya existen diversas variantes, tal y como se ve en las imágenes de abajo.


BMP  modificado con un ZU 23-2 en Siria

Este BMP fue capturado por el ejército sirio a Estado Islámico, y a parte del ZU 23-2 incluye chapas de blindaje en el frontal y laterales, sacos terreros en el frontal y blindaje de rejilla en los laterales.


BMP con ZU 23-2 en Siria

Que yo sepa no existe un nombre oficial conocido de esta versión, ahora bien aparenta ser un vehículo oficial no una modificación casera, por lo que es posible que el ejército sirio sí tenga una nominación interna oficial que desconocemos.

Por otra parte los llamados “BMP-1” de Afganistán retiraron la torre y la sustituyeron por un ZU 23-2 precisamente para disparar a las alturas de los desfiladeros desde las que atacaban los rebeldes.

Además el rol para el que fue diseñada esta versión fue en mi opinión de anti aéreo puro ya que si se hubieran planteado usarlo para dar fuego de apoyo habrían cubierto el montaje del ZU con alguna clase de plancha de blindaje para proteger al operador del mismo.

A modo de bonus añado estas dos imágenes:


Es una posibilidad aun que desde luego no es una certeza que eso sea el ECM.

Fíjese en el blindaje de rejilla

No estoy seguro de que son exactamente estos dos vehículos, ni siquiera si son dos diferentes o uno sólo, tampoco guardé la fuente por lo que no he podido averiguar más información. A priori diría que son vehículos bomba de EI, ya que les han retirado la torre. Pero por otra parte me parece extraño que siendo vehículos suicidas se hayan molestado en añadirles blindaje de rejilla, por lo que podrían ser simples vehículos de transporte.