Sunday, 20 March 2016
The Islamic State going DIY, the birth of the battle monstrosity
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
The establishment of the Islamic State has led to a myriad of DIY projects as the group attempts to equip its fighters with a semblance of armour and heavy firepower. The latest homebred gem was spotted during a recent offensive in Derna, Libya, where it is used to combat the Haftar-aligned Libyan National Army and the Shura Council. The fighters of the Islamic State in Derna are completely cut off from other Islamic State held territory in Libya and thus have to do with what they currently got.
The sighting of this vehicle comes a month after the 'unveiling' on Ansar al-Sharia's take on the BMP-1. This behemoth comes with an armoured 14.5mm ZPU-4 platform over the main gun in addition to bow armour. Deployed in Benghazi, it did not have a long career, being knocked out in early March by the Libyan National Army.
The new contraption, based on a 6x6 truck, features a variety of metal plating and slat armour and is equipped with not just a BMP-1 turret, but actually incorporates a complete BMP-1 hull instead! The 73mm 2A28 Grom main gun and coaxial 7.62mm PKT machine gun have been removed however, and an armoured platform housing a single 106mm M40 recoilless rifle (RCL) has been installed over the turret. Although swinging the 106mm M40 around demands an operator in the turret itself, the elevated position of the RCL offers a clear advantage in the close quarter combat currently seen in Derna's city centre.
The armour of this battle monstrosity is special to say the least. The armour protection of the side of the BMP-1's hull has been strengthened by the addition of slat armour, which also found its way to the front of the vehicle. The space in between the BMP-1's hull and slat armour has further been strengthened by sandbags. Metal plating of different strenghts covers the rest of the vehicle. Most special is undoubtedly the fact that the BMP-1's tracks have been reused to provide protection to the otherwise exposed wheels of the truck.
Armament consists of the 106mm M40 RCL, a very popular weapon in Libya, in addition to rifles and light-machine guns fired out of the BMP-1's eight (or when counting the firing port in the back nine) firing ports. It is not entirely clear why the 73mm main gun has been removed, but it could have been damaged or previously removed for installment on a technical.
Libya, the birthplace of over the top DIY projects, is sure to produce plenty more of conversions aimed at giving each faction an edge over its opponents to secure the victory in a long conflict that just doesn't seem to end. Although only few countries are willing to stick to the arms embargo placed on Libya, the lack of (working) heavy weaponry being supplied to the various factions means there will continue to be a necessity to continue such DIY projects, whether they are actually useful or not.
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