Last year the Islamic State developed and deployed four types of rocket launchers that an arms control group dubbed “sophisticated inventions that appear well suited for urban warfare.”
A new report from Conflict Armament Research in the UK reviewed the improvised recoilless systems that “underscore the group’s capacity to develop, assemble, and deploy innovative weapons and to refine such weapons following battlefield testing.”
Even before the declaration of the caliphate, ISIS talked about the need to establish independent sources of arms to reduce reliance on weapons dealers. The group established a central authority “to exercise standardization and quality control for their numerous, geographically dispersed improvised weapon production facilities.”
“The ability to assemble and deploy different types of recoilless launcher also has tactical advantages in urban environments. Variations in warhead design and range indicate that the launchers described in this report were designed to fulfill different aims,” said CAR. “They are shorter and lighter than traditional SPG-9 launchers and consequently easier to transport and deploy. Equipped with pre-loaded launchers, IS fighting forces are able to launch anti-armor projectiles from inside buildings without experiencing the hazardous backblast that would result from firing an RPG-7 or SPG-9.”
While the launchers share basic components, three are “designed to launch repurposed, factory-produced high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rockets” effective against armored vehicles while the fourth “fires a fully improvised high explosive blast projectile, filled with homemade explosive and fitted with an entirely improvised base-detonating fuze,” effective against ordinary vehicles and personnel. ISIS rated the launchers for maximum range.
The report says researchers believe parts of the assemblies indicated the launchers “were produced using identical machinery (and possibly a single machine).” Some of the launchers came with instructions.
CAR said their findings confirm “the presence of skilled workers and weapon designers within IS ranks, the group’s advanced technical knowledge, and its centralized management and quality control.”
The launchers are known to have been used in Iraq’s Nineveh province last year.
“When IS forces lost control of urban centres, which they had previously used to locate improvised weapon workshops and aggregate raw materials, they effectively reduced their capacity to produce or assemble such weapons,” the report adds. “CAR investigations have yet to identify similarly sophisticated improvised weapons produced, assembled, or deployed in other conflicts.”