Thursday, 7 August 2014

Islamic State captures Brigade 93 in largest heavy-arms haul of Syrian Civil War


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Boosted by the immense quantities of weaponry and ammunition captured at Regiment 121, Islamic State overran another regime stronghold in Nothern Syria on the 7th of August 2014, Brigade 93. This base, part of Division 17, was home to around fifty tanks, nearly two dozen howitzers, a large number of trucks and various other armoured fighting vehicles. Although some of this equipment was distributed to other bases prior to its takeover, the vast majority was still present on the base during the attack.


Several of the ten 122mm BM-21 multiple rocket launchers captured at Regiment 121 some days earlier were used to attack Brigade 93 before the main assault begun, reportedly setting parts of the base ablaze. Brigade 93 was then attacked by three VBIEDs, which cleared a path for the IS fighters storming the base. During the attack that followed around ninety fighters of the Islamic State are believed to have died along with around 300 government soldiers and another hundred captured, which were subsequently executed. Only a few soldiers managed to evade initial capture by the Islamic State, with most of the fleeing personnel surrendering in the desert and later executed as well.

Footage and images of the base show at least 32 T-55s, four BRDM-2s and ten 122mm D-30 howitzers amongst other weaponry and equipment captured by IS, making the capture of Brigade 93 the largest heavy-arms haul of the Syrian Civil War.   

 


Interestingly, the attackers employed a wide variety of armoured fighting vehicles, including at least one U.S. M-1114 captured from the Iraqi Army and then transported to Syria. A SyAAF MiG-21 from Tabqa airbase would also pound the attackers during the assault, which is believed to have caused little damaged to the equipment littered on the base, which should have been a priority target.


This is an estimate of the vehicles and equipment captured. Small arms are not included in this list due to the small quantities captured. Although a large number of trucks were captured as well, these are not included in this list as most were already derelict after years of disuse.

Vehicles:

- 32 T-55As
- 4 BRDM-2s
- 10 122mm D-30 howitzers
- 1 130mm M-46 field-gun
- 1 ZSU-23
- 1 23mm ZU-23
- 2 VT-55KS armoured recovery vehicles

Below, an overview of some of the weapons captured:


Most T-55s were parked in various corners of the base, with a probable lack of fuel or willingness to properly use them preventing their use during the attack. Also note the two VT-55KS armoured recovery vehicles (ARVs), which obviously saw no use during the attack.


Most of the T-55s at Brigade 93 were examples upgraded by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This upgrade was centered around improving the tank's accuracy through the installment of an indigenously designed laser rangefinder (LRF) and on some tanks a wind sensor and even a 14.5mm KPV anti-aircraft gun. While most of the KPV-equipped T-55s elsewhere in Syria lost their mount for installment on technicals, several T-55s at Brigade 93 were still sporting the heavy machine gun.

The heavily modified T-72AV seen in the second image was used by the Islamic State. More on the operational history of this tank can be read here.


This BRDM-2 was still in working order when it was captured:


Like most of the tanks, the 130mm D-30 howitzers were stored and not used by the defenders during the attack:


The extensive vehicle park at Brigade 93 mainly consisted of ZiL and GAZ trucks in various stages of disrepair:


A 23mm ZSU-23 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG), the first of its kind to have been captured by Islamic State:


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