Thursday, 17 March 2016

Islamic State captures Ayyash weapons depots in largest arms haul of Syrian Civil War


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans in collaboration with MENA_Conflict

The Syrian Civil War has seen a range of major arms hauls by various parties as weapons depots get overrun and in many cases simply abandoned by retreating forces. The capture of Regiment 121, Brigade 93 and the Mahin arms depot have until now topped the list in terms of arms hauls: Regiment 121 provided the Islamic State with large numbers of field-guns and multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) while Brigade 93 saw the capture of at least thirty tanks and around a dozen howitzers. Mahin became notorious for providing its capturers (Jaish al-Islam and the Free Syrian Army) with hundreds of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). For this reason, Mahin was seen as the largest and most important haul of arms during the now five-year long Civil War.


But that reputation appears to have been surpassed now that footage (WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC) showing the 20th of January capture of the Ayyash weapons depot by Islamic State forces in Deir ez-Zor has been released. The video, part of the series 'Support from God, and imminent victory' (Quran verse 61:13) is the fourth to have been released showing the Islamic State's operations in and around Deir ez-Zor. The contents of the weapon depot were supposedly removed before it was captured according to various pro-government sources. Now that the war reached its fifth year, this appears to be some language code for 'The weapon depots were completely overstocked, brace yourselves on every front'. And thus, no less than 2 million rounds of (small) arms ammunition, 9000 grenades and some hundred ATGMs were among the spoils of Ayyash, making the capture of this weapon depot the largest ever in Syria. A detailed list of captured ammunition, weaponry and vehicles can be seen below.

 


This is an approximate guess of the captured weapons and ammunition featured in the video and photo report of the Ayyash weapon depot, the real figures are believed to be much higher. The content of at least 2600 crates could not be identified.

Ammunition:

- 1,348,300 to 1,791,960 rounds of 7.62x39 and 7.62x54R ammunition.
- 17,140 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition.
- 158,996 rounds of 14.5mm ammunition.
- 119,768 rounds of 20mm ammunition.
- 450 rounds of 23mm ammunition.
- 223 rounds of 73mm ammunition.
- 72 rounds of 82mm ammunition.
- 2000 rounds of 85mm ammunition.
- 6 rounds of 107mm ammunition.
- 4 rounds of 120mm ammunition.
- 165 rounds of 120mm RAP ammunition.
- 576 rounds of 122mm ammunition.
- 1120 fuses for 122mm artillery rounds.
- 7 PG-2 rocket-propelled grenades.
- 10 PG-7 rocket-propelled grenades.
- 1 PG-7VL rocket-propelled grenade.
- 1 TBG-7V rocket-propelled grenade.
- 1 OG-7V rocket-propelled grenade.
- 2 PG-29V rocket-propelled grenades.
- 2 M-57 rocket-propelled grenades.
- 9025 grenades.
- 36 rifle grenades.
- 98 9M14M Malyutka ATGMs.
- 1 9M113M Konkurs ATGMs.
- 7 3M9 surface-to-air missiles.

Weaponry:

- 84 7.62mm AK(M)-47s.
- 5 7.62mm PKMs.
- 1 7.62mm RPD.
- 1 7.62mm SGM.
- 3 12.7mm DShKs.
- 11 14.5mm KPVs.
- 2 23mm ZU-23s.
- 1 RPG-2.
- 13 RPG-7s.
- 1 73mm 2A28 Grom semi-automatic gun.
- 1 106mm M40 recoilless rifle.
- 122 bayonets.
- 1 pistol.
- 1 flintlock.

Vehicles (derelict trucks not included):

- 1 T-55(A)MV.
- 2 T-55As.
- 5 BMP-1s.
- 1 ZSU-23.
- 1 BRDM-2.
- 1 BTR-152.
- 2 BREM-2 ARVs.
- 3 2P25 TEL.
- 1 SURN 1S19 radar.
- 6 ZiL-131.
- 3 GAZ-3308.
- 2 GAZ-66.
- 1 GAZ Sobol.
- 2 Tatra 148.
- 1 Tatra 815
- 1 UAZ-469
- 2 excavators.
- 1 Land Rover.
- 2 technicals.
- 3 trucks.
- 4 cars.

Figures released by the Islamic State:

- 400 killed or injured.
- 100 [pro-government militants] captured.
- 4 tanks captured.
- 10 BMPs captured.
- 3 guns captured.
- 350 tank shells captured.
- 7,000 shells and rockets captured.
- 30 rocket launchers captured.
- 100 anti-armor rockets captured.
- 410 anti-armor shells captured.
- 1,000s of hand grenades captured.
- Tons of various ammo captured.

Much of the captured ammunition was quickly taken away by trucks, presumably for distribution between the various fronts the Islamic State is fighting at. A part might also be held back for the upcoming battle for Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State


Ayyash, located a mere ten kilometers north-west from Deir ez-Zor's city centre, was the scene of heavy fighting as fighters of the Islamic State pushed their way into the town and surrounding areas. Ayyash's perimeter was less well defended by troops not matching the performance of the soldiers stationed elsewhere in Deir ez-Zor, consisting of a mix of SyAA and NDF fighters along with personnel from the nearby surface-to-air missile site and detachments from the 104th Brigade of the Republican Guard. As the regime has to defend Deir ez-Zor with only a limited amount of personnel, it has been forced to spread its troops thinly along the perimeter, with the main bulk stationed near Deir ez-Zor's airbase, the city centre and surrounding hills. While this careful balancing of troops in Deir ez-Zor appears quite logical, it becomes less so when considering the fact that Ayyash is home to a weapons depot once built as a strategic reserve for a possible confrontation with Ba'athist Iraq, then the fourth largest army in the world. While the contents of the depot had partially been depleted in the defence of Deir ez-Zor, it was still massively overstocked with arms and ammunition.

Having so much ammunition and weaponry stationed so close to a fragile frontline is a sign of extremely incompetent military planning. This is especially true when considering the immensely large 137th Brigade's base located nearby has plenty of space to house tenfold the contents of Ayyash. This base is located much closer to the airbase and Deir ez-Zor's city centre and thus better capable of dividing the munitions between the defenders of Deir ez-Zor.

The fact that the contents of the weapons depot were left wholely intact both prior to and after the takeover (contents which could either have been destroyed beforehand or with artillery and airstrikes afterwards) indicates that the Syrian Arab Army is still incapable of dealing with such situations. While Russia claimed to have destroyed the 2K12 surface-to-air missile launchers after their capture, not targeting millions of small arms rounds and a hundred ATGMs remains a curious decision to say the least.


The largest stash of 9M14M Malyutka ATGMs at the Ayyash weapon depot, at least 90 of which are piled up here. A single 9M113M Konkurs missile was also captured.


The captured 2K12 surface-to-air missile battery, the second to have fallen in the hands of the Islamic State in the Deir ez-Zor area.


Heavy equipment now in the hands of the Islamic State: The T-55(A)MV is the second example to have been captured by fighters of the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor. A limited number of T-55(A)MVs are believed to have been brought to Deir ez-Zor along with a small number of T-72 'Urals', T-72M1s and T-72AVs before the supply route was closed when IS captured the town of al-Sukhna on the 13th of May 2015. One of the two T-55s is one of several hundred examples upgraded by North Korea in the late 70s and early 80s and can be seen with a laser-range finder and 14.5mm heavy machine gun 'Made in DPRK'. As most of the 14.5mm KPV-equipped T-55s gradually lost their machine gun mount as this was deemed to be of more use mounted on technicals, this configuration has become a rare sight nowadays.

Interestingly, one of the BMP-1s sports Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armour (ERA) (presumably taken from a T-72AV) on its turret in a bid to enhance the poor armour protection of the vehicle. It is expected that vehicles such as the BRDM-2, BTR-152 and the two BREM-2s will be used as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), the Islamic State having no use for them in their originally intended role.

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