Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anti-Tank Weapons are Widespread in Syria

While pundits clamor for the international community to provide the Syrian rebels with advanced anti-tank weapons, the rebels have figured out how to kill main battle tanks with simple RPGs, a weapon found in the arsenal of rebel groups across the country.

This past week, the following picture appeared on rebel Facebook pages identifying the area on a T-72 tank where the armor is described as a thin 2-3 cm directly above the tank’s engine. An RPG is capable of penetrating this light armor thereby destroying the engine and disabling the tank.

Footage from the ongoing battle for control of Ariha, dubbed the Battle of Tawhid (unity), shows a disabled tank struck in this exact location.

Despite the rebels’ lack of advanced weaponry, they destroy tanks on a daily basis and have shot down multiple regime aircraft. This raises the following questions: Does the risk of proliferation outweigh the benefit of supplying the rebels with an improved version of a capability that they already possess? Or is supplying the rebels with advanced weapons more about buying influence than providing a crucial capability?

1 comment:

  1. It would be useful to disaggregate what "advanced weapons" you are talking about. ATGMs would be useful, but would would require training (and may be less useful in some cases than providing larger numbers of RPGs, since many ATGMs are of limited use in urban combat). MANPADS, on the other hand, have very high resale value, risk leaking into other hands, and are very deadly (in the wrong hands) against civilian aviation--hence the reluctance of outsiders to provide them. The regime's air attacks, while stepped up, have had only limited effects on the course of the war, in part because of very poor air-to-ground skills by SAF.