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Armoured Beasts: Battle Tank Modifications Of Syrian Army

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Armoured Beasts: Battle Tank Modifications Of Syrian Army

This video is based on the text anlysis entitled “Armoured Beasts: DIY-style Modifications Of Syrian Army Battle Tanks“. It was originally released by SouthFront on March 20, 2019.

Since the start of the Syrian war and until September 2015, when the Russians officially joined the conflict, the Syrian Army and its allies were suffering from a wide range of issues related to maintenance of their military equipment. The lack of spare parts, destruction of infrastructure and a wide-scale economic blockade established by the US-led block were among the key reasons behind this situation. Iran contributed significant efforts to ease the pressure faced by Syria, but it lacked the necessary resources to introduce and implement a system, which would allow the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to restore its exhausted capabilities.

These factors as well as the overwhelming role played by urban warfare during the conflict forced the SAA to find a way to maintain the combat efficiency of its tank fleet at an acceptable level by whatever means were at hand. This led to various DIY-style modifications of battle tanks. Many of these modifications varied from unit to unit. Nonetheless, at least some of them resulted from centralized and consistent work by the Syrian military.

These battle tank modifications can be divided into three groups: passive measures, active protection measures and improvements related to electronics.

Armour modifications were mostly a result of experiments by the Republican Guard and the 4th Armored Division.

In August 2014, the 4th Armored Division began to upgrade T-72M1s, as well as military bulldozers, and even Shilka self-propelled guns in their workshop in Adra. The battle tanks upgraded there got the name T-72 Adra but are more widely known as the T-72 Mahmia (Shielded).

The initial T-72 Mahmia had cages with what appears to be spaced armor bolted and welded onto the tank with support beams. Chains with steel balls were added to new hull side-skirts below the turret’s cage armor. In some cases, the frontal part of the added armour was filled with an unknown material.

This armor is supposed to stop enemy rockets and explosives from penetrating the tank’s hull or turret. The idea is that an RPG would hit the cages and explode away from the tank armour thus keeping the tank safe. However, this kind of protection is not enough to stop an ATGM strike.

Another version of the T-72 Mahmia appeared in 2016. It used thicker girders to apply and hold cage armor to the vehicle, the ball and chain armor was removed,  a larger hull bumper, with spaced armor added onto it was included, the cage armor was heightened, and more, apparently thicker, spaced armor was added to the glacis plates.

There were versions, which featured full cages, however they appeared to be unsuccessful.

Another modification was the T-72 Shafrah (Razor), which was employed by the Republican Guard’s 105th Mechanized Division. It appeared to be aimed at resisting ATGMs.

Numerous brackets are placed on the tank’s turret, which have a number of angled plates welded onto them. Some tanks have sideskirts, which follow a similar pattern.

The T-72 Shafrah is equipped with composite armor, which looks like that which can be seen on the Iraqi T-55 Enigima.  This armour is supposed to stop some ATGMs, especially the older generation.

The T-72 Shafrah was first documented in combat in Eastern Ghouta on February 27, 2017, when it was hit by an ATGM. The driver was wounded and the turret was damaged, but the tank was not destroyed. There were 7 documented T-72 Shafrahs and all of them appeared to have been successfully used in combat.

Some active protection systems were also developed. The most prominent example is the Sarab (Mirage) developed by the Syrian Scientific Research Center (SSRC). This is a jamming device against all SACLOS (semi-automatic command to line of sight) guided ATGMs. It utilized either classical IR emitters or LEDs depending on the production model and could work for 6 straight hours and be easily mounted on all vehicles as well as stationary checkpoints and defensive points.

The Sarab-2 utilized newer emitters and was fitted with new more powerful batteries. This increased its operation time to 10 hours before requiring a recharge. The system also got a more durable external container for added protection. It was widely used in the battle for Aleppo in 2016. In many cases, shots fired from BGM-71 TOW ATGMs landed barely any hits on infantry fighting vehicles or battle tanks protected with the Sarab-2.

After addressing the Sarab-1’s design issues in the Sarab-2, the SSRC focused on developing a complete soft-kill, or passive-countermeasure system rather than only a jamming system. The Sarab-3 covered 360 degrees, instead of 180.

Besides this, SAA T-55 tanks were upgraded with North Korean fire Control systems. The modernization included a 4km rangefinder as part of a sensor complex, which includes a barometer, a hygrometer, and a thermometer. A new ballistic computer, which makes calculations based on the data it receives from the meters and the rangefinder, was added with a digital screen showing environment measurements and range to the target.

Some T-55s upgraded with North Korean systems were also fitted with a KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun and smoke screen launchers. Some of them also had thermal sights.

Some T-72 main battle tanks were equipped with TPN-3-49 night vision sight, which turned out to be unreliable and unsuitable for urban warfare. The main issue was that protecting the IR lamps from enemy fire was barely possible as was the idea of fixing it repeatedly. Therefore, the TPN-3-49 was replaced with the Viper-72 thermal sight. Its outer design was similar to the TPN-3-49 but with an arch shaped protection. It also used many TPN-3-49 components.

The Viper-72 has a range of up to 4km for large objects. In reality, the aiming range appears to max out at 1.5-2km. The tank gunner aims through an electronic scope, but an LCD can also be attached. It was much more successful than the night vision, since firearm nozzle flash is more visible in thermal imagery. The Viper-72 is being used even in daylight to detect snipers in urban areas.

In general, the introduction of these modifications allowed the SAA to partially reduce losses of equipment and casualties among tank crews. It should be noted that many of these modifications were not a result of a tank crew simply upgrading their own hardware, but rather of a focused upgrade program, which introduced new changes based on an ongoing history of trial and error (errors which quite often had had fatal consequences).

At this point in the conflict, they are largely unnecessary and outdated, mostly due to the Russian military’s assistance in supply and maintenance. While most of the Russian efforts in this field remain underreported, the technical assistance and supplies Russia provided  have played an important role in restoring SAA combat capabilities since 2015. Nevertheless, these DIY-style upgrades played their own role in the course of the conflict.

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  • Gregory Casey

    For all that the modifications and upgrades are ‘home-grown’ they have the added advantage of being based on experience of battle-tank crews. With Idlib, North Hama & Western Aleppo yet to come in an all-out fight to the death with the al-Qaeda / Nusra Front pestilence, the experience gained by battle-tank crews will provide & confer enormous advantage to the Syrian Army as it seeks to reclaim and reinforce the entire of Syria’s Territorial Integrity. I wish them well in this.

  • Jesus

    Russian assistance with additional tanks, spare parts, repair expertise and components to upgrade older tanks for modern day threats has made Syrian armored forces quite potent. With proper air cover and anti tank defenses Syrian armored forces can account themselves against Israeli Merkavas.
    Fighting in conjunction with Hezbollah units would increase their capabilities even more.

    • Gregory Casey

      A 2-pronged attack on the Golan, from Syria and from Lebanon with both Hezbollah and Syrian Forces deployed is more than enough to burst the Israeli Oil Bubble

      • Raptar Driver

        Assuming that the U.S. wouldn’t get involved; as long as it has this support from a superpower Israel ain’t going anywhere in the Golan.

      • You can call me Al

        Remember in the Golan Heights, many Druze live there; if you have been following (no disrespect intended), Nutty Yahoo passed the Israeli-Jew citizen law and alienated many of these Druze amongst other races, creeds and religions – BUT the Druze held many high up command positions in the IDF.

        Sorry my point in my waffle is do not underestimate or forget them.

        • FreePalestine_BDS

          Syrian Druze also have family members stuck on the “israeli” side, and are very angry about. Those Syrian Druze would also make good, effective allies.

          • Wraith

            how is “freeing palestine” working out for you so far? 20+ IDF airraids so far

          • FreePalestine_BDS

            The IDF air raids are Netanyahu’s campaign window dressing. He needs to look the “tough” guy.

            The IOF swamp rats cannot take on a real opponent, so have specialised in slaughtering defenceless civilians, that is much more satisfying: little chance of getting hit and an orgasm each time you butcher an innocent.

            BSD is winning, clearly, hence the Judeo-Nazi panic of trying t stifle any protest, and even any discussion by the Judeo-Nazi garbage dump’s activities aimed at the extermination of the Palestinians like the 3rd Reich did with the Jews, only differently.

            I hope that answers your question adequately.

      • Wraith

        HAHA! Keep on dreaming antisemite! Israel’s forces won 1948, 1967, War of Attrition, AND 1973 while they were outnumbered by over 200,000 enemies and tanks

        • Gregory Casey

          Do you mind telling me what the fuxx anti-Semitism got to do with Israeli State expansionism? Being anti-Semitic and therefore, anti-Jewish, anti-Palestinian, anti-Assyrian has to do with calling out the State of Israel for its criminality and it’s utterly unlawful expansionism? At the very least, before you begin commenting, find yourself a dictionary and discover the wonders of the English language.

    • Marten

      You’re right , with Hezbollah, reminds me of the “Panzergrenadiers”

  • FreePalestine_BDS

    Preparing for an assault on the Golan Heights? Almost seems to be too good to be true.

  • Zaphod Braden

    I didn’t need $30 million plus to determine of Trump is colluding with a foreign nation.
    Trump is colluding with Israel. That is my report.
    Charge: $100.00
    Thankee
    Consider this . .. the Jews in Congress & ACLU etc block Our wall …. and Trump doesn’t have the testicles to say Our Embassy STAYS PUT, You do not get the Golan Heights, give them back to Syria, Treat the Palestinians FAIR, and no more WELFARE to Israel, it all goes to the Palestinians …… no, PUSSY BITCH Trump just gives them everything they ever wanted and WE DO NOT GET A WALL even though WE PAY for theirs . …. yes, F-CK YOU Trump.
    100,000 Invaders in during JUST the 1st quarter … The Jew Kalgeri Plan moves ahead and Trump helps them.
    I am so finished with that P.O.S. I might get T.D.S.

  • Steve

    I have a great deal of admiration for the SAA and extremely pleased that with Russian and Iranian help has defeated the U.S./Israeli supported terrorists. Looks like Syria’s next conflict could very well be the Golan Heights. If i were the Israeli’s i’d be be very worried indeed going up against the battle hardened Syrian Army with their Hezbollah allies.

  • Wraith

    Upgrade/modify armor all you want: It wont stop US Air Force or Israeli Air Force AGM Hellfires, SDB-39, or GBU-12s :) And it definitely wont stop an AC-130 gunship or predator drone
    *And Javelin* *And ATGM TOW*

    • RichardD

      In a conventional dust up, I’d rather be in a Syrian T-72 protected by the SADF and Russian satcom sytem, than an Israeli Merkava protected by the Iron dome, that’s for sure.

      • Gregory Casey

        Given that Israelis discovered 2 nights ago that the Iron Dome doesn’t work when rockets come piling in to central belt of Israel. Within a 75 Miles radius of Gaza is now off-limits.

    • Gregory Casey

      As your Iron Dome doesn’t work to protect against Rockets from Gaza up to a distance of (minimum) 75 Miles we can hardly believe that anything else within Israel’s precious military-industrial complex actually works.

  • RichardD

    My ET/ED contact op capability has been upgraded to enhanced semi auto, with a rate of fire approximately 50% of full auto in any US caliber that an AR platform can be chambered in. For anti material work, such as light antiaircraft, including probes, and some ground applications, such as robotics, I’ll use .223 green tip armor piercing. For large dangerous lifeforms, like bigfoots, I’ll probably swap out the barrel and charging handle for .458 Socom. And use specialty high performance ammunition.

    When Trump issued the executive order banning bump stocks I fought it, bought one, and joined a legal foundation litigating the issue. Contributing money and head of state level, world leader level advice on managing the campaign. The ban goes in effect at midnight EST about now. And in about 3 hours at midnight PST. Unless you’re covered by the court orders providing an injunction or stay. Like I am.

    I renewed my foundation credentials with a monthly recurring donation today so that my accessory is grandfathered in under the federal district court stay for it’s duration. Which could drag on for years as the case makes it way through the courts.

  • RichardD

    This is a well written, comprehensive article that speaks of a lot of first hand knowledge of the situation.

  • RichardD

    This is a dual optical/thermal gopro 3 or 4 form factor Flir camera that can be purchased used for about $750.00 off of ebay. That I’m looking at for my drones.
    https://static.bhphoto.com/images/images345x345/flir_43601000100s_duo_57x44_pov_1508859460000_1311520.jpg

  • Neo Leo

    Interesting video, this is why I like Southfront.