Jump to content
Please support this forum by joining the SH Patreon ×
Sturgeon's House

Syrian tanks at war. Some pictures and words between them.


Recommended Posts

This is a big post about Syrian tanks in Syrian conflict. So prepare for words, but to make it easier i will add some pictures, because words are hard in 21st century.






   Syrian war is going on for 4-5 years, with high amount of videocameras recording combat inside of this torn country. It is very easy to find them on Youtube, with any sorts of action in it - explosions, destruction and death.


Source: http://spioenkop.blogspot.de/2014/12/syrias-steel-beasts-t-72.html


   In this thread I will look at part of this conflict - how tanks perform in this war, how and why they are used by Syrian Arab Army (SAA). 




   T-72 and T-55s are most popular/most used tanks by SAA. They are a backbone of armored forces of SAA, fighting in different enviroments from cities in deserts to snowy peaks mountains.




   it is believed that Syria operated around 1500 T-72s before conflict started, but only about 700 T-72s could have been confirmed through official weapon deals, Syria received them in three batches. The first batch consisted of around 150 T-72 'Urals' ordered from the Soviet Union and delivered in the late 70s, a total of 300 T-72As delivered in 1982 make up the second batch and an order for 252 T-72M1s placed in Czechoslovakia was only partially completed when the country was separated into two. While 194 examples were already delivered by Czechoslovakia in 1992, the order was continued by Slovakia and the remaining 58 T-72M1s were delivered in 1993. Around 300 T-72s are still believed to be operated by mainly the Republican Guard and the Syrian Arab Army's elite 4th armoured division.




   Syria received the first of a total of 300 T-72As in 1982. What makes Syria receiving this tank so special is that the T-72A was never cleared for export by the Soviet Union, with even the most trusted Warsaw Pact countries receiving T-72M1 instead. The first country outside the former Soviet Union to receive T-72As was Hungary in 1996, which acquired them from Belarus 14 years after Syria received theirs! 



T-72A with ERA (T-72AV) preparing for attack through next street.




   Syrian T-72As are rumored to be delivered directly from Soviet Army stocks. In Syria, these tanks became known as T-82s, with 82 referring to the year of delivery. The use of this designation continues even today, and neither T-72A nor T-72AV was ever used to refer to this tank in Syria. All of Syria's T-72As were later upgraded to AV standard, aimed at increasing the T-72A's protection against RPGs by mounting the Kontakt-1 ERA. Opposed to the T-55MV upgrade, which happened in the Ukraine, the upgrading of the T-72As took place in Syria. The Kontakt-1 ERA was bought from one of the former Soviet Republics (possibly Ukraine, again) and was supposedly installed by Armenian contractors.

   The 300 T-72AVs were split between the Republican Guard and the 4th armoured division. The T-72s operated by the Republican Guard were always seen in a desert livery, while the T-72s of the 4th armoured division were usually painted green, which operated alongside a limited amount of "desert" T-72s. 




   Numerous BREM-1 armoured recovery vehicles were also acquired mainly for the Republican Guard, and all remain in widespread use today.





This BREM just seconds ago pulled this T-72AV out of fire, after it was damaged. Officer is helping with second cable.




   The 252 T-72M1s were the latest additon to the Syrian tank fleet, and although inferior to the T-72AVs, they are Syria's most newest tanks, having rolled out of the factory over ten years later than Syria's T-72AVs. As most were delivered in 1992, they are sometimes referred to as T-92s by Syrians. Yet the original designation of T-72M1 also remains in use in Syria, resulting in some confusion around the Syrian designation system. To add to all the confusion, the T-72 'Ural' is also believed to have acquired an indigenous name, which would likely be T-79.



Lower frontal plate penetration with RPG, launched from basement. Driver died.

   A large part of the T-72M1 fleet was originally slated to be upgraded to what was believed to be T-72M1M standard by Russia at the start at this decade. However, this plan was abandoned after the start of the Civil War alongside several other ambitious modernisation programmes for the Syrian military.
Sniper bullet kicks dust from T-72 turret roof, just near commander's open hatch.
   In agreement with Galileo Avionica of Italy, 122 T-72s were upgraded with the TURMS-T (Tank Universal Reconfiguration Modular System T-series) fire-control system (FCS) between 2003 and 2006. TURMS-T were mounted on T-72 Ural, T-72M1s and T-72AVs.
   All the TURMS-T equipped tanks in Syria got the 'S' added to their designation, resulting in T-79S/T-72S, T-82S/T-72 AVS and T-92S/T-72M1S. While this may seem confusing at first hand, the 'S' stands for Saroukh (صاروخ) meaning missile, indicating all are capable of launching the 9M119(M) guided anti-tank missile through their barrel. 1500 of such missiles were believed to have been acquired in 2005.
   Of the once 122 strong TURMS-T fleet, some one hundred still remain in service. As these tanks are by far the most modern examples found in Syria, most are held back on Mount Qasioun near Damascus, the Republican Guard's base. Some of the T-72M1s equipped with the panoramic sight were tasked to monitor rebel activity in the villages around Mount Qasioun.
   The T-72 has meanwhile seen use on every front. Deir ez-Zor, previously only home to T-55s, saw numerous T-72s operating here because of the arrival of the Republican Guard's 104th brigade. Some TURMS-T equipped T-72AVs are now also attached to Suqur al-Sahara (Desert Falcons), and saw use against the Islamic State near the Shaer gas field.
T-72 in Daraya.
   A limited number of T-72s also operate around Aleppo. All of these belong to the 4th armoured division and operate alongside BREM-1 ARVs. They mainly operated around the neigbourhood of Al-Layramoun in late 2013. Due to their heavy usage, many T-72AVs were soon left without their Kontakt-1 covered side skirts. Side skirts mounting joints are week part of side protection, after being hit a part of side skirts just fall off.
    Various other groups also continue to operate the T-72, of which the Islamic State is by far the largest operator with thirteen T-72 "Ural" and six T-72AVs in operation. Six T-72 Urals and three T-72AVs joined the ranks of the Islamic State after Liwa Dawood, the largest operator of tanks of all the rebels at the time, defected to the Islamic State.
   Liwa Dawood is claimed to have the dubious honour of participating in Syria's second tank duel, footage of which can be seen here. The duel resulted in the complete destruction of a T-72AV (the remains of which can be seen below) by a T-72 'Ural' from Liwa Dawood. Although the presence of numerous ATGMs in the area could soften the tank duel claim, the T-72AV seems in a great hurry to leave the area, possibly because it became aware of the T-72 Ural.
Tank.. umm. "duel" between insurgents T-72 and SAA T-72 (from 8:42).
   Another notable operator is Jaish al-Islam, which bought two T-72s from a corrupt officer within the Army's elite 4th Armoured Division and captured at least another six, of which one T-72M1 TURMS-T. Jaish al-Islam's usage of its T-72s can be seen as quite revolutionary compared to other rebel groups in the Syrian Civil War, being the only group in Syria which operates various types of armour and infantry in a mechanized force, fully exploiting their potential. At least one 'T-72AV' was upgraded with additional armour on its glacis plate and rear by Jaish al-Islam.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

    Most Syrian T-72s lost their 12.7mm NSV heavy machine gun in the course of the Civil War. As these guns require the commander to leave the safety of the turret, thus leaving him greatly exposed to gunfire, they rarely saw use and were often dismounted to be mounted on pickup trucks instead. Some of those HMGs became target for militants without AT weapon, like this video shows:




   For example in Jobar, tankers dismounted their HMGs and gave them to infantry, which used them to cover tank during urban battles.




HMGs with very characteristic armored box for HMG collimating sight. Those NSVTs are "ex-tank" HMGs. 



Infantry use HMG to cover this T-72 by suppressing terrorists in building to the right from a tank.


   T-72s gone trough some upgrades, most noticeable are 2 - one of them is modernisation of T-72s by mounting slat armor on the glacis plate, turret, hull and the rear, providing a 360 degree coverage in horizontal plane. This type of armor is only seen on TURMS-T equipped T-72 'Urals' operating in and near Aleppo.






   Another upgrade, was first seen in late August, 2014. Tank received additional armor on the side, frontal armor, and around the turret, further reinforced by "cage" armor and a-la Merkava metal chaines, providing a 360 degree coverage.
I am interested in what kind of add-on armor was used to reinforce UFP. It could be just concrete, after all.
   Some upgraded tanks were immediately send into combat in Jobar, where two were destroyed. Other modernized tanks saw service in Aleppo. However, the actual combat performance of the armor package remain unknown and it is hard to judge from which type of AT weapon it protects well enough to be worth, as Syrian battlefield is filled with anything from disposable light AT rocket launchers, to heavy ATGM like TOW and Kornet. It is expected more T-72s will receive this armour package.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will copy/edit my post from WoT forum about Syrian tanks combat in areas like Jobar. Note - pictures shows different battles.




   In Syria, Filatov's and Kuznetsov's work and interaction with Syrian tankers allowed to see how some of SAA units addapted to their war. First thing is that FSA/ISIS/An-Nusra/etc quickly punished all those who were sticking their heads out of tanks, forcing all tankers deep into their vehicles. All those, who wanted adventure for their heads either got killed or saw how similar guy got killed. All equipment on tanks turrets (searchlights, HMG mounts, HMG ammunition boxes, and so on) after just several engagements becoming bullet-filled scrap, as one video from previous post shows. 
Kuznetsov talking with Syrian tanker about their vehicles.
Filatov with terrorist's greatings in his hands.
    Add here a not very modern level of tech of Syrain T-72s, and you will have a situation when tanks becoming nearly blind. Why use tanks then, in such situation when it will have problem locating enemy? Answer is simple - SAA have nothing else to do what is needed to be done - tanks carry cannons that can destroy enemy positions in adeqaute amount of time and create a breaching point for infantry.   
BMP-2 is moving through tight corridor of the local market to firing positions.
    At this war, a lot of battles happened in cities, with high amount of multi-store buildings around, when a single tank was exposed to a lot of houses, located at different hights and distances, and enemy connected those buildings into sometimes very serious WW1-esque frontline. Even when SAA knew an exact house, where terrorists/militants are located, spotting exact place where RPG gunner will pop up was a task that could not be completed well, because how entrenched and camouflage positions were and because of snipers "activities". Militants have their own CPs, OPs, and generally organisation of frontline combat, which helps to keep eyes on tanks without exposing themselfs.
Example of enviroment, where tanks are used in Syrian war. There are significant forces of insurgents there, as video recording from tanks shows later.
    Well-concealed snipers, MG gunners and to make things worse, mortars (especially heavy one, with 100+ kg mines that fill up air with deadly amount of fragments), coordinated by observation posts, TV cameras, that are mounted from tunnels and spotters are main reason why infantry can't just rush positions (while having acceptable for SAA casualties) and thats why SAA  needs tanks to fight and there is no substitute for it in Syria (Shilka can suppress well, but can't punch hard enough, SPGs have sledgehammers to hit enemies, but no armor to protect from very "upset" militants).    
Frontline is about 100 meters away and those tanks preparing for combat.
T-72 is moving through school yard to the frontline.
Infantry bring bigger guns to cover tanks.
It is time. Time to fight.
   Even when tanks are under infantry cover, enemy still manages to put HMG fire on tanks and infantry just can't pin point location of that HMG. There is ANNA news report about one of those battles when tanks whole time were under HMG sporadic suppressive fire during their operation. AFAIK there was 2 examples in Jobar of snipers located on opposite side of house from SAA, firing through several well-aligned specially made holes in walls. BTW those holes looks like normal hole from HMG bullet or 30 mm cannons, so no one pay too much attention to those bullet marks/holes, sometimes they are everywhere.
    Sometimes instead of HMG and RPG round can launched at tank, but RPGs are problem at close ranges. ATGMs are main problem for Syrain tankers at long ranges.
That one missed
Same HEAT grenade.
    Officers (in Jhobar, for example) addopted different tactics, moving job of "looking around" to specialized CPs/Observations posts, that were receiving information from infantry and tanks were send to destroy specific targets and not to stand around, a sort of hit-and-run under umbrella of infantry supression fire and vision from OP (tanks don't go "deep", sometimes less than 20-30 meters from infantry fortified positions). And that still doesn't completely mitigates the fact that enemy know pretty well how to be unseen. Which SAA is combating by shooting at possible positions no matter if "bad guys" were spotted or not spotted in this position at the frontline.
Tanks and other AFV commanders familiarize with today battlefield. They are going from position to position, looking at their "working place" from several angles.
Tanks and IFVs advance to infantry dismount points, BMP-2s provide covering fire with their 30 mm autocannons.
That building near road was under covering fire by one BMP-2.
Another exampe of 30 mm AC covering fire. 
BMP-2 at concealed position, providing covering fire.
     Frontline got supressed by 30 mm cannons in close proximity to forces, 125 mm guns usually take out targets deeper in enemy territory, and those targets, that are not visible for tanks are sometimes bombed by either Air forces or Artillery. Sometimes SPGs are used in direct fire mode to break especially well-build fortification, but such "stunts" can be done only under serious cover of either other AFVs, or by having serious physical cover.
BMP-2 on overwatch.
BMP-2 moving inside of unfinished building to different position.
Akatsiya shelling enemy fortification in direct fire mode.
    Sometimes SAA use T-55/BMP-2 combination, where T-55 from long range destroy enemy positions, while BMP-2 is trying to hit insurgents team, that are trying to relocate or find better position.
T-55, BMP-2 is not far from it.
T-55 moved to different position, Akatsiya is taking T-55's previous place to "deliver presents".
   Syrian tankers addopted some interesting tricks to deacrease their chances to be hit - for example if tanks have place to move, they never stop to move vehicle around. Sometimes those are just small moves (like forward and backwards, it looks like some kind of "dance") inside of small area, but it increase chances for RPG grenadier to miss. Tanks also frequently use cover to fire at enemies, with 2 or 3 tanks firing at same area from different angles, trying to "cut it" and reduce enemy forces ability to move out of danger zone.
   Tankers also are trying to reduce time, when they are moving through open areas, sometimes this leads to interesting decisions like bulldozing a tunnel right through several buildings. 
   Overall, tanks in Jobar are used as close range assault guns, as a tool to exchange infantry ability to advance. Tanks in Syrian war are not used as separate forces on its own, they almost always are close to infatry. Tankers are trying to be under cover of soldiers inside of buildings, while always trying to be in their viewrange. Targets, that tank can't engage (due to no LOS), are becoming artillery job, thats why close artillery strikes not far from tanks (100-200 meters) are not that rare in Syrian war.   
SAA soldier covering tanks. First barrel belongs to OSV-96 12.7 anti-material rifle.
Smoke from artillery HE shells cover this small square in front of business center
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Copy-pasting this article here to keep all info in one place and not search it on many blogs, linked in SH.



   Who actually operates Assad's tanks in Syria remains somewhat unclear: although many believe the Syrian Arab Army (SyAA) remains responsible for all combat tasks within Syria, the SyAA saw much of its manpower and equipment transferred to the National Defence Force (NDF) and other militias. However, the Syrian Arab Army still remains responsible for a number of brigades and for the many garrisons dotted around Syria. Any tanks found there remain under the command of the Syrian Arab Army.




   The tank fleet can be divided into three major types: the T-55, the T-62 and the T-72. Two additional types, the T-54 and the PT-76, were also once in Syrian service, but most of the surviving T-54s were donated to Lebanon and others stored. It is only now that a number are being brought back into service. The PT-76 fleet is believed to have been scrapped at the end of the last decade.




   It is commonly believed Syria was in the possession of nearly 5000 tanks, roughly divided between 2000 T-54/55s, 1000 T-62s and 1500 T-72s, before the Civil War began. However, these figures are largely distorted, and the actual number of tanks operated by Syria at the start of this decade lays closer to 2500, divided between around 1200 T-55s, 500 T-62s and 700 T-72s. Not all 2500 tanks were active at the same time, with large portions of the T-55 and T-62 fleet in reserve and stored.


   Of these 2500 tanks, over 1000 have been lost over the course of the Civil War. While the majority of these have been T-55s, the large size of that fleet makes up for these losses. An estimated 700 T-55s maintain their operational capabilities as of late 2014.  Many groups fighting for control over Syria also continue to operate various T-55s. A notable operator is the Islamic State, which became a major user after capturing dozens at Brigade 93. Much of the Brigade 93's inventory was later fielded in the Islamic State's offensive on Kobane.




   The T-55s can be divided into four variants: the standard T-55A, the North Korean upgraded T-55, the T-55AM and the T-55MV. Of these, the T-55A is most numerous type in service, followed by the North Korean upgraded examples, the T-55MV and the T-55AM. The T-55A and the North Korean upgraded T-55s are mostly found with the NDF, while the remaining T-55AMs and T-55MVs continue to soldier on with the SAA.




   The North Korean variants feature a North Korean designed laser rangefinder (LRF) and some even smoke grenade launchers and a 14.5mm KPV heavy machine gun. At least two North Korean produced LRFs are known to be installed on Syrian T-54/55s. The upgrade for these tanks, based on lessons learned in the 1973 war, was carried out in the early seventies and eighties as a cheaper alternative to the Soviet T-55 upgrade, which brought a part of Syria's fleet up to T-55AM standard. This upgrade included the KTD-2 laser-range finder, side skirts and smoke grenade launchers. The addition of BDD appliqué armour for the turret and front of the hull was ommited due budget constrictions however.


   The T-55MV is by far the most modern T-55 variant in service within Syria, one could argue their combat effectiveness would even surpass that of Syria's T-72s. 200 T-55s were upgraded to MV standard in Ukraine in 1997. Opposed to Syria's T-55AMs, the T-55MVs were fully upgraded, including a new engine and explosive reactive armour (ERA) blocks for increased armour protection against rocket-propelled grenades





Example of upgraded T-55MVs with ERA and laser rangefinders 



A T-55AM operated by the rebel Ghurabaa' Houran Battalion operating in the Dara'a Governorate


   Syrian T-55MVs are also equipped with the 9M117M Bastion anti-tank missile fired through the T-55's 100mm main gun. Although the 9M117M was previously unknown to be in Syrian service, rebels captured around a dozen of them near Tel Ahmar, Quneitra Governorate. Quneitra has traditionally been home to the T-55MV fleet, and these missiles would have been a nasty suprise for Israeli armour in case of war. Due to the cost of these missiles, each tank only carries a few. Most of the missiles remain stockpiled in ammunition depots, like Tel Ahmar, along the Golan Heights for possible future use against Israeli armor.



   Some T-55MVs also received a mysterious device mounted over the laser-range finder. This device most likely functions as a sort of camera. A similar looking device was also spotted on an BMP-1 upgrade offered by the Ukraine. Only footage showing the interior of the tank can provide definitive proof. 



   Similar to what has already been seen on the Republican Guard's T-72s, the T-55 fleet is now gradually receiving cage armour reinforced by sandbags to improve protection against RPGs.





Crude variation of T-55 up-armoring



This one looks much more professional upgrade.





And here is rare video of Syrian T-55 firing Bastion GL-ATGM against guntruck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Significance here, if I'm correct, being that it's a B or S model (see front turret armor) versus the M1's/A's Syria is known to use.  Fourth and fifth road wheels look a bit droopy there.

Problem is that this photo does not look like it is in Syria. I think it might be from Ukraine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, Scolo, but a video with BTR-82A showed a tank with T-72 chassis and turret completely covered with camo net, which i found to be unusual. I was following this conflict pretty closely, but never saw such use of camo net by Syrian tankers.

Screenshots of it i posted in T110 thread. If you want i can post them here as well, but only tomorrow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Any images yet of those Russia tanks reported to have been deployed to Syria?


You must be careful with this photo, for it's highly classified and taken from the same reliable sources as those who captured overwhelming evidence of T-90AMs in Ukraine!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...