Monday, 27 March 2017
Another One Bites the Dust: Major arms depot falls to Islamic State
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
Just over a year after capturing Deir ez-Zor's Ayyash weapon depot in the largest arms haul of the Syrian Civil War, the Islamic State has once again got its hands on massive quantities of ammunition captured from a storage depot in Deir ez-Zor. This arms haul joins the list of other major instances where vast amounts of weaponry and munitions traded owners such as the capture of the aforementioned Ayyash weapon depot, Regiment 121, Brigade 93 and the Mahin arms depot, all but the last of which were at the hands of the Islamic State. Each of these depots provided its capturers with a wide array of weaponry, vehicles and ammunition that could immediately be used against their former owners, a major blow to other factions fighting for control over Syria.
A propaganda video released by the Islamic State, showing its fighters on the offensive in Deir ez-Zor, was the only footage released of the capture of the depot. The video, على أبواب الملاحم - 'At the Doors of Epics [Battles]', details the Islamic State's efforts towards splitting the regime-held territory in two, which they succeeded in doing so in February 2017. This means that the airbase and Brigade 137 are now completely isolated, further complicating efforts to supply both pockets and drastically increasing the vulnerability of the airbase. Despite the growing threat, it remains unlikely that the Islamic State will be able to capture either pocket. The capture of significant quantities of ammunition, including up to three million rounds of small arms rounds will surely allow the Islamic State to prolong its fight for survival.
This is an estimate of the ammunition captured, the real figures are believed to be higher. The contents of at least 652 crates could not be identified. Small arms are not included due to the small quantities captured.
˜ 3,320,600* rounds of 7.62x39, 7.62x54R, 12.7mm and 14.5mm ammunition.
- 2,310 rounds of 85mm ammunition.
- 693 rounds of 100mm ammunition.
- 13 rounds of 125mm ammunition.
- 120 rounds of 120mm ammunition.
- 68 rounds of 122mm rocket ammunition.
- 15 TM-62 anti-tank mines.
- 1 T-72M1 TURMS-T.
- 3 T-72M1s.
- 1 AMB-S.
- 1 Tatra 148.
- 1 UAZ-469.
- 5 cars.
Although assessing the exact contents of each spam can of small arms munition is impossible, by volume the total amount would equal roughly 3.32 million rounds of 7.62x39mm, or a slightly smaller numer distributed of larger calibres such as 12.7mm and 14.5mm. Regardless, truly a tremendous amount of small arms ammunition was captured indeed.
destruction of two L-39s in their Hardened Aircraft Shelter (HAS).
The Islamic State also captured two airdrops destined for regime forces in the city, one of which was already believed to have been emptied of its contents before the Islamic State arrived. However, it is extremely likely that the ammunition from these crates was later encountered in one of the depots captured. Several airdrops have so far ended up in the wrong hands after landing in Islamic State controlled territory, which includes the two pallets below.
While a less than ideal situation, these airdrops are meanwhile the only way to supply the city and its inhabitants after the complete encirclement of Deir ez-Zor in May 2015. Both the United Nations and Russian Air Force have actively participated in dropping humanitarian aid to the starving population living in regime-held parts of the city, while Il-76s of the SyAAF are mostly active for the purpose of supplying weaponry, ammunition and fuel to the remaining regime forces held up in the city.
Interestingly, two of the T-72M1s feature protective covers around their TPN-1-49 gunner sights, a modification that is slowly being applied across what remains of Syria's battered T-72 fleet. A single Czechoslovak AMB-S armoured utility vehicle was also captured, which will likely end up employed as a VBIED similar to the two BREM-2 armoured recovery vehicles captured near the Ayyash weapon depots.
Islamic State captures Ayyash weapons depots in largest arms haul of Syrian Civil War
Armour in the Islamic State, the DIY works of Wilayat al-Khayr