There are a couple of recent articles in the At War blog of the New York Times that are quite interesting. The first examines the use of conventional weapons and explosives by the various Iraqi insurgency groups fighting against the United States and other foreign militaries in the country from 2003 to the present time (in particular of course, 2004-2011). One of the commercial weapons described is the RKG-3, a generic term for a series of Soviet-era hand-thrown anti-tank grenades notable for their use of a small parachute to drag or “float” the grenade so that its explosive force was directed downwards against the thinner upper armour normally found on military vehicles. An improvised version of this weapon was of course devised by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army in the 1980s with the “drogue grenade”. This consisted of a small metal casing (a can or tin with a tubular plastic handle) packed with explosives and in later models a shaped conical head which deployed a miniature polythene “tail” from the handle when thrown. They were normally dropped or launched from a height (windows, bridges or embankments) and were moderately effective against armoured vehicles or “roof observers”.
The second article looks at non-commercial munitions, in particular explosive ordnance. Remember when the Irish Republican Army started deploying major explosive loads in the early 1990s, especially during the infrastructure attacks in Britain? One of the excuses employed by helpless British officials with a panicked media was the claim that the IRA was “running out” of commercial explosives, primarily Semtex-H, and that the use of improvised explosives was actually a sign of “desperation”.
“When homemade explosives first came into wide use in Iraq, American military officers initially thought it was a sign that the insurgents were running out of conventional or “military-grade,” munitions. That assumption had no basis in fact. What it did signal was that the enemy had realized that bulk explosives were more valuable and, in certain situations, more lethal.”
A counter-insurgency war, like the insurgency itself, is all too often a case of the true believers clutching at straws.
Meanwhile Brown Moses re-examines the phenomenon of Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions or IRAMs, fairly indiscriminate weapons that have become a favourite tool of area denial (or terror when used against civilians). These are an increasing part of the Syrian government’s arsenal which once again raises the question of why the loyalist forces of the billion dollar Assad regime have come to rely so heavily on “DIY” munitions?