Improvised Weapons Of The New IRA Modernise Old Designs

A damaged armoured jeep of the PSNI paramilitary police in the British Occupied North of Ireland
A damaged armoured jeep of the PSNI paramilitary police in the British Occupied north-east of Ireland. This image is from a previous incident and displays the military design of most PSNI vehicles and the punishment they can take

On the 16th of November 2014 an armoured jeep of the PSNI, the paramilitary police force in the British-administrated north-east of Ireland, was parked on a street in the Ardoyne district of north Belfast when it was hit by an explosive projectile that penetrated the vehicle’s exterior “skin” before being deflected by the thicker plating underneath (we do not know if the vehicle was a Land Rover Tangi, an older jeep-style model partly designed and built by RUC/PSNI engineers throughout the 1980s and ’90s, or one of the newer Pangolin Armoured Public Order Vehicles created in conjunction with a manufacturer in Britain). Within hours the New Irish Republican Army or (N)IRA, a 2012 amalgamation of several previous insurgent groupings, issued a rather poorly-worded communique confirming responsibility for the operation. The statement to the news media was accompanied by several photographs claiming to show the device used in the attack just minutes before it was deployed. According to the (N)IRA one of their Active Service Units had used a shoulder-held improvised grenade-launcher, fired at the PSNI jeep from a distance of eighteen metres. This was stated to be one of a series of new armaments the guerilla movement were developing through their supposed Engineering Department.

Improvised weapons and explosives have of course been central to the “Irish-British arms race” since the latter half of the 19th century, beginning with the “scientific warfare” of the US-based Fenian Brotherhood and its offshoots in the 1880s. However it was undoubtedly during the “armed struggle” of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army from 1969-2005 that the development of “home-made” munitions reached its zenith on the island nation of Ireland. From mortars to culvert-mines, drogue-grenades to truck-bombs, for over twenty years dozens of engineers and technicians worked in a light industry devoted to the production of equipment for an underground army. In the case of man-portable devices, which is relevant to the news report above, the two most important weapons were those the British Forces classed as the Mark 15 grenade-launcher or Improvised Projected Grenade (IPG) which dated from the mid-1980s, and the Mark 16 launcher or Projected Recoilless Improvised Grenade (PRIG) which dated from the early 1990s. In both cases (P)IRA’s own classifications for the devices are unknown.

A Volunteer of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army holding a (P)IRA-manufactured Mark 15 grenade-launcher or Improvised Projected Grenade (IPG)
A Volunteer of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army holding a (P)IRA-manufactured Mark 15 grenade-launcher or Improvised Projected Grenade (IPG)

The Mark 15 IPG was a deceptively simple creation resembling a conventional shoulder-held grenade-launcher that fired a warhead – the “grenade” – containing 1kg or more of explosives against fixed or moving targets. However in practice the device had many short-comings including limited range and accuracy, as well as mediocre effectiveness against “hardened” targets (in the hands of a trained operator it was more useful for “lobbying” the explosive projectile over fortified walls or onto enemy foot-patrols). It was also noted for leaving tell-tale bruising on the shoulders of unwary users due to the weapon’s considerable recoil.

In the early 1990s (P)IRA supplemented the Mark 15 with a heavier addition, the innovative Mark 16 PRIG. This seems to have been based on the Armbrust shoulder-launched anti-tank grenade-launcher produced by Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm of Germany from the 1980s to mid-2000s. The Armbrust consisted of a propellant charge placed between two pistons with the projectile (“grenade”) in front of one and some five thousand shredded plastic flakes behind the other. These flakes provided counterbalance to the warhead and were ejected from the rear of the barrel at the same initial velocity as the projectile left the front, rapidly dispersing behind the firer (this and the device’s minimal flash, smoke and noise made it ideal for use in urban combat).

A Mark 15 Projector Recoilless Improvised Grenade or PRIG launcher manufactured by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army
A Mark 15 Projector Recoilless Improvised Grenade or PRIG launcher manufactured by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army. This is actually a British military copy for training and display purposes

 

Side-on view of a Mark 15 Projector Recoilless Improvised Grenade or PRIG warhead manufactured by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army
Side-on view of a Mark 15 Projector Recoilless Improvised Grenade or PRIG warhead manufactured by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army

 

The (P)IRA military technicians manufactured their equivalent of the Armbrust using off-the-shelf steel pipes varying in length that could be fired from on the shoulder, with a small explosive charge wired to a circuit consisting of an arming-switch and trigger in a grip-section welded to the middle of the pipe, and a very simple iron-sight. The projectile itself was a food-can engineered to form a hollow-charge warhead that was partly filled with 600 grammes of Semtex or other explosives, four simple fins providing limited stability in flight. This technology is commonly known as HEAT or High-Explosive Anti-Tank in military circles, the explosives being fixed around a hollow cone that crumples upon impact with the target, the fuse detonating the warhead to create a high-temperature, high-velocity gas jet capable of penetrating even the thickest of metal or composite plating. The all-important counterweight in the Mark 15 was provided in the simplest manner possible: two packets of mashed digestive biscuits (“cookies”) wrapped in J-cloths situated in the rear of the launcher which were blown harmlessly out the back of the tube when the device was fired.

By the time of the second (P)IRA ceasefire in 1997 the Mark 15 PRIG had been used in numerous operations across the north-east of Ireland, the consistency and refinements in design confirming British evaluations that they were being produced in an assembly-line manner by one or more workshops.

A Volunteer of the (New) Irish Republican Army holding a (N)IRA-manufactured grenade-launcher just before an attack on the British Forces, 2014
A Volunteer of the (New) Irish Republican Army holding a (N)IRA-manufactured grenade-launcher just before an attack on the British Forces, 2014
A Volunteer of the (New) Irish Republican Army holding a (N)IRA-manufactured grenade-launcher just before an attack on the British Forces in Belfast, 2014
A Volunteer of the (New) Irish Republican Army holding a (N)IRA-manufactured grenade-launcher just before an attack on the British Forces in Belfast, 2014

This brings us back to the partly successful (N)IRA attack of last November and the improvised weapon allegedly used by their ASU in north Belfast. Judging by the photographic evidence it loosely resembles several designs of commercially available grenade-launchers and may well come from engineers with some knowledge of manufacturing the original Mark 15 IPG. What is interesting about the device is the presumed rear trigger-handle – shown in the photos above – which seems to be the grip from a battery-operated cordless drill (the Makita range of Impact Drivers have been put forward as one possible source since these are available from DIY shops and suppliers in Ireland and Britain). This suggests that the grip has been wired to ignite a propellant charge inside the weapon’s prominent barrel, blasting it forward against the target. (N)IRA claims that the device can be quickly assembled from its individual parts implies a modular design, easy to transport or conceal. However the hefty price for the drill handle component certainly doesn’t make it cheap and this lends itself to traceability both from the original manufacturer and supply-chain sellers. While technologically it may be clever forensically it may be less so.

As things stand the (N)IRA, like other Irish Republican insurgents, will continue to rely upon older stocks of weapons and explosives taken from (P)IRA before the “decommissioning” process of the early 2000s for the vast majority of its offensive military operations. New weapons, improvised or purchased overseas, will be the rarity not the norm for some years to come and perhaps permanently.

A Volunteer of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army armed with a short-barrelled Mark 15 Projector Recoilless Improvised Grenade or PRIG launcher
A Volunteer of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army armed with a short-barrelled Mark 15 Projector Recoilless Improvised Grenade or PRIG launcher

 

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21 comments

  1. Interesting analysis.
    I saw this in the news but I never saw the photo of the LandRover.
    That been said, I think these lads are wasting their time. They are just a lesser branch of the PIRA and the latter could only do so much.
    The only thing in this groups favour is Wotton Bassett and the over stretch of the Brits military, which has ended.
    If the British had of staged Wotton Bassett style ceremonies in the 1970’s for their son’s who died in “Ulster” this would have ended Brit involvment in Ireland. Although “Ulsterisation” policy would have lessened the impact.

    So, If violence or an armed campaign is not the answer than what is?

    I would suggest a totally unarmed policy. For the first reason that it attracts a lot less attention and would make life easier all round. Less risk of been sent to prison etc. less “bad press” etc..etc.
    I would continue with fund raising by various means..And I would use those funds to compile intelligence and also to co-opt people. ( mainly politicians with brown envelopes )
    And who ever went to prison by passing politicians brown envelopes??????
    As for intelligence? the DUP is ripe for exploitation.
    Any party with their anti Gay agenda is bound to have some Homosexual people in their ranks.
    Identify them ( intelligence ) and co-opt them to work for you.
    Unionism in general due to it’s own beliefs is well vulnerable.
    also the DUP has proven to have venal people, not averse “making” money.

    Also, I have recently read that according to an Israeli paper the New IRA has a turnover of £32 Million per annum..which put them in the top 10 of armed groups. Of course this doesn’t mean they make £32 “profit” since the article gave no clue as to what their overheads are.It’s impossible to say.
    If they were making anything like this amount, then I would even suggest going as far afield as the US of A.
    Certain major US defence companies pay $75,000 dollars to US senators/ congressmen at election times. And for this they get contracts worth BIllions from the US Govt.
    So, I can think of NO other area where you can get better returns for your money.
    Not even Bernie Madoff promised such a return on your investment.
    What does this have to do with a UI?
    look to Israel. They get something like $2-3 Billion per year from the USA. EVERY Year.
    With 36 million Irish Americans. ( plenty of whom can vote ) This would be a fruitful battleground to exploit. And Ireland plc ccould use the cash.
    Indeed if Gerry Adams or Sinn Fein “win” in 2016..I really demand that they put the Irish G2 and G3 intelligence agencies to work and doing such a thing.
    If Ireland is to be United..It will take a stunts like these.. co-opting people, brown envelopes and spying.
    I believe Michael Collins was already doing these kind of things.
    And I believe it is the only way to succeed.

    1. Sorry, Oz aka AmS. I should have made it clear that the photo of the Land Rover is from an incident a few years ago. We have no image of the one that was attacked. I added the photo to illustrate the type of vehicle being discussed and its armouring. Will amend that now.

      I agree with you about an “unarmed struggle”, one waged politically, culturally, socially and linguistically. That is of far greater importance than any half-hearted military one.

      On the claims that the New IRA / Real IRA is “the world’s ninth richest terror organisation”, the evaluation originally came from Forbes Israel and was offered without any evidence or sources. It seems to have been largely the imaginative creation of that publication and then touted amongst news agencies and reprinted in the Irish and British press. A way to make a quick buck and mostly aimed at Hamas, etc.

      The whole thing is a nonsense. The organisation itself is probably running on a budget measured in the tens of thousands of euros, and certainly not 40 million plus euros, whatever about the income of individual members or fringe affiliates. I haven’t seen too many Republican guerillas driving around south Armagh in second-hand T-72 tanks recently! 😉

      1. Sorry ASF, I didn’t mean for you to take down the photo. I think it serves it’s purpose well.
        As you have shown, your Blog reaches an international audience. So the pictures would be of great benefit to these.
        Would be interested to know more about that attack though.
        I agree with the point about propaganda from the Israeli media. It is to be taken with a large grain of salt.
        I ran with the figure just to say, what could be achieved with that money, If it was used differently.
        And also If they had that sort of money..It would mean they had access to top arms dealers and they would have had a huge arsenal of weapons by now. Maybe not T72’s!!!!!
        But something better than what they have

        1. Left the photo up, just fixed the caption to make things a little clearer. I appreciate the spot because I go to great efforts to keep things factual, so it was good to know that the image was a bit misleading. Hopefully all ok now.

          Yeah, maybe not T-72s (the Kurds and Islamic State seem eager to grab what’s left of them now in Iraq) but certainly more off-the-shelf stuff and not improvised launchers of dubious safety.

          Whatever money is floating around our home-grown nacro-terrorists is being used to snap up holiday homes in Bulgaria and Croatia – not retake the Occupied Six 😉 It would make a tremendous difference if tens of millions of euros was being put into the push for reunification – or at least making the “border” even more irrelevant.

    2. NI is a liability not an asset.
      Would you like increased taxes to support the region in case of the reunification?
      The Germans are still paying their “solidarity tax” and don’t plan to repeal it anytime soon.

      1. It depends on how you look at things Janis.
        I would say that the March of a Country is measued in decades, Generations or even Centuries.
        Obviously I won’t live that long, but I would say that in the long term Ireland would be better off united.
        As will Germany.
        A border creates problems of different tax regimes which leads to smuggling etc and is bad economically.
        But My MAIN point against partition, would be, that We don’t have politicians that act in the “national interest” and this can in large part be put down to the fact that there is a dispute as to what makes up the Nation.
        This distraction, once lifted will lead to policies in the “national interest” in the longer term.
        My other reasons are more that I find the British Presence in Ireland emasculating.
        That is my view.
        If we are just to play things short termism then you might be right.
        Also, one of the arguments against a United Ireland is the Unionist backlash.
        As this article points out.
        The huge difficulties experienced by the New IRA would also face Unionist terror.
        Ergo, the backlash would be a damp squid.
        And the NEW IRA would be operating on a whole higher plain than the Unionists would be.

        1. A border creates problems of different tax regimes which leads to smuggling etc and is bad economically.
          ————-
          Then we can go even further – why have nation states at all?
          Let’s create the United States of Europe instead.

          But anyway…

          Can you answer the question?

          Where are you going to get the money to subsidise NI?
          The Brits are paying them 1 billion EUR per month or so.

          1. Jānis, the British, the European Union, the United States, and Ireland. That is who will pay for reunification and in the two decades or so thereafter. The precedents for such “Marshall Plans” are already set, from EU funds to what was Eastern Germany to the US-backed Ireland Fund. It is in the interests of all that reunification works.

          2. Janis.
            I already alluded to this.
            We have 36 million Irish Americans.
            There are about 10 million Jewish Americans.
            Israel gets at least $2-3 Billion dollars in DIRECT US aid.Per Year
            It also gets about $8 Billion in preferential trade deals with the USA. per year.
            due to the Arab wars and the high oil price thereof..This has been a MASSIVE cost to the USA
            It’s time Ireland made good and proper use of this resource
            Israel is unviable entity without US Aid.
            And this US aid gives it a GDP per head of about the same level as Singapore.

            1. The USA sponsor Israel not because some Jewish Americans want to do it, but because of geopolitical reasons – Israel is their best ally in the region.
              Just like they don’t blindly love the Baltics and Poland.
              They allowed us to join NATO to reduce the Russian sphere of influence.

              There are no geopolitical reasons for the Americans to give that much money to Ireland for nothing – they already have their “unsinkable aircraft carrier” right next to Ireland.

              1. There is a certain truth to what you say i.e Geostrategic interest in Middle East.
                But that is overstated.
                For example the USA claims to use Israel as an arms dump.
                However in what other arms dump Do the USA let the country hosting it to pilfer the supplies?
                Israel takes what it likes from us stockpiles in the country.
                Israel blocked massive arms deals to Saudi Arabia..This was AGAINST U.S interests i.e arms dealers.
                Ever wonder why the Saudi Airforce has flown or flies.
                The Lighting jet and the British Tornado and Typhoon?????
                A clue is they wanted the F105 Starfighter, The F15 and the New F35 ..Israel denied them these planes..So they bought British instead.
                They managed to get some F15’s in the 1980’s by out foxing the Jewish Lobby in Washington. And USA is now selling them more F15’s but only coz the F35 is the latest and best. ergo Israel “allows” the USA to sell them.
                So, The Israeli lobby is the most powerful in the USA. By a Country mile.
                I am arguing that the Irish lobby could be as powerful..If they Tried.
                Would have to come from Dublin Government.
                also supporting Israel has cost the USA both direct and indirect.
                If you factor in how much US support has pushed up oil prices over the decades. It’s a HUGE amount.So I would say supporting Israel hasn’t helped the USA.
                Also USA has $13 TRILLION in debt.
                Sending some money to Ireland is a drop in the ocean for them.
                It’s up to the Irish to grab it. I am totally convinced it’s an achieveable objective.
                Yes there would be strings attached.

              2. If you factor in how much US support has pushed up oil prices over the decades.
                ————–
                Maybe so, but a foothold in the Middle east is far more important to them.

                I think you’re overestimating the power of Irish Americans – why would a random plastic paddy who hasn’t even been to Ireland want to send his tax money there and get nothing in return?

                Ireland is not part of NATO and it’s not a Major Non-NATO Ally.
                And it’s not in a favourable geographic location.
                Its armed forces are a joke.
                It is right next to a NATO member which has a special relationship with the USA.
                Why would the Americans provide military aid to Ireland?
                What would that achieve?

                Giving military aid to Poland, the Baltics or Turkey is a far better investment.

              3. I think you’re overestimating the power of Irish Americans – why would a random plastic paddy who hasn’t even been to Ireland want to send his tax money there and get nothing in return?

                =====================================================
                Well Janis two words the Iraq WAr.
                This cost the US taxpayer Billions maybe even a Trillion or TWO.
                The US taxpayer didn’t benefit one jot.
                But certain oil companies did.And arms companies also.
                It has been said Iraq was an oil war.
                It would have been cheaper on the US taxpayer just to buy the oil.
                But lke I say certain US firms had a bonanza.
                So the people who ran those firms pushed the USA into massive spending on their behalf.
                It happens.
                In fact Include in Israel..And I say It happens all the time.

              4. Jānis, the International Fund for Ireland, financed by Ireland, Britain, the United States, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Canada has contributed up to one billion euros to the Irish economy as part of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1986, an international treaty signed by Ireland and Britain and backed by all those interests. A further 380 million euros has come through the Ireland Funds, a separate private grouping. The EU as also invested separately from those organisations in the “Peace Process” since the Belfast Agreement of 1998, has as Germany, France, etc. with millions of euros in various initiatives controlled by Brussels, Berlin and Paris. It is not unreasonable to expect Britain to continue to fund the north-eastern region for a decade or so after reunification. It is in their interests and that of their “subjects” in the terms of the British Unionist community. Britain after all spends billions of pounds each year supporting far-flung territories of the former empire, obscure places you or I have never heard of. Nor have the vast majority of the British people.

              5. NI is receiving far higher subsidies than those you mentioned.
                They’re receiving 1 billion per MONTH not per 30 years.
                And you can’t expect the Brits to subsidise a foreign country forever.
                You’ll still have to get the money to subsidise NI yourselves sooner or later.

              6. The Free State bailed out it’s useless banks
                So if it hasn’t collapsed over that. Then it can acquire debts to get 17% of it’s Landmass back.Germany got debt forgiveness over the destruction of WW2. Greece has had something like 90% of it’s debt written off.
                Russia defaulted in the 1990’s..So has Argentina.,
                Why not Ireland for the sake of becoming a Unitary State?
                Did Latvia worry about it’s economy over leaving the SU?
                It did..But NOT enough to stay in.
                Some things matter more than money.

              7. The Latvian situation was different.
                The USSR was not supporting us at all – Latvia was one of the richest areas of the USSR and we had to support them.
                So leaving the USSR meant leaving the occupier that fleeced us dry and returning to a sane economic system instead of the one that was imposed upon us by commie nutjobs.

                NI on the other hand is a liability that costs 12 billions per year or so.

          3. How do you know the cost of reunification ? You correctly state the Brits subsidise the six counties with 1 billion per month. Why do you assume this cost will automatically transfer to the Irish exchequer ?

            1. Because the Brits are not going to subsidise a foreign country forever.
              And it has been clearly established that the reunification will happen only if the majority of NI’s population votes to secede from the UK and join the Republic of Ireland.

              Sure – there will be some transition period, but after that you should not expect anything from the Brits.

              And yes – the actual cost of the reunification will probably be even higher than that, but at least there won’t be any problems with languages, because both NI and ROI are nearly 100% English speaking countries.

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