Thursday, 3 November 2016
The Syrian Adventures of Buratino: The 'Shams MRL'
The 4th Armoured Division is well known for operating several types of tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles upgraded with additional armour throughout the Damascus theatre of operations. Having performed these armour upgrades on a range of armoured fighting and support vehicles, the 4th Armoured Division (4th AD) has now expanded its arsenal once more by introducing a new type of multiple rocket launcher (MRL), popularly known as 'Shams', meaning Sun in Arabic. It's thought its nickname was derived from that of the aesthetically similar Russian TOS-1A 'Solntsepyok, which has been referred to as 'Sun' during its deployment in Syria.
This vehicle continues the trend of highly professional upgrades performed on the armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) of the 4th AD. Located in Adra, Rif Dimashq Governorate, the first of such upgraded vehicles appeared in late 2014, when at least two of the up-armoured T-72M1s were shown destroyed shortly after their deployment to Jobar. This however did not deter the 4th AD from pressing on with the programme and in the years that followed, several types of up-armoured AFVs would be sighted on the battlefield.
Elsewhere in Syria, factions fighting for control over the country have begun upgrading several of their armoured fighting vehicles to better suit the type of warfare encountered on the battlefield. This has included everything from implementing measures to reduce visibility from the air to converting tanks to vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). The BMP serves as the basis for many of these DIY modifications, and has proven a popular platform despite its obvious limitations and weaknesses.
While many DIY modifications of this vehicle thus exist, the conversion from an infantry fighting vehicle to an MRL is the first of its kind in Syria, and arguably the most sophisticated fire-support platform based on the chassis of a BMP in the entire world. Previous experiments throughout the world included the installation of 23mm gunpods and 80mm B-8 rocket pods taken from aircraft and helicopters on the BMP's turrets while Cuba has recently begun converting several of its BMPs to the fire-support role, fitting them either with a 100mm anti-tank gun or a 122mm D-30 howitzer.