Thursday, 1 January 2015
Syria's ATGM carriers, remaining in the background
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
As the now almost four-year-long Syrian Civil War continues, equipment previously unknown to have been operated by Syria still comes to light, including ATGM carriers. The reason for the slow introduction of Syria's anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) carriers has much to do with their intended role: destroying enemy armour from longer ranges. As the rebels only operate limited numbers of armoured vehicles, deploying ATGM carriers to the battlefield would have little use.
It was only recently that numerous ATGMs were distributed to the NDF in an effort to increase their firepower. Some NDF batallions directly facing rebel-held towns are now able to immediately return fire with their ATGMs after being fired upon, making it hard for the rebels to employ armour or artillery in and near these towns.
Therefore it has only been recently that Syria's large fleet of ATGMs has seen use with the Syrian Arab Army and the National Defence Force (NDF) in the Civil War, mostly fired at houses in an effort to clear the rebel presence inside. Due to their precision, ATGMs are well suited, albeit very expensive, for this task. Because of the low building quality in Syria, most houses can be easily penetrated by ATGMs.
Although the 9P148 still sees active use, most of the Syrian Arab Army's 9P122s remain in storage. The delivery of thousands of modern ATGMs meant there was a decreasing need for the ageing 9P122s, and most were placed in reserve shortly before the Civil War began. In their intended role, striking Israeli Merkava tanks on the Golan Heights, the 9P122 would have been as good as chanceless anyway. It is interesting to note the Malyutka missile itself still remains in active use in Syria, and more modern Iranian variants continue to be delivered even today.
Distributing the ATGM carriers amongst entrenched forces facing towns and vast swaths of open land is an effective way to enchance their capability to deny the possible deployment of heavy weaponry by the rebels. As the Syrian Arab Army and the National Defence Force (NDF) are increasingly forced to look for other means to ensure superiority in firepower, these mobile ATGM carriers might be just at the beginning of their career.
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