Saturday, 25 January 2014

Turning the once dispossessed into engineers of the rebellion

Turning the once dispossessed into engineers of the rebellion

(Or again, seeing the makeshift mecha of the rebellious)

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It seems that this writer had again take interest on how these people had the guts to create its own armory. Other than manufacturing makeshift guns, grenades and other weaponries of the resistance, some had afford to gather steel, assembling in an existing vehicle and had it armed with any kind of weapon gathered from its enemies.

To others, it seemed quite strange for a rebel to have their own technology, most of which were once junk yet repaired and again serviceable; but come to think that these people whom are against the system can't just throw away stones not hurling their enemies with lighted petrol bombs in the streets, and these people had enough idea to counter those from their oppressors, let's just say if their enemies had armored cars and stuff, and theirs able to drive any kind of vehicle, of course they have the idea to create not just to counter their enemy's strength, but to give its allies good morale in their protracted struggle.

Anyways, according to an earlier writeup from a Pakistani forum, also tackling the same topic as this writer's, said:

"This thread will be dedicated to the different war time improvisations all over the world. In the recent years most people could see during the Libyan war or now in the one that rages in Syria all kinds of improvised weapons, made from the components that are available at the moment. And that's not something new. There were numerous examples of such weapons that were made during the break up of the former Yugoslavia, Chechen conflict, and others that affected modern warfare."

Just like in then-Republican Spain during the Spanish civil war, the mobile pillboxes of the past paved way to the assembly of improvised armored vehicles. By using an existing chassis, whether it be a car, van, or a truck, armed mechanics had to repair, assemble every steel, given arms, all turning a lowly civilian vehicle into a one capable of countering those of their enemies. Patriotism, reality, and a glimpse of the future had somehow provide inspiration to those who had afford to create despite having limited resources, technology, and even men to assemble or repair their cherished armored vehicle.

Self-reliance for self-determination

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During the Yugoslav conflict, aside from the remnants of the old Yugoslav people's army with its Soviet-inspired vehicles, Serbian volunteers had its own weaponries manufactured from its own foundry. Mostly from old but serviceable trucks, tractors, or remains of military armor, they had took time repairing, given armor and armed whether with a machine gun or a rocket launcher salvaged from an old MiG plane, also repaired by its own mechanics, and some, if not most of them being former soldiers or militiamen fighting against Croats or Bosnians especially in Srpska or in Krajina, with the latter known for its famous armored train "Krajina Express."

Similar to Polish, German, and Russian armored trains, the Krajina Express was the last armored train used in a modern-day conflict. Armed with old weapons such as a German WW2 flak cannon, and alongside rockets, the Krajina Express had supported the Serb Krajinans against the Croats and Bosniaks in the contested Krajina. Serb Krajinans were in favor of uniting with Serbia, in which Bosnians opposed.

As according to Wikipedia:

The two-wagon train was originally armed with a WWII German 20mm gun and two 9K11 Malyutka missile launchers; a Bofors 40mm gun was added later. A pair of M-53 7.9mm light machine guns were mounted to defend the blind spots. The 40mm cannon was removed in 1992 and replaced by a Soviet-designed 76mm gun mounted on the rear wagon. The convoy was enlarged with a third wagon mounting two 20mm cannons. Two Zastava M84 machine guns and a twin 57mm multiple rocket were also added in 1992. The following year marked the definitive configuration of the armored train, when the 76mm gun was supplanted by an American M18 Hellcat tank destroyer. There was an open wagon with two 120mm mortars, but their operational use was limited. The end of the war in Croatia frustrated plans of mounting an 88mm flak gun.

The ingenuity of the Serbs during the conflict had made these vehicles happen, that the Krajina Express for instance had revived the use of Armored trains that was disregarded in favor of Tanks, Planes and Missiles in modern day warfare, but in a limited span of time such as in Bosnia.

On the other hand, Serbia's enemies, the Croatians, also created various armored vehicles during the Yugoslav conflict. Quite similar to the vehicles of the WW2, most of which were assembled in a truck chassis and armed with machine guns. The picture above was made out of a farm tractor, somewhat similar to a typical miliatry vehicle complete with a camouflage.

There were other vehicles made by the Croats during the conflict, one of which had used a chassis of a Tatra truck and just like Spain during the civil war, turned into a mobile pillbox and a personnel carrier.

So was this, even featured a logo of a Croatian volunteer group supporting the separatists.

The ingenuity of both Serb and Croat had somehow justifies the idea of struggle for existence as nation-states all after the desintegration of Yugoslavia. Like Spain and its interest in armored warfare prior to the civil war, there were remaining tanks formerly used by the Yugoslav army and hence used by separatist forces; and some of the destroyed ones had to be salvaged for the sake of making somewhat new and serviceable, such as a missile pod from an old MiG placed in a military vehicle, or an armored farm tractor, although crudely made compared to the one made by the Croats that is much assembled and furbished.

And few of which, especially those assembled in Croatia were end as museum pieces recalling their victorious feat resisting the "Chetniks"; so was the Serb's Krajina Express being displayed all despite being destroyed but salvaged and put into display; that for most Serbs would say it symbolises resistance against both what they deemed "Turk" and "Ustasa". 

Syria, self-reliance, Jihad and the Rebellion

It was quite interesting for this writer to see pictures coming from most Jihad sites regarding Syrian Jihadis afford to create their own armor. Alongside rebel Syrian army forces, these U.S., E.U., and Saudi-supported forces had also take interest in the creation of weapons no matter how crude least it kills most of their enemies particularly near Damascus.

Mostly assembled from an existing 4x4 vehicle, or a van, the rebels' fighting machine were aremed by gun or a home-made rocket launcher, if not salvaged from an enemy war machine being repaired by those sympathized with the cause; Some vehicles even featured the islamic chant "Allahu akbar" calling God as the Greatest supporter in their war of resistance, while others bear the symbols of Jihadi groups, or perhaps the colours of the Syrian resistance to distinguish from those loyal to president Assad.

Personally, in looking pictures coming depicting conflicts in the Islamic world such as the Middle East, it seemed also typical for a middle-eastern resistance group to have such vehicles armed aside from the usual AK-47 armed combatant. In then Taliban-ruled Afghanistan for example, heavy machine guns were being prominently featured in a vehicle, although not armored like those of Syria; while the latter had afford to turn a tool used in video games into a trigger, substituting cameras and a computer screen for a window in a not-quite crudely made armored vehicle. 

Quite strange at first to see what's inside an insurgent-made vehicle such as this. Perhaps the mechanic or the combatants  themselves had been inspired by video or computer games and turning it into a tool of war such as a joystick; a counterpart of those made by companies in the U.S. supporting the war effort, particularly in the field of robotics.

Rebels using trebuchets, hurling oil bombs and grenades through slingshots

Also situated in Syria, and perhaps other countries in conflict such as Palestine, irregular forces had crudely made weapons capable of hurling grenades, if not oil bombs against attacking enemies. Soldiers had took time besieging enemy strongholds by using unconventional weaponries supplanting the lack of recoilless rifles or missile launchers found in their vehicles or from their enemies.

And just like its wheeled counterparts, they are made out of steel salvaged from destroyed vehicles or construction materials; turning them into weapons reminiscent of MediƦval period such as this trebuchet below:

It may consider it desperate for an irregular combatant to create unconventional weapons, faced with the lack of launchers, of limited support from their allies had driven them to create in pursuit of continuing the battle. In Aleppo for example, they used the trebuchet to hurl pipe and oil bombs against Syrian army defences in the city. 

Other than making unconventional weapons, they took interest in making missiles rather than contenting in gathering materiel from their enemies. Just like those made in Palestine, it is propelled by a solid mixture of sugar and potassium nitrate, a widely available fertilizer; while the warhead is filled with smuggled or scavenged TNT and urea nitrate, also a fertilizer. Some missiles had also include other chemicals such as white phosphorous in the warhead as an incendiary.

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They also create mortars as well as its bombs. The Syrian insurgents tend to be self reliant having limited support outside Syria; most of the guns are those from their enemy if not bought clandestinely by its supporters; like in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet conflict for example, most of the Mujahidin had also relied on its own gunsmiths making copies of Lee-Einfeld despite having confiscated AK-47s and Stinger missiles clandistinely given from the U.S. 

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The clandestine development of weapons, including those of armored vehicles intensifies popular resistance against repressive regimes or foreign occupiers knowing that just relying on foreign support is not enough to ensure their need for weapons. The missiles had used basic chemicals yet capable of propelling as well as destruction. China did that centuries ago the use of Saltpeter for their fire arrows, and Korea had developed using Chinese-made technology to create their Shinkichon despite emphasied on bow and arrow as well as the sword. Palestine and Syria had just did the example of the far east in using simple technology in pursuit of advancing struggle; urea nitrate mixed with scavenged TNT to create a good explosive agent compared to the enemy's use of white phosphorous or any other explosive agent. 

Lucky enough if they had acquired a large loot of ammunition, artillery, guns, even those of tanks and other confiscated military materiel to use instead of crudely made rockets, mortars, trebuchets hurling pipe bombs and grenades. But in an "army" with not enough firearm gathered, one has to rely on a weapon crudely made but sure shot to kill its enemy to confiscate its firearm and ammunition. 


Personally, it is not much been heard in mainstream media, other than those from foreign sources about the status of the Syrian conflict compared to Libya and earlier revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, or in the former Yugoslavia. The armored vehicles made by these rebels, other than invoking their will to struggle had somewhat realize their imaginations based on seeing modern-day weaponries of the establishment; no matter how crudely made by its mechanics, but capable of firing guns or defending its warriors with armor salvaged from destroyed military vehicles.

Among irregular armies and the lack of of conventional fighting vehicles, those makeshift vehicles , especially those out of trucks and cars carries a strong prestige power.  Although some if not most of it may offer little protection being a civilian-oriented vehicle, making its own mechanics, if possible, afford to put enough steel to add enough protection against bullets aside from repairing not so quite destroyed ones during a conflict; Their major asset as emphasised by the vehicles is speed, mobility, and the ability to strike from unexpected directions with automatic fire, as well as light troop deployment; it also add morale knowing that those vehicles had supported their armed struggle thoroughly especially in major conflicts alongside the usual guerrilla warfare.

So is in making unconventional weapons. Others would say it is imagination that brought again those pre-gunpowder siegecraft such as those being shown; the crudely made rockets often fail to reach targets, but it demoralises enemies knowing that those crudely-made weapons provide vengeance to those who had been repressed and fought back. 

Anyways, the ingenuity of an insurgent made the latter survive a long conflict if not achieving a continuous victory. The technology given to them may had been crude, makeshift, and easy to destroy; but these problems, alongside sensing their enemy's strength are treated as a challenge in order for these once dispossessed gain lesson, and the will to strike back as possible.