Iraqi T-72 tanks

Here’s a shot of some of the 77 T-72s just added to the new Iraqi army’s inventory:


These are the tanks donated by Hungary to the cause but were tied up momentarily as noted earlier. Pic from Frontline Photos.

UPDATE: Iraqi Army Takes Delivery of Tanks, Vehicles at Defend America:

The final convoy of tractor-trailers hauling the equipment delivered its load Nov. 11, completing the long journey of 77 T-72s, 36 armored vehicles (BMPs), four recovery vehicles and several containers of parts and weaponry from Hungary to the 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized).

The vehicles will equip two tank battalions and one mechanized battalion of the division’s 2nd Brigade, said Iraqi Gen. Bashar, division commander.

“This is a great day for our division,” Bashar said, after driving the first tank off a tractor trailer on the second day of deliveries. “These are the base of what we are building. The strength and power of the division is in our tanks.”

Until now, the division’s tank fleet has consisted of Russian T-55 models, which belong to a 1st Brigade battalion. The brigade also has two mechanized battalions. The division expects to form a third brigade within the next year, Bashar said.

I’d be curious to see what sort of training the Iraqi tank crewmen receive. For instance, I suspect that it’s very heavy on anti-insurgent infantry support operations and not so heavy on anti-armor combat. For the short term, of course, this is what’s going to be required of the Iraqi armored forces.

The question will become, in the mid-to-long term, though, how proficient do we need/want the Iraqi army to become at fighting a modern mechanized war? The thing that’s saved us, twice now, has been the unbelievable ineptitude of Iraqi soldiers and their leadership at that sort of thing. We obviously want a major improvement over Saddam’s army, and as the foundation of the new Iraq strengthens we will want even more. As long as we can trust them, we want them to be strong. And as long as they’re democratic, I believe we’ll be able to trust them At least in the sense that we won’t need to fight a war against them.

Still, I would not spend any time on the chapters that detail combat against M1 or Challenger 2 tanks.

The addition of these nearly-modern tanks to the arsenal obviously is a major boost for the fledgling Iraqi army, but from a capabilities standpoint, the T-72 isn’t all that different than a T-55 (which the Iraqis already use) when fighting insurgents and terrorists. It’s against an armored foe that the differences between the two will really matter.

It’s in our best interest for the Iraqi military to be all that it can be. And until they have sufficient numbers of tanks and armored personnel carriers (along with the support units and infrastructure to support their operations) they will not reach that magical “Level 1” status that the media seems so obsessed with. We need Iraq to not only be strong enough to secure its interior against the insurgent and terrorist threat, but we need them to be strong enough to secure their borders against military aggression from a neighboring nation. The T-72s will be an integral part of that strength.


  1. MO, Two things. First, we musn’t forget that the core of their, our, and everyone else’s army is soldiers. We can never make the mistake of breathy reporters, who obsess over gadgetry and systems. The enlisted private soldier is the ultimate source of building the force. Yes, he needs good NCOs to teach him, and good officers to lead him, but he has to bring something to the table from the get-go. If the Iraqi citizenry can produce young men who give a shit, maybe they can build a respectable sef-defense force. Second, peep an article by Ken Pollack- you’ll have to find it yourself, sorry- that discusses US efforts to train Arabs in high tech systems. One story went something like this: US techies and soldiers are training tank crews and ready for them to do some studying on their own. They hand out TMs to the fledgling crews (I believe they were Egyptian). The crews file by and take a manual. And waiting for them was their platoon officer, who confiscated every one of their manuals. In that society, the politics of tribe and class were such that any accumulation of knowledge by underlings was a direct threat to this young officer’s power. So he took steps to maintain it, and mission be damned. Now, if Iraqi society works even sort of a little bit like that, we have alot more to worry about than T55s vs 72s. A final thought, regarding how big or capable an Iraqi army we want: competent enough to either thwart an Iranian attack, or use as credible leverage against Tehran, yet without upsetting the Saudis.

  2. I really don’t think that Iraqi tank crews are going to do anything special with T-55s/72s. I appreciate the improvement that can and is being made by the addition of modern fire control systems, but the ideology of the Middle Eastern warrior is simply not compatible with the idea of an effective, futuristic mechanized force. Why don’t we send them a couple of thousand up-to-date Milan or Dragon or TOW missile launchers to be used instead? They’re already great with RPGs. They knocked out at least 9 of our M1s during the insugency.