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