NYT tries to talk about Iraqi tanks

Iraq’s New Army Uses Creaky Soviet-Era Armored Vehicles to Recreate a Mailed Fist

Nice title, huh? “Mailed fist.”

What I find most humorous about this article (besides the general ignorance) is how it goes back and forth. It goes on and on about how outdated the Iraqi tanks are, then describes how the tanks have done so well against insurgents. It goes on and on about terrible it is that the Iraqis are stuck with this junk, then interviews Iraqis and Americans who think it’s great. But despite all the positives it reports from those using the tanks, the story is decidedly negative.

“The problem is not with the tanks,” Colonel Habib said. The right leadership, he said, will make the Russian machines run like “the best tank in the world.”

That may be an overstatement. The tanks, though still a formidable threat to fighters on foot, are badly outdated. The remarkably cramped gunner’s seat inside the T-55 driven by Mr. Kareem, a soldier in the Iraqi Army, is surrounded by a riot of old dials, switches, belts, wires, cables, leather straps and crude optics along with manual controls for moving the turret and the main gun. Shells must be loaded by hand into the breech of the gun.

So the writer will contradict an Iraqi Colonel then write “Shells must be loaded by hand into the breech of the gun” as if it underscores the crudity of the tank. Someone should tell the writer how shells are loaded on M1 tanks, I think.

Get this:

So far, even though American and Iraqi officers say that the machines have sometimes been disabled by insurgents’ roadside bombs, the armor has succeeded in protecting the soldiers and other people inside. Still, some insurgent bombs have been big enough to harm even modern armored vehicles. And there is still danger for people not fully inside: Bob Woodruff, co-anchor of the ABC News program “World News Tonight,” and a network cameraman suffered serious wounds on Jan. 29 when a roadside bomb went off as they were working atop one of Ninth Division’s MT-LB’s on a highway north of Taji. [emphasis Murdoc’s]

What? You mean to tell me that the armor on these ancient armored vehicles doesn’t protect someone not within the vehicle? LOL. What an idiot.

The story ends with:

“Anytime they see the tanks on the street they are afraid and they turn back,” Lieutenant Habib said. But in the town of Saba Al Bor, just a few miles to the west, residents have been streaming out in the face of mortar attacks that Iraqi tanks are powerless to stop. Insurgents lob mortar shells into the town over a canal from agricultural fields that are miles beyond the effective range of the tanks’ main guns.

The silence of those guns is a source of endless frustration for the townspeople, who cheer the presence of Iraqi tanks but want them to shoot back. “We feel good about it,” said Ali Firas Fadhil Muhamad, 21, of the Iraqi tanks as he stood outside a cafe in a crowd of other patrons.

“But when the mortars come,” Mr. Muhamad said, “we don’t have any action.”

You gotta love the Times.


  1. Maybe they would feel better if the tanks fired randomly in the air like they do at weddings, funerals, out of frustration, or seemingly any other event or emotion?

  2. Holy spit! I never thought of that! Keep Iraqi tanks away from weddings! 100mm gunfire is NOT celebratory, no matter what the occasion!

  3. Didn’t you post a few pics a while back of refurbished T-72s the Iraquis got from Eastern Europe? What ever happened to that initiative?

  4. So … exactly why do we have to spend megabucks to armor HMMVs instead of buying surplus BMPs?

  5. No surprise that they had no idea what there talking about. The Iraqi’s sounded pretty happy with there tanks and at this point they should do fine. It’s not like there looking to get into long range tank duels, just protect themselves and bring firepower to bear on the insurgents. One concern is the weapons that they are facing are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, while the tanks aren’t. But that can’t be helped at this point. Also I bet there is a wealth of spare parts all over Iraq for these AVF’s, as opposed to giving them some old mothballed U.S. or British stuff that might be hard to get serviced.

  6. 1st Mech Bde/9th Mech Div is T55s and MTLBs. 2ND Tank Bde/9th Mech Div is T72s and BMP1s. 3rd Mech Bde/9th Mech Div is to be T55s and BMP1s (still forming). I have seen M113s, BTRs, trucks and Defender 110s (Land Rover Jeep), with U/I elements of 9th Mech Div. 9th Div is one of the 4 (of 10) independent IA Divisions. Owns the northern Baghdad Province. (North Baghdad thru Taji area.)

  7. Should have known to wait for DJ to set the record straight… I thought both 1st and 2nd Bdes were T-72, but I have no doubt that DJ is correct. Good catch.

  8. No problem. You were just seeing the future. All T55s are planned to be replaced eventually with T72s. Not sure what the delay is…

  9. Have you noticed the flury of INP mentioned in press releases? Looks like the reorganization and redesignation (PURGE) is done, and they are paired with coilition units to conduct field ops and training. And then there is the raid in Sadr City by 1st SOF Bde with AC-130 support. Look up MG Caldwell’s brief on pentagonchannel.mil

  10. Your article underscores the technical ignorance of the legacy media, and the lengths they’ll go to, to protray any positive development in Iraq as a BAD thing. May Allah the all powerful and merciful stuff their pointy heads into the loading breach!

  11. I would rather use the T-55 rather than the T-72 when loading the gun.. Supposedly the T-72 autoloader has a habit of taking the gunners hand along with the shell. Just something I saw on Discovery Channel I think.

  12. Well, if the T-72 has an autoloader, unless we’re talking about tanks duking it out in the fields of Central Europe, is there much of a need to reload them in the field? I would have thought 5-6 rounds (the minimum capacity of the autoloader I’m guessing) would be more than the average number fired on an anti-insurgency mission. I’d want to be in a T-72, because it should be better protected from RPGs, I think. But in these types of missions, the difference is not all that great. It takes a pretty big IED to blow up a T-55 and only a slightly bigger one to blow up a T-72. And the machine-guns and main rounds are just as deadly to an unprotected combatant in the open or in a building.

  13. Loading in this case refers to loading each round into the gun to fire, not loading the vehicle with ammunition at base. The T-72 uses an autoloader, reducing the crew size to three. It’s not particularly fast, however, so a good loader can keep up with or beat the T-72’s automatic system. I’ve always wondered if those ‘took the hand with it’ stories are just a legend, but in any event the system is prone to breakdown. IIRC, the fact that a man is as fast as an autoloader and less prone to breakdown was all that was behind the decision to stick with a crew of four in the M1. Put it this way: The M1, Challenger 2, Leopard 2, and Merkava 4 all have a human loader. The T-72 has an auto-loader. You pick.

  14. Isn’t the size and capability of the platform irrevelant when we are talking about support and not T vs T ? I surely would not want to engage any chunk of Iron with a weapon if I did not have my own personal missle or other large boom device. i.e. Any Iron box with a gun has a place in a field full of farmers…..

  15. See Iraqi armor – Back to the future from March 2005 Since that article the Panhards transfered to 3rd Bde/1st Div. (Per a USMC MTT blogger in Anbar.) 9th is mostly ‘tracks.’ The only ‘wheels’ I have seen recently with 9th Div are BTR and unarmored Trucks and Land Rovers.