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Arms Identification – German Missiles in the Hands of the Islamic State

September 1, 2014

By Eliot Higgins

After the captured of Tabqa airbase in Syria by the Islamic State last week a number of photographs were posted online showing the weapons captured at the airbase. These included many weapons seen elsewhere in the conflict, from ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft cannons to Konkurs ATGMs.

Today, a new video released by the Islamic State shows more of the airbase, and the equipment captured. Again, much of what is shown are weapons seen elsewhere in the conflict, but 6 minutes into the video something not yet seen in the conflict is shown.

So without prior knowledge of what this item could be, how to we identify what it is? In this case we have quite a few clues clearly visible thanks to the markings on the case. First, we can see the word “panzerabwehr”, which we can quickly Google Translate to “anti-tank defense”. We can also see a measurement, 136mm, above that, and in this instance it’s actually possible to find an ID with just that information.

German Missile

If you Google both words, “panzerabwehr 136mm”, and check the image search results you’ll see the following images.

Google results German Missile

On the right side of the top row and left side of the bottom row there’s two pictures that are very similar to what we can see in the video. In this case, both pictures lead to the same page, a German message board where someone is trying to sell a missile case. The message reads in Google Translated German

Hello,
sell this handy container of LFK HOT, ground target / anti-tank.
Container is water-tight sealing, painted sheet steel, 136cm long and 25x25cm in cross section, about 15-20kg difficult.
All ends and Did are Rubber armored.
Sell only to Pick Up , shipping is too expensive !!
Price: 40, – Greeting Frank

The page also contains images that show similar markings to what we can see in the Islamic State video, such as DM 72, 136mm, and panzerabwehr

12647821hy

If we Google “LFK HOT” the first result is the Wikipedia page for the HOT missile, a missile made jointly by the French and Germans that can be used by ground vehicles and aircraft, including French Gazelle helicopters sold to Syria in the 80s. It’s actually possible to make out “HOT” on the top row of markings visible in the Islamic State video, and “Lenkflugkörper” (German for guided missile) is abbreviated to LFK. The next questions to investigate is whether or not the platforms for launching these missiles are at the airbase, and whether or not they are able to be launched from improvised launchers. Based on the Islamic States previous track record for publicising their activities, if the answer is yes to those questions it seems likely we’ll see that soon enough.

 

Eliot Higgins

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigation tools and techniques.

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16 Comments

  1. Kevin Lohse

    Just found your site, rather like it. Surely the mish-mash of weaponry acquired by ISIS makes logistical support a nightmare, which will only be magnified when their opponents get organised and step up offensive action, causing increased usage of ammo and more need of deep technical maintenance by ISIS forces. Things might get worse before they get better, but surely eventually the logistical strain will tell?

    Reply
  2. Matt

    Considering that Syria used them since 1982 … either the germans or the french have been selling them at one point in time.

    So it is not at all surprising for ISIS to find them at Tabqa.

    Reply
    • jodywave

      Observations from video; This missile warhead = HEAT/Shape Charged NATO color code.
      Yellow band = High Explosive warhead.
      Black Band = Armor Defeating warhead

      Reply
  3. Klaus

    “Lenkflugkörper” does not translate well to missile, which would just be “Rakete” or in army terms “Flugkörper”. “Lenkflugkörper” means cruise missile or guided missile.

    Reply
    • Philipp Märtens

      Well, actually it translates very well to missile as a missile is guided whilst a “rocket” is not. So a “Lenkflugkörper” is a missile, an unguided “Rakete” would be a rocket.

      Reply
  4. Michelle

    Always great to see an identification for weapons found in conflicts. These things help people see what the fighters have to deal with.

    Reply
  5. Fabian

    The German Parliament “Deutscher Bundestag” is debating right now about sending Weapons to the Kurds. There will be a non-binding vote of the parliament later today. The government already decided to send more arms to the Syrian/Iraqi region. cf. http://bundestag.de/

    Reply
  6. Claus Barsoe

    Are you adware that they are talking about an empty shell/body (don´t know the right word) in the message?

    Reply
  7. Frank

    “Lenkflugkörper Bodenziel” translates into “Guided Missile – Air to Ground”. The picture only shows a missile container intended to be shot from a launcher attached to a helicopter. Unless ISIS personnel learn how to fly a helicopter with a HOT-missile-launcher attached, the container with the missile alone is worthless.

    Reply

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