Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weapons of the Taliban

The Taliban prefer to use the weapons that have held them in good steed since the Soviet invasion. Except now they use suicide bombers as a guided weapon. This tactic was not seen much if at all during the anti-Soviet jihad. This shows the influence of al-Qaeda and like minded groups have on the current insurgency in Afghanistan.

Taliban ambushes some times begin with an IED going off followed by a volley of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG), recoilless rifle, mortar, medium machine gun (PK, PKM) fire, and if they can get them heavier DsHK 12.7 and 14.5 mm machine guns. Recently in Helmand province there are reports of sharpshooters armed with old bolt action Lee Enfields, Mosin Nagants and occasionally SVD sniper rifles. These weapons are supported by AK-47 carrying members of the unit. Assaults on bases especially at the battle of Wanat describe RPG fire hitting like machine gun fire. Also unguided 122 and 107mm rockets are used in single and multiple launch configuration. There are what are often used when the news mentions a rocket attack at such and such a place.
While not a comprehensive list this should give the reader an idea of the weapons being used against US and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Embedded in this post are links to stories and video about that weapons system.

Rocket Propelled Grenades: Can knock out a humvee, Bradley, or a Stryker with one hit can be effective against heavier armor if fired from behind or the sides. Against infantry the RPG has anti personnel effects similar to that of a grenade.

RPG-7 Range Max Effective 500 meters can fire a variety of anti armor and personnel rounds Rate of fire up to 6 per minute. You see Taliban gunners carrying the launch tube and several rounds in a back pack. Other members of the unit will also carry rounds for the weapon.

Recoilless Rifle: Where developed as an anti-tank weapon along the lines of the WWII Bazooka. This is a heavy weapon used in assaults on bases but can be used in a prepared ambush.
SPG-9 73 mm there are many images of this weapon in theater as well. It has a range of 1000-1300 meters and can fire anti tank or anti personnel rounds.
B-10 82 mm fires a larger warhead with a maximum aimed ranged of 1000 meters and maximum range of 4500 m.

Mortars: Are more effective than the same caliber of artillery shell due to a higher busting charge because the round does not have to be fired down a rifled barrel.
Russian/Chinese/Pakistani: 82 MM Mortar: Range 4100 m max can fire up to 30 rounds per minute. Casualty radius 30m for troops in the open 18 meters for troops on the ground.

Heavy Machine Guns have been used for fixed defenses, prepared ambushes, and attacks on bases. As their name implies these things are heavy and take a lot of manpower to set up and keep the weapon fed. I saw a video of a fixed Taliban ambush site which they do not move that had a 14.5 mm set up under camo netting in a good fixed position and they would take pot shots at vehicles as they drove by. Either one of these two weapons can defeat the armor of a humvee and the KPV can penetrate a Stryker and Bradley if they are not up armored.

DShK 12.7 mm Machine Gun
Empty Weight: around 80lbs- tripod
Rate of Fire: 100 rpm practical 600 rpm cyclic
Range: 2000 meters
Post-war DShKM with the shield discarded. Note the flat belt-feed unit.

KPV can be used
Caliber 14.5
Weight with ground mount: 176 lbs
Range: 2000 meters,
Armor Penetration: 20mm at 1000 m/30mm at 500 m
Vladimirov KPV-14.5 heavy machine gun on Kharanin-designed wheeled mount, view on the receiver and controls.

PK/PKM medium machine guns
Caliber 7.62x54mm
Loaded weight about 18lbs
Rate of fire 250 rpm practical Cyclic: 650
Range: 1500-2000 meters

Sniper rifles: The Afghans have had a history of marksmanship until the coming of the AK-47. As mentioned above the Marine Corps and the British came across sharpshooters in Helmand province armed with weapons from WWI and WWII. These rifles fire a full sized 7.62 round in the case of the Nagant and the SVD it is the same round fired from the PK series of machine guns making resupply easier.

Lee-Enfield adapted into service 1895
Caliber: 303
Bolt Action/10 round Magazine
Range: Out to 1000 yards.
SMLE mk. III*, made in 1916 (cutoff already omitted from design). image by Alan Blank

Mosin Nagant adapted into service 1891
Caliber: 7.62x54R
Bolt Action / 5 round Magazine
Range: 1000
Was used as a sniper rifle during WWII
 M 1891-30 Sniper rifle.

SVD sniper rifles are also being used in Afghanistan
Caliber 7.62x54R
Semi Automatic 10 round magazine
Range up to 1000 meters (not hitting much).
 Original SVD rifle with wooden furniture, right side.

AK-47 - This weapon still in production has been produced in greater numbers than any other small arm in history. It is so iconic it is on Hezbollah's flag and the National flag of Mozambique.
Weight Loaded: 8.36 lbs
Magazine: 30 rounds
Rate of Fire 600 rpm cyclic/100 rpm practical / 40 rpm semi
Effective Range: 300 meters

Kalashnikov AKMS - AKM with folding buttstock

The AK 47 is one of the most dependable firearms ever made. While it is not light, it does not boast the accuracy of the M16 (I have used the AK and the AR15 to hunt with and find both acceptable) it will shoot every time the user pulls the trigger. Since the AK was designed as a suppression weapon so that either supporting arms can finish of the enemy or to keep heads down until the assault is close enough that accuracy does not matter.

Grenades: This is a mixed bag from all over the world
This is the Russian F1 Grenade pretty typical of all grenades useful in assaults and urban fighting. Has an effective status of 20-30 meters on troops not in cover. Range as far as the user can throw it.

The calibers of the small arms are limited to three 7.62x39, 7.62x54, and in some cases .303 this eases supply problems for any type of force when the number of rounds used are kept to a minimum. The Taliban on a whole do not shoot well and use their weapons on fully automatic and spray and pray. If this were to change the fight in Afghanistan will get much more difficult.

While the list is not inclusive of every weapon being used in the Taliban this hopefully will inform the reader on what is being seen on the front lines on a daily basis.