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Iraqi Army Armor Update February 2013

 Armor update Feb2013

Iraqi Army Armor Update February 2013

The problem with this update is that there are few confirmed reports of additional armor buys since the last update.  Most of this update is extrapolation of what will be acquired and what may be contracted but has not been reported.


A factor that most overlook in analyzing the future IA is that they look at the IA in isolation.  To analyze the planned IA force you have to look at all of the service components and their functions.   The IA is just 1 of the services that provide ground forces in event of an external war:

  • The Iraq Army provides the heavy armor/mechanized, airborne/airmobile, and fire-support forces.  Currently the IA is 14 divisions of which 3 are designated mechanized and 1 is designated armor despite being 12 tank regiments short.  11 divisions have tracked armor/mechanized battalions indicating plans to become heavy and 1 division has elements designated airborne and airmobile.  These forces and ISOF would be the attack/counterattack forces in an external fight.
  • The Department of Border Enforcement provides the fortified forward infantry screen.  The DBE is 5 regions [divisions] however, I Region is de facto Kurdish Region controlled and V Region [Saudi Border] is grossly under strength.   Effectively 3 infantry divisions minus artillery.  Static defense.
  • The Federal Police provide infantry forces in wartime.  While the FP is only 4 divisions now – the FP is absorbing the provincial Emergency Police.  Building to 13-14 infantry divisions.  Defensive forces.
  • The Iraqi Marines are responsible for the defense of the Al Fao peninsula and coastal/port defense.  While only 2 brigades now – probably growing to an infantry division.  Defensive amphibious force.
  • The Counter Terrorism Service [ISOF] is the Special Operations Component.  Only 2 reinforced brigades now but, probably growing to 7 brigades – 1 per corps.  High-end reconnaissance and airmobile counterattack force.


The extra infantry components from the Ministry of Interior mean that the IA will be eventually be skewed towards armor/mechanized forces.  This will not happen fast.  Current estimates are 2024-2027 before the services reach their planned strengths.


Where are the Tanks?


The IA only has 10 tank regiments – the tank complement of only 2 mechanized divisions.  Yet they have designated 1 armor and 3 mechanized divisions officially and have 2 more divisions mechanizing.  Mechanized divisions are planned to have 5 tank regiments each while armor divisions are planned to have 7 tank regiments each.  5 of the existing tank regiments are in the 9th “Armor” Division – 2 tank regiments short of plan.  12th Infantry Division has 2 tank regiments.  2nd Motorized Division, 10th Mechanized Division, and 14th Motorized [mechanizing] Division have 1 tank regiment each.  This means they are short a minimum of 22 tank regiments [770 tanks] just to fill the existing 1 armor, 3 mechanized, and 2 mechanizing divisions at this time.  3 of the existing tank regiments are currently in divisions not mechanizing indicating a minimum of 8 divisions to be armor or mech.  Apparent priority order is:

  • 9th Armor Division – short 2 tank regiments.
  • 8th, 10th, and 5th Mechanized Divisions – short 14 tank regiments.
  • 14th and 7th Divisions [mechanizing] – short 10 mechanized battalions and 9 tank regiments.  4 mechanized battalions converting.
  • 6th, 12th, 2th, 3th, and 11th Divisions – only a division’s worth of tracked armor plus 2 divisions’s worth of light wheeled APCs between them.  3 tank regiments and 9 mechanized battalions plus 26 battalions equipped with light APCs. 
  • 1st, 4th, and 17th Divisions show no indications of plans to upgrade to armor or mech.  4th Division appears to be converting to airmobile/airborne.


The lowest estimate of tanks needed based on 3 armor and 6 mechanized divisions is 51 tank regiments [1,785 tanks].  The highest estimate of tanks needed based on 5 armor and 6 mechanized divisions is 65 tank regiments [2,275].  The probable current plan is for 3 armor and 8 mechanized divisions requiring 61 tank regiments [2,135].  The IA has fewer than 350 tanks yet only 6 more tanks are on order [M1A1s].   Where are the other tanks?  Where are they coming from?  When?

  • The Iraqis have turned down Russian T90s - Just like the Russian Army did.  T90s were originally designated T72Bu – T72 upgraded.  The limited upgrades are not worth the higher price.
  • Iraq has contracted with Czech Republic for T72 upgrade facilities – not necessary for the 4 under strength T72 tank regiments existing which indicates large numbers of T72s are planned but, there are no reports of further T72 acquisitions.   Probable sources include Czech, Ukraine, and Poland.
  • The 6 additional M1A1s being acquired from the US are not enough to equip a company but, indicate a continued interest in more M1A1s. 
  • While interest has apparently waned, Iraq still has an option for 350 Hellenic Army M60A3s [10 Regiments – tank component of 2 Mechanized Divisions]. 


Indications of planned tanks and reported contracts are conflicting.  Iraqi policy is to acquire key equipment from more than 1 country to prevent any 1 country from crippling them by cutting of spare parts supplies.   Which means the probable planned mix of tanks are T72M4, M1A1 and possibly M60A3.  The problem is that only 6 M1A1 tanks are reported in acquisition which indicates significant tank deliveries are probably not going to happen anytime soon.  However, at least 8 IA battalions have been reported training on “tanks” including T72s which indicates a minimum of 280 tanks planned to deliver in the next 2 years.  The reported training and absence of significant tank acquisition reporting are not in sync.


More Armored Personnel Carriers? 


Iraqi Ministry of Defense tends to prioritize equipment acquisitions by types.  APCs have had the priority.  If you count the light APCs [DZIK3/Otokar], the IA has enough APCs for the 11 planned mechanized and armor divisions.  However, reporting indicates the IA plans to replace the light APCs and transfer them to infantry divisions, the Federal Police, and the Directorate of Border Enforcement, plus Iraq has been donating light APCs to other countries for use in counter-insurgency.  This indicates at least 1,000 APCs are to be acquired in addition to the delivered and delivering [BTR4] APCs.  This number could easily double if the 2 infantry divisions are converted to heavier APC equipped motorized.


Iraq turned down buying BMP4s from Russia and is denying buying 500 MTLBs from Bulgaria. It is also possible that they are trying to acquire more M113s from US EDA.  They are shopping but, no confirmed acquisitions.   If the IA was only planning on 7 or less heavy divisions – they would not require additional tracked APCs.


Self-Propelled Artillery


While self-propelled mortars, howitzers, and MRLs are not essential, they can use towed – they are more effective for supporting mechanized and armor forces.  The IA has only 3 battalions of M1064 SP Mortars, 3 battalions of M109 SP Howitzers and has been adding 107mm MRL launchers to MTLBs for fire support.  The IA is only 50 percent in divisional artillery.  Each IA division is to have 72 120mm mortars and 72 howitzers/MRLs plus the IA has started forming mortar and howitzer/MRL battalions for FP/DBE fire support and Corps’ Field Artillery Brigades.  An additional ~1,100 120mm mortars and ~2,100 howitzers/MRLs are required to fill out the planned force.  Of those missing mortars and howitzers/MRLs and based on 11 IA heavy divisions and 7 Joint Corps - approximately 700 each of self-propelled mortars and howitzers/MRLs could be planned.


Specialist Vehicles


The IA tends to buy specialist vehicles last in priority.   Planned numbers of command, engineering, chemical defense, recon, and support vehicles are not clear in reporting.   What is clear is the numbers are insufficient for current force structure let alone what is planned. 


While it has been reported that the IA plans to form an anti-tank guided weapon battalion – there are no reports of equipment or organization.  The BTR4s that are being bought are being fielded in mechanized battalions vice the previously reported anti-tank/recon/commando role.


The IA is still a work in progress as it converts to its external defense role.  Many components are not built…


Related:  Iraq Order of Battle



Great update, we will be waiting for the next one /// The 14th Div have rotated to Shirqat (Tikrit) [ ] -- I can't remember if you've mentioned that before or not.

Almaleki (02/12/2013 03:47:10)


That is 14th Brigade at Shirqat - part of 4th Div...

DJ Elliott (02/12/2013 04:07:08)


Well, it said (14th Infantry Division) -- 14th is mechanizing, so it must be the brigade.

Almaleki (02/13/2013 11:37:34)


Press are always confusing military unit sizes/types. It doesn't help that the unit sizes/types vary depending on country. E.G. Bolivian "Divisions" are battalions by US [and IA] system. /// Sorting that out is part of what I do...

DJ Elliott (02/13/2013 02:38:08)


Hello DJ, I've been a long time reader (back to 2007 with the Fourth Rail) and find the development of the ISF fascinating. I have never written a comment, but figured I mine-as-well start now. Anyway, if the Iraqis are purchasing 420 BTR-4s and equipping the 5th Mechanized Division with (probably) 7 BTR-4 Battalions, where are the other BTR-4s going? Do you believe there will be a follow on order to fill out another division? Or will they be using the excess staff and command vehicles to serve other roles? P.S. I appreciate the hard work you put into maintaining this site. It must be hard to make any sort of accurate predictions when the sources are limited and there is a lack of rhyme or reason to the Iraqi defense procurement.

James (02/22/2013 11:40:12)


It is not 420 BTR4 ICVs. It is 270 BTR4 ICVs, 80 BTR4K Command Vehicles, 30 BTR4Ksh Staff Vehicles, 30 BTR4 Ambulances, and 10 BREM4K Repair/recovery Vehicles. The ratio of command to ICV is oddball because they were originally ment to be paired with 400 Stryker APCs. Which means they only have a division's worth of BTR4 ICVs ordered/delivering/delivered so far. //// To balance out the numbers I expect additional wheeled APCs to be ordered. The 30 Stryker CBR vehicles could mean they are back to looking at M1126. Somehow I suspect they are nervious about buying Ukrainian since the plant declaired bankruptcy... //// The IA appears to be going with tracked APC/ICVs in its heavy divisions. I expect that the assignment of BTR4s to 5th Mech Div is a gap-filler and that the Wheeled APCs will end up in the 1st and 17th Motorized Divisions. Or turned over to FP...

DJ Elliott (02/23/2013 10:52:52)


PS This is the math for figuring how many Mech Bns. Standard IA Mech Bn is 36 APC/ICV each. 4 Companies of 9 each. 270 divided by 36 = 7 Bns with 18 spare ICVs. I.E. The mech component of 5th Mech Div. /// For tank regiments it is 35 tanks and 9 APCs - 3 companies of 11 tanks each plus 2 for CO/XO and a company of APC/ICV. All of 5th Mech Div's Bdes received M113 training so I expect the Tanks to be paired with M113s when they finally get tanks...

DJ Elliott (02/23/2013 11:08:00)

DJ Elliott