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Iraqi Armor Update November 2010

IA Divisions

Iraqi Armor indications of upgrade


[Important item first:  On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month in 1918 – Armistice.  To my fellow vets:  Have a happy Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day.]


Details concerning armor developments in the Iraqi Army are slowly being released.  However, much remains speculative.  As with all speculation pieces, I will be happy if 60 percent proves correct.  My comments and analysis in this lead section are in italics.


The first 11 BTR4 line, command, and staff variants are arriving this month.  Apparently the engine delivery problems with sub-contractor have delayed/reduced the initial delivery from 24 in October to 11 in November.  All 420 of these vehicles are to be delivered over the next 3.5 years.  Only elements of 1 battalion have been identified training in using BTR4s.


This could mean the entire 3-35/9 Battalion is upgrading with BTR4s. It could also mean that only part of the battalion is upgrading [E.G. 3-35/9 Battalion’s Scout/Commando Platoon].  The battalion personnel in training could also be transferred to another division after training.


During a DoD Blogger’s Roundtable, Brigadier General Jeffrey Buchanan, the Director of Strategic Effects USF-I provided some details on US armor being sold or provided to the IA.   The majority of the 1,026 M113 Family of Vehicles delivering to Iraq over the next year are going to the 9th Armored Division.  All 24 of the M109 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzers are going to the 9th Armored Division’s Field Artillery Regiment.  The IA has now taken delivery of 43 of the initial order of 140 M1A1 tanks.  The tanks are also going to the 9th Armored Division.


The IA already has 283 M113A2 APCs and 44 Talha APCs [Pakistani M113 clone], with most already assigned to 9 Armored Division.  A Foreign Material Sales notice identified 440 M113A2s as being refurbished as part of the 1,026 M113 FOVs being provided to Iraq.  These numbers [767], combined with most of the M113s being assigned to 9th Armored Division, indicate that only 7-8 heavy brigades are being upgraded with M113A2s and that 4 of those heavy brigades are in the 9th Armored Division.


It also points to an additional 350 [minimum] of tank orders to fill out the mix.  Only 280 M1A1s have been ordered/optioned for so far.


This also indicates that the BTR4s, if they remain in 9th Armor Division’s mix, are being used for the battalion scout/commando platoons, brigade scout/commando companies, and the division’s commando battalion.  This would explain the abundance of command vehicles in the BTR4 purchase.  However, this does not exclude the alternate possibilities.


In response to a follow-up request for information Captain Leslie Waddle, Press Desk Officer, Media Operations Center US Embassy-Baghdad provided the following amplification to BG Buchanan’s response:


“In reference to your question below, this is the breakdown of what variants they are. We can't provide the numbers, we recommend you contact Government of Iraq for their breakdown.  The following is a list of the different variants of M113s being supplied to the GoI: 

M113A2--Armored Personnel Carriers,


M548A1--Cargo Carrier,

M1064--Mortar Carrier,

M577A2--Command Post Carrier,

M577A2--Emergency Medical Treatment Vehicle.” 


Apparently, Iraqi OPSEC applies to numbers; however, US law will require public Congressional notification of those numbers eventually.  Iraqi Ministry of Defense is operating under a news blackout and last responded to my inquires almost 3 years ago.


The APCs have been identified by DSCA as 440.  The M1064 120mm mortar carriers are probably 288 in number at 8 heavy brigades with 3 battalions each [6 per battalion plus 18 per brigade].  The remaining 4 variants probably total 298 vehicles divided into roughly equal numbers.


The Command Post Carriers combined with the 30 BTR4Ksh Staff vehicles and 80 BTR4K Command vehicles indicate either the BTR4s are going to other divisions or they are being distributed among the heavy battalions, brigades, and divisions as the scout/commando elements.


Likewise, the absence of M901 Improved TOW Vehicles supports the use of the BTR4s as filling the scout/commando and anti-tank roles in any M113 equipped battalions that do not include tanks.


The M1A1 equipped tank regiments are to have 35 tanks and require a total of 80 vehicle bays.  This indicates a combined arms battalion mix of vehicles:  2 tanks companies of 17 tanks each, 2 mechanized companies, 1 mortar battery of 6 mortar carriers, scout platoon, and supporting Headquarters Support Company.


[The remainder of this article is all my analysis and comments.  Italics discontinued.]


Suggested Heavy Brigade Structure


One of the reoccurring indications is that the BTR4s are to be used for the scout/commando and anti-tank elements of 8 planned heavy brigades while the M113s fill the armored Personnel role.  This could indicate an IA Armor Brigade structure of:


Brigade Special Troops Battalion with:

  • Scout/Commando Company with 12 BTR4s [3 BTR4K Command/9 BTR4 line vehicles].
  • Engineer Company.
  • EOD Company with ILAV Badger Engineer Combat Vehicles.
  • MP Company with HMMWVs.
2 Tank Regiments [Combined-Arms Battalions], each with:
  • 2 Tank Companies with 35 M1A1s.
  • 2 Mechanized Companies with 28-29 M113A2s.
  • Mortar Battery with 6 M1064s.
  • Scout Platoon with 4 BTR4s [1 BTR4K Command/3 BTR4 line vehicles].
Mechanized Battalion with:
  • 3 Mechanized Companies with 33-36 M113A2s.
  • Anti-Tank Company with 11 BTR4s [2 BTR4K Command/9 BTR4 line vehicles].
  • Mortar Battery with 6 M1064s.
  • Scout Platoon with 4 BTR4s [1 BTR4K Command/3 BTR4 line vehicles].
Brigade Field Artillery Battalion with:
  • 3 Mortar Batteries with 18 M1064 120mm Mortar Carriers.
  • Howitzer Battery with 6 howitzers.
  • Security Company with HMMWVs.
  • [Suspect an Air Defense Battery planned.]
Brigade Support Battalion with: 
  • Maintenance Company with M88 and BREM-4K repair and recovery vehicles.
  • Medical Company with M113A2 and BSEM-4K ambulances plus M577A2 EMTVs.
  • Security Company with HMMWVs.
  • Transport Company with M548A1 Cargo Carriers and M1070 HETs.


The remaining unaccounted for vehicles would be part of the Battalion Headquarters/Support Companies, Brigade Support Battalions, Brigade Special Troop Battalions, Division Special Troop Battalions, Division support troops, and maintenance/training float.


A possible Mechanized Brigade structure would be identical except they would have 1 Tank Regiment and 2 Mechanized Battalions.  So far, there are no formations organized or identified as organizing in this possible Mechanized Brigade structure.


Missing Tanks


The number of ordered/optioned M1A1s is only 8 Tank Regiments worth so far [140/140].  The existing T55s and T72s are only enough to fill the tank component of 6 Tank Regiments.  Only using the M113A2s in this structure [Without including the 60 MTLB APCs and the 434 BMP1 MICVs.], the IA is 2 Tank Regiments [70] short of tanks in current orders/options.


Based on this structure and including the MTLBs and the BMP1s, the IA is a minimum of 350 tanks short in its existing orders and options to go with its existing and ordered mechanized infantry elements.  While some of that will be additional US orders of M1A1s, the Ukraine is a likely source for those missing tanks to fill out the IA Armor structure.  [The only tanks I know of ordered/optioned at this time are the 280 total M1A1s and those are factored in - This means a minimum of 350 additional tanks that need to be ordered.  More are likely.]


Armor Distribution


In addition to the ongoing US upgrade of all 4 of 9th Armored Division’s brigades [34/9 thru 37/9], the following units have been identified with armor [underline indicates US armor].  There are 7 total IA brigades identified as upgrading with US armor at this time, 4 brigades are in 9th Armored Division. 


1st Division in eastern Anbar:

  • 3/1 Brigade is equipped with 3 battalions worth of refurbished mostly western wheeled APCs [Panhard/Shorland/Mohafiz]
3rd Division in western Ninawa:
  • 10/3 Brigade has 1 battalion of M113s.
  • 12/3 Brigade is receiving refurbished/redistributed T55s from 9th Armor Division.
5th Division in Diyala:
  • 20/5 Brigade has 1 battalion of M113s and 1 battalion (-) of salvaged wheeled APCs.
6th Division in northwest Baghdad:
  • 22/6 Brigade has received a battalion of BMP1s from 9th Armor Division.
  • 56/6 Brigade has received training for 2 battalions of M113 crews.
7th Division in western Anbar:
  • 29/7 Brigade has 2 battalions of BMP1s.
8th Division in the Mid-Euphraties:
  • 33/8 Brigade receiving training in maintaining BMP1s.
11th Division in eastern Baghdad
  • 42/11 Brigade has 1 battalion of MTLBs.
  • 44/11 Brigade has 1 battalion of BMP1s.


Additional IA divisions that have been regularly augmented by 9th Armored Division and are potential candidates for armor brigade upgrades include:

  • 14th Division in Basrah has had a battalion augment from 9th Armored Division [T55/BMPs] for over 2 years. Basrah is strategic and will have armor.  The question is whether the 14th Division upgrades or another division rotates in after upgrading.  There are indications of a planned IA division rotation.
  • 17th Division in south Baghdad has had 35/9 Brigade augmenting [T72/BMPs] for almost 2 years.

The publically reported support structure for maintaining armor is limited to Baghdad, Anbar and, Maysan provinces to date.  The majority of the armor upgrades are in the Baghdad area.  The facilities at Memona in Maysan indicate either the transfer of a mechanized force there or the establishing of a new division with armor based there.  Ramadi [Anbar] is already the headquarters of the 7th Division which is the parent division of the 2 BMP1 battalions in 29/7 Brigade.  There are no reports of mechanized maintenance support in Ninawa but, 6th Division in Baghdad is reportedly going to Ninawa, which could mean they are to replace 3rd Division while the 3rd is upgraded.


Despite the Iraqi Government driven increased OPSEC, details of the increasing IA armor continue to become public.  The orders of equipment point towards significant additional tank orders to go with the armored personnel carriers arriving over the next year.


[Note to my readers:  Yes, I am concentrating on IA armor as late.  The armor upgrades are 1 of the 3 largest purchasing programs in the ISF and 1 of the least transparent.  Only the Peshmerga has tighter OPSEC.  The Iraqi Air Force, Army Air Corps, Federal Police, etc., are much clearer in their development and plans.]

DJ Elliott