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Iraqi Army Armor Status August 2011


Iraqi Army divisions upgrading.  IA divisions upgrading to armor/mechanized are in red.  Orange indicates planned armor/mechanized upgrade.  Green indicates no noted or known plans for armor/mechanized upgrade. 


A pattern has started to develop in the armor and mechanization of Iraqi Army divisions.  As the 9th Armored Division upgrades to M1A1 tanks, M113 and BTR4 armored personnel carriers, the older armor is transferred to other divisions.  This has established a pattern of 3 sets of 3 divisions [9 total divisions] planned for upgrade and has identified the probable sequencing of the upgrades.  However, there are several key items still missing – only the major items will be addressed.


Based on the absence of orders for key weapons and the time needed to train/reorganize, the IA is 10-15 years from reaching its planned structure. The IA has a long way to go in upgrading to a viable force to defend Iraq from external enemies.


Who’s upgrading to Mechanized or Armored?


The 3 divisions with the first priority for upgrade are the 9th Armored Division, followed by the 5th Division, then the 7th Division.  5th and 7th Divisions are reported to be training for the receipt of M113s and are to be mechanized divisions.  What tanks are to be used for this upgrade are not known.  The T55 equipped tank regiments are the only tanks handed down from 9th Armored Division and they did not go to either of these divisions.


In the second set of three divisions are the divisions with old armor in more than one brigade.  These are the 6th Division followed by the 3rd and 11th Divisions.  The 6th Division has 2 BMP1 equipped battalions in 2 different brigades and has 2 battalions trained on M113s in a third brigade.  The 3rd Division has a T55 equipped tank regiment in 1 brigade and a M113 equipped mechanized battalion in another brigade.  The 11th Division has a BMP1 equipped mechanized battalion in one brigade and a MTLB equipped mechanized battalion in another brigade.   [Regiment is the same as battalion in IA usage.]


The third priority of upgrades appears to be the 3 divisions with only 1 battalion of tracked armor so far.  These are the 14th Division with a T55 equipped tank regiment from 9th Armored Division; the 8th Division with a BMP1 equipped mechanized battalion from 9th Armored Division, and the 12th Division which is reported to be getting a tank regiment.  The source of those tanks is unknown.


A tenth division cannot be excluded from this estimate despite no signs of armor.  The 10th Division is located in an area that should have a mechanized division.  It may be too far down the priority list to receive upgrades so far.


Where are the tanks?


One of the major missing components for this upgrade is tanks.  An IA tank/armored division should have 7 tank regiments [245 tanks].  An IA mechanized division should have 5 tank regiments [175 tanks].  The entire IA will only have 10 equipped tank regiments when the last of the order of 140 M1A1s arrive next month.


The 4 T72 and 4 M1A1 equipped tank regiments are still reported in the 9th Armored Division.  The 2 T55 equipped tank regiments were handed down to 3rd and 14th Divisions.  This indicates that the IA plans to acquire 350 more tanks soon to mechanize the 5th and 7th Divisions.  There are no reported orders of additional tanks.  Even the option for an additional 140 M1A1s [4 tank regiments] has not been reported as implemented.


Where are the howitzers?


Field artillery is required for all IA divisions.  Iraqi divisions require 72 howitzers or multiple-rocket launchers each.  While many old howitzers have been put on display – they have not been seen to actually fire.  They are estimated to be for training, show, and drill purposes only.


The 24 M109 self-propelled 155mm howitzers transferred from the US are in the 9th Armored Division.  The 40 delivered of 120 ordered M198 towed 155mm howitzers from the US have shown up in 5th and 3rd or 2nd Divisions.  There are no reported orders of additional field artillery at this time.


Where are the Brigade Support Battalions?


While you can get away without brigade support battalions for infantry in a counter-insurgency role – they are necessary support for motorized, mechanized, and armored brigades.  Only the 9th Armored Division and Iraqi Special Operations Force have BSBs so far.  There are indications that 14th Division is preparing to break up its 14th “Provisional” Motor Transport Regiment as cadre for the 4 BSBs and the Maintenance Battalion needed.  No signs of this type of upgrade in any other divisions at this time.


Where are the additional Engineers?


While light infantry divisions normally have only 1 engineering battalion – heavy divisions normally have a brigade of engineers.  The 9th Armored Division has started to form the 9th Bridging Regiment to go with its 9th Field Engineer Regiment.  No other division has been reported upgrading this component.


Is there a possible corps structure forming?


While currently denied by USF-I PAO, there are distinct signs that the IA is starting to organize its divisions into 4-5 corps as was announced as planned in 2008.  As the IA becomes more mechanized, armored, and motorized – corps level sustainment brigades become essential – especially for areas away from the Taji army level depots.  Recent reporting of logistics upgrades at Nasariyah indicate that a corps-level sustainment brigade is being established there and that 10th Division HQ/support is moving to Amarah and Memona.  The 4 IA corps’ appear to be being organized into 3 divisions each:  2 [eventual] heavy divisions and an infantry division [motorized?] in each peacetime IA corps.


The infantry divisions will probably be motorized using handed down vehicles from upgraded heavy divisions and/or new acquired MRAPs.  There are reports indicating possible light armored personnel carrier purchases from Turkey and Poland.


Nasariyah/Ali Base support structure appears to be expanding and would be the logical location for a southern corps sustainment brigade.  Bayji’s Support Battalion may be the initial component of the western corps sustainment brigade.  Taji and Balad are also likely sites for additional corps sustainment brigades.  The relocation activities at Taji could be making room for a corps sustainment brigade.  Balad is starting to transfer to Iraq use and would be a logical site for a corps sustainment brigade.


The 9th Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Division have been used as IA/IGFC Strategic Reserve and will probably not be assigned to specific IA corps.  Of note, the 1st Division may be receiving airborne/airmobile training from the US 2/82 Brigade.




The IA plans to be heavy.  The IA provides the heavy divisions in a war but, not all of the combat forces.  The Kurdish Regional Border Guards, Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement, Iraqi Federal Police, and Iraqi Marines provide additional infantry forces in wartime:

  • KRBG:  4-6 division equivalents. 
  • DBE:  5 division equivalents. 
  • FP:  4 divisions with 2 more forming.  Projected to 10-14 divisions planned. 
  • Marines:  1 brigade.  1 division probably planned.


The IA has a long way to go in upgrading to a viable force to defend Iraq from external enemies.  Based on the absence of orders for key weapons and the time needed to train/reorganize, the IA is 10-15 years from reaching its planned structure.



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Iraqi Logistics - The Missing Links

The Missing Links – A Realistic Appraisal of the Iraqi Army

Iraqi Security Force Update May 2011 

Iraqi Security Force Update July 2011

Iraqi Security Force Update August 2011


It is possible that the Nasariyah and Bayji support build up are army-level assets. Each supporting 2 wartime joint corps. Nasariyah-Basrah & Maysan Corps. Taji-Wasit, Diyala, & Reserve corps. Bayji-Anbar & Ninawa corps. That would explain the USF-I denial...

DJ Elliott (08/18/2011 12:41:24)

DJ Elliott