Assad vs Al-Qaeda weapon Olympics: who’s got what?

By Jeremy Wilson on September 12th, 2013

Humans don’t lack imagination or options when it come to killing each other. But how exactly are the two sides in the Syrian conflict equipped?


Chemical Weapons

The Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons has put them firmly in the international community’s bad books. Its deviation from the United Nations-mandated method of neatly killing people with bullets to the head almost sparked another Western intervention in the Middle East.

The reported chemical attacks were probably delivered using an Iranian Falaq-2 launcher or a derivative of it. Below is a picture of this weapon system being fired by Assad loyalists. They can be identified by their uniform as either belonging the Syrian Military Police or the Syrian Republican Guard. The warhead itself appears to have been made in-house and is unlikely to be particularly accurate.



The United Nations are investigating other methods the regime may have used to deliver chemical weapons. In the picture below a UN inspector is measuring a Soviet 140mm spin-stabilised rocket. Rockets of this type have been produced with a 2.2kg Sarin payload.



Groups loyal to the regime aren’t adverse to cobbling together weapon systems  Below is an Improvised Rocket Assisted Mortar – in essence, a  rocket motor attached to a barrel of explosives. They are extremely effective at destroying houses at short range and are believed to have been used by Hezbollah forces in Qusayr when they were pursuing a “scorched earth” policy.


The piles of oversized weapons below were found at a Government warehouse in Khanasser that was captured by opposition forces. These Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions were made by adding a comically large payload to a 107mm Chinese or Iranian made rocket mortar.

Again, what they lack in accuracy they make up for in explosive power.



The Syrian military have no shortage of very heavy weaponry, particularly of Soviet provenance. The huge rocket being readied for launch by the Syrian Army below is a Soviet 9K52 Luna-M, the remains of which have been found at multiple impact sites in civilian areas.


The picture below show the remains of what  is a either Scud missile or a close derivative of it. It was fired at a village by Assad’s forces.



When it comes to artillery, the Regime isn’t under-powered. The monster below was captured by opposition forces: it’s a  130mm M-46 field artillery gun with a range of over 20 miles.


Lined up behind the gun is a row of Type-63 multiple rocket launchers which take 107mm rockets. They have been utilised extensively by the regime.. The 107mm rocket below is an Iranian example which has been used in the conflict.



Use of illegal cluster bombs by the regime has been documented on multiple occasions. The nasty little device below  is a PTAB 2.5KO cluster bomblet, just one of five different types cluster weapons that have been used so far.


Air force

Being the only side with an air force puts the regime at a distinct advantage. Without a no-fly zone being considered by the international community they are free to drop a staggering array of evil on opposition military and civilian targets. Below is just the warhead section from an AS-14 air-to-surface missile which failed to detonate. The 320kg warhead can make short work of buildings.


The remains below are of a bomb that was found in Aleppo. It appears to be a ZAB-500 incendiary bomb, a huge 500kg white phosphorous explosive designed to cause maximum destruction by fire.


The still below is taken from a video of a Syrian helicopter dropping a ODAB 500-PMV bomb. It’s a “thermobaric” weapon which utilises a chemical reaction with the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature  blast.


The sinister object below is a ‘barrel bomb’ that was dropped from a helicopter near Aleppo. It is simply an oil drum filled with explosives and rebar.


The modus operandi of the Syrian Air Force is to drop anything that looks nasty and goes bang. Below is a naval mine which was reportedly dropped from a helicopter over the city of Daraya.


The rebels


The contraption below has been lovingly dubbed the “Hell Cannon” by its creators. The projectile is a propane gas cylinder filled with DIY explosives.


DIY weapons don’t need to be built from scratch: the missile below appears to be an advanced air-to-air missile that has crudely been converted into a surface-to-surface missile. Circled in red is an impact fuse which allows the sophisticated weapon to be used as a simple ground rocket.


If you can’t get your hands on an armoured car, you could simply knock together your own with some sheet metal and healthy dose of imagination. These rebels did.


The contraption below is a remote-controlled car bomb. The rebels use these to attack check points.



The opposition frequently utilise the same 107mm rockets as the regime. Below is an example of a crude tube system that can be used to launch them.


Often rebel weaponry is operated in tough working conditions. Below is a  BM-21 Grad rocket launcher which has been propped up using rocks as an improvised aiming system.


If this still taken from Syrian state television is to be believed, some rebel brigades are not short of munitions. It shows a sizeable stockpile of M79 Osa anti-tank rockets that the Government claimed to have captured from the rebels.



As the uprising has progressed, the rebels have acquired ever more sophisticated arsenal. The selection below demonstrates how far they have come from their original armament of Kalashikovs. On the left of the picture there are four Chinese FN-6 Man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), which were reportedly provided to the opposition by Qatar.

At the back of the picture are AT-3/9K11 Malyutka anti-tank missiles which were probably captured from Government forces. On the right is yet another variation of the tubes used to launch 107mm rockets. On the far right is a Browning M2 machine gun, or a counterfeit version of one.

Small arms


The Manpads above are a very important acquisition for the rebels, giving them the ability to attack the Syrian Air Force. Rebels claim to have captured the large stockpile of Mandpads below.


Posing with MANPADs is popular, as this rebel carrying a  Chinese made FN-6 MANPADS demonstrates.


Grenade launchers

An array of modern weaponry has been channeled to the rebels by foreign agencies. Below is an RBG-6 40mm grenade launcher supplied to opposition forces by Saudi Arabia.



War forces innovation. Sometimes that can mean updating ancient ideas as this video of an ingenious rebel contraption demonstrates.

Images and background from Brown Moses, with thanks.