Dispatches: V9N6

PHOTO COURTESY ARES

Serbian M02 Coyote HMG and 120mm Mortar Projectiles in Syria
By Yuri Lyamin with N.R. Jenzen-Jones

In recent days, reports have emerged of opposition groups within Syria in possession of Serbian-made arms and munitions. M62P8 120mm high explosive (HE) mortar projectiles and an M02 Coyote 12.7x108mm heavy machine gun have been identified. Whilst various weapons manufactured in the former Yugoslavia have been documented in Syria, these two items of Serbian origin have only recently been sighted.

A video posted to YouTube on February 12, 2016, by the group Jabhat Ansar al-Din shows the emplacement, loading and firing of a 120mm mortar near Quneitra, in southwest Syria. Cyrillic inscriptions visible on the mortar projectiles and packaging indicate that the rounds being fired are M62P3 120mm HE projectiles, produced in the Former Yugoslavia (at Soko Vit d.o.o., in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina). These are still produced by Pretis d.d. in BiH, and they are exported from former Yugoslav states. The M62P3 projectile has a maximum range of some 6050 meters, and delivers a 2.25-kilogram charge of TNT.

On February 16, 2016, images posted to a Syrian rebel fighter’s Facebook account show a Serbian M02 Coyote 12.7x108mm heavy machine gun. The Coyote is a copy of the Soviet NSV and is produced by Zastava Arms, in Kragujevac. It is distinguished from the NSV by various cosmetic differences, most notably the distinctive stock, pistol grip and tripod. The rivet pattern is very similar to that of the NSV. The M02 is manufactured and offered for export in two versions, one chambered for 12.7x108mm (as seen here) and another in .50 Browning (12.7x99mm).

This article is reproduced courtesy of Armament Research Services (ARES). See www.armamentresearch.com for further original content.

PHOTO COURTESY ARES

Minimi-Type Light Machine Gun with Pro-Assad Group in Syria
By Jonathan Ferguson

Images posted to personal Facebook pages of members of the Syrian pro-government Suqur al-Sahara (“Desert Falcons”), non-state armed group prominently feature fighters posing with the Belgian-made FN “Minimi” 5.56x45mm light machine gun (LMG). Suqur al-Sahara has been described as an “elite” formation, primarily consisting of former soldiers.

The weapon in these images appears to be the same example (marked “2” on its lower receiver) in three images documented. It is fitted with the short “Para” barrel, but the conventional fixed stock more typically seen on the standard longer-barrelled variant. A modernised top cover with Picatinny rail is also fitted, but the fore-end is still furnished with the older-style plastic lower handguard and metal upper heat-shield arrangement of the original Minimi. While the significance of the white number 2 is unknown, it may serve as a rack number or similar.

The Minimi as a type has been documented previously in both Iraq and Syria, notably in the hands of Islamic State, as well as with Iraqi Shi’a militias, Syrian armed groups supported by the US and Kurdish forces. A true “Para” example with the original FN pattern collapsible stock, as well as an optical sight and combined flashlight/foregrip accessory, features prominently in the current issue of the IS newsletter “al-Naba.”

Regardless of which faction has access to this type, the propaganda messages are clear wherever they are prominently displayed in media: this apparently modern “Western” firearm suggests to the casual observer that a group is well-equipped, well-supplied and has a technological edge over the enemy. These Suqur al-Sahara photos mark the first known appearance of a Minimi-type light machine gun in service with a pro-Syrian government faction. In practical terms, the short barrel limits the effective range of the weapon, and although these examples retain their standard bipod, it has not been deployed in the image observed. Many non-state groups around the world typically employ belt-fed weapons from the hip or shoulder in any case, and a relatively lightweight, short-barrelled weapon like this is especially unlikely to be used as its designers intended. Essentially, such a weapon becomes a sustained-fire “assault” rifle.

The FN Minimi (“Mini Mi” being short for “Miniature Mitrailleuse”) entered production in 1982. Adopted soon thereafter by the US Army as the M249, it has become something of a benchmark for its class, being widely adopted as the standard LMG for armed forces including Belgium, the US, UK, Latvia and numerous other nations. It is unclear where or how the pictured example was obtained, but given the large numbers of US M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) variants that have seen service with US and Iraqi troops since 1990, an Iraqi source is one distinct possibility. However, there are other possible sources, with some US-backed armed groups in Syria equipped with M249 LMGs and Minimi-type weapons available on the illicit market in Lebanon and Libya, for example. Other users within the region include Turkey and the UAE.

This article is reproduced courtesy of Armament Research Services (ARES). See www.armamentresearch.com for further original content.

COURTESY IRAQI MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

Bulgarian Arsenal MSGL Grenade Launcher in Syria & Iraq
By the ARES Team

Images and video of FSA-aligned Syrian rebel units fighting in the Aleppo area, shared on social media platforms, and images of weapons captured by Iraqi security forces during the advance to Fallujah, have shown the use of the Bulgarian Arsenal Multi-Shot Grenade Launcher (MSGL) by various groups in the region. In addition to the MSGL, Iraqi security forces also seized a Sterling type submachine gun (on the right in the above photo) in one recent incident. This is likely to be either a modified Mk.4 model or a craft-produced copy, and it is fitted with a large, craft-produced suppressor.

The Arsenal MSGL is a low-velocity, revolver-type grenade launcher feeding from a six-round cylinder, with an integrated ladder-style sight and removable front grip. With a weight of 6.53kg (unloaded) and an overall length of 764mm with the stock unfolded, the MSGL provides a relatively lightweight capability to rapidly employ multiple munitions of various types out to 400 meters. It is capable of firing a wide range of low-velocity 40 x 46SRmm ammunition up to 105mm in overall length, including high explosive, high explosive fragmentation, screening/marking smoke, riot control agents, sound/flash, less-lethal impact and more. The MSGL is packaged and shipped in boxes containing five units.
Arsenal also produces a variant of the MSGL, the MSGL-L, which has a longer chamber length and is thus capable of accepting 40 x 46SRmm cartridges with an overall length of up to 135mm. As a result, it is capable of firing specialized rounds, such as the Arsenal 40 x 46SRmm RLV-TB, which features a thermobaric projectile. While the perspective of some of the imagery makes positive identification of every example difficult, the models pictured in this post appear to be the standard MSGL.

It remains unclear how these weapons found their way into Syria and Iraq. The abundance of Bulgarian weapons in use by US-supported FSA units may suggest that the examples observed in Iraq were obtained by IS via battlefield capture from FSA forces in Aleppo and later transported to IS positions in Iraq. Arsenal 40x46SRmm fired cartridge cases—marked to indicate production in 2014—were documented by ARES in February 2016, which may further indicate that MSGL grenade launchers observed in Iraq originated in Syria.

This article is reproduced courtesy of Armament Research Services (ARES). See www.armamentresearch.com for further original content.

South Korean Daewoo K2 Rifle in Nigeria
By Jonathan Ferguson

Update: The belt-fed machine guns in the above image are in fact Czech Uk vz. 68 (7.62x51mm) models, a type notable for its use in the region.
A Nigerian newspaper website last week posted an article examining the ‘Niger Delta Avengers’ (NDA), a non-state armed group formed in early 2016 whose stated aims include the establishment of an independent state in the Niger Delta region. The NDA have been very active since their formation, striking a number of blows against oil distribution infrastructure, including wells and pipelines. A photograph (credited to the British Mail on Sunday) included with the article shows a group of militants displaying weapons in a show of force.

Most are armed with Soviet-era Russian small arms common to the region, including AKM pattern self-loading rifles and Uk vz. 59 or vz. 68 machine guns (many Czech weapons in the region arrived as a result of Czechoslovakia’s support for the short-lived Republic of Biafra; see the ZB 53 GPMG). However, one man on the right of the image is seen holding the more unusual South Korean Daewoo K2 self-loading rifle. This distinctive yet familiar-looking weapon borrows heavily from the design of the AR-15. Its receiver (especially the lower receiver) and rotating bolt are Stoner/Armalite designs and, like the AR-15, it too is chambered for the 5.56x45mm cartridge. This is one of several rifle calibers in service with the Nigerian armed forces. However, the two rifles feature only a small number of interchangeable components (primarily in the trigger group), and the Daewoo differs greatly from its predecessor, notably due to its long-stroke gas piston (integral to the bolt carrier, as in the AK design) and internal recoil spring in place of the pseudo-direct impingement and stock buffer tube system of the AR-15. The Daewoo K2 features a side-folding solid polymer buttstock and feeds from M16-type STANAG magazines.

The appearance of this rifle is not as surprising as it may seem. Between 1983 and 2006, the Nigerian government purchased more than 33,000 of these rifles. It is not clear how this particular militiaman has obtained his rifle, but it is likely to have been acquired from government ownership via battlefield capture, defection, theft or corruption.

Special thanks to Conway Waddington of African Defence Review. This article is reproduced courtesy of Armament Research Services (ARES). See www.armamentresearch.com for further original content.