Bellingcat

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Syrian National Defence Force Provides More Evidence Linking The Government To The August 21st Sarin Attacks

Last week, I wrote about a video the Syrian National Defence Force had posted on their YouTube channel, showing them using the family of munitions that the munitions linked to the August 21st Sarin attack comes from.  These munitions, which I dubbed the UMLACA (Unidentified Munitions Linked to Alleged Chemical Attacks), were heavily documented by myself and others in the wake of the August 21st attack, and we were able to draw a number of conclusions about the munition.  These include there being at least two types of munition, explosive and chemical, there being two sizes of these munitions (the smaller linked to the August 21st attack, and two different types of launching platforms (a twin-barrel type, and single-barrel type).

Now, two more videos have been posted online showing Syrian military forces using the same kind of munitions.  The first video was posted on the YouTube channel of Tarek Ali, a reporter for Al Mayadeen TV, a Lebanese news channel that's been supportive of the Syrian government.  Tarek Ali has been spending time with the Syrian military, and this report is from the SAA and NDF advance on the villages of Maheen and Hawaree, after taking the town of Sadad, Homs.


At the start of the video we see a vehicle drive by, with a twin-barrel launching on the rear


This is clearly the same type of truck mounted launcher that has been filmed and photographed in Damascus and Aleppo, and shown to launch the UMLACA

Aleppo
Mezzeh air base, Damascus
It's worth noting for anyone investigating these launchers that the type of truck used appears to be different in each example.

The next example, helpfully posted on the Facebook page of the National Defence Force in Damascus, gives us our best view yet of the larger type of munition and single-barrel launcher


For those of us who have been trying to figure out every detail possible about these munitions, it provides some more clues about how these munitions and their launchers work.


The above image shows the single hole on the rear of the warhead, and a cover that has been manufactured for the nozzle of the rocket.  Not something that points towards a hastily put together DIY weapon.


Here we have the UMLACA in the launch tube, and you can just make out the black numbering that's common to the explosive type of these munitions, along with the single hole on the rear of the warhead.  Here we can see a black rod shaped device that has been attached to the hole.  It was noted that in the footage posted online shortly after the August 21st attack, showing the same kind of launcher and munition, that one of the men in the video appeared to screw something into the rear of the warhead, and this appears to be what that was.  What it actually is though, is another question.


During the launch we also get our first clear video of the fuze at the end of the warhead, which seems to point it being some sort of impact fuze.  It also appears that the black rod attached to the rear of the warhead is still in place, although it's hard to be 100% sure because of the motion of the rocket during launch.


This image was taken just after the cap on the nozzle was removed, and it appears a white cable was being held in by the cap.


A cable is also seen running of the side of the truck, but it's unclear if this could be a command cable.


The man who removes the nozzle cap then appears to possibly pull the cable onto the truck, maybe to connect to the possible command cable?


It also appears that just before each launch, no cable can be seen hanging from the rear of the rocket, suggesting that perhaps the cable has been looped back onto the truck to connect to the potential command cable.

If nothing else, this gives you an idea of the extra little details this video provides, and for those of us still trying to gather every single tiny piece of information on these munitions this sort of footage is invaluable.

More posts on the subject of the August 21st attacks can be found here, and other posts on chemical weapons and Syria, including extremely informative interviews with chemical weapon specialists, can be found here.

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com


40 comments:

  1. You failed to clearly point out that the unit in the single launcher tube is many times larger than the units used in East Ghouta.

    You also use the term 'UMLACA" for the larger unit whereas there is no evidence whatsoever these units are in any way linked to the use of chemical weapons.

    I realise the term "UMLACA" is your pet, but perhaps you should consider using different terminology, such as "Eskimo" and "Giant Eskimo" as used on other sites. Eskimo is at least descriptive, not presumptive.

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    1. Huh? I don't understand how "Eskimo" is descriptive - could you explain?

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    2. I think it's because "Eskimo" in some countries (Luccum, who might be russian coined it) is a type of ice-cream(?) with a similar shape as the munition. Big thing on a stick. So, Eskimo might be descriptive, but its not universal. This big munition is also linked to the chemical attack, because of its smaller sibling. I think UMLACA is an ok term. There are still a lot of unknown things about it.

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  2. Good quality video. Thank you.
    But again, sarin does not smell here.

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  3. Very interesting! The launchers look incredibly crude - but then they don't need to be any more sophisticated. I would guess this big baby - full of TNT - is a very efficient siege engine. Its the syrian equivalent of the Big Bertha. Nice to get a confirmation of the placement of a trigger device in the front section - and also: no nose cap.

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  4. Another thing - the cover we see on the rocket nozzle does not necessarily mean that the munition is not improvised. The rocket is probably a stock type rocket, designed to be fired in an array - but repurposed for the Big Bertha.

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    1. I think it would be interesting to find any reference images of 122mm Grad rockets that have the same cover on the nozzle. I don't ever recall seeing one myself, but it's not like I've been looking before.

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    2. Here's an example of a cap on a 122mm rocket
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QD8pD3Ayd8
      It's not identical, but there's a number of variants of these munitions that could have different caps. The task would be finding one that matches what's in the UMLACA video.

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    3. A match might actually provide a good clue to the specific type of 122mm rocket used, and therefore it's vital statistics, which could be used to calculate range.

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    4. Some interesting stuff here about the Grad 2000. Its a refurbished Grad with a range of 40km+.

      http://www.edepro.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/R122_G2000_Cargo.pdf

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    5. http://www.edepro.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/R122_G2000_Cargo.pdf

      Nozzle covers are illustrated on pages 3 - 5 in yellow and orange.

      http://www.geo-army.ge/files/BM-21%20GRAD%20-.pdf

      Black and white pictures (low quality) on pages 20 and 27.

      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=d84_1373551623

      FSA Bongo Grad fest. There's a few blurry views of the Syrian red nozzle cap. There may be a second smaller individual red knob in the middle that serves as a contact cover. These red knobbed ones may belong to Grad-1's (upgrade from original Grad).

      http://www.armyrecognition.com/russia_russian_army_vehicles_system_artillery_uk/bm-21_grad_multiple_rocket_launcher_system_ural_6x6_truck_technical_data_sheet_description_uk.html

      Images #21 and #22 show the red nozzle cover version without the extra cap.

      220mm Uragans are being loaded without the external 'nozzle' cover below - the only cover you see is an internal one. I would think they're shipped with something like a Grad nozzle cover. In any case, the SAA painted theirs light blue-grey with the rest of the rocket.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=162Uq7lj7QQ

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  5. But this is probably not a 122mm rocket. This is a much bigger configuration.

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    1. I do wonder if this rocket is wider than the other type, guess we'd need more debris evidence to be sure.

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    2. Easily a 220mm rocket motor. The guy could stick his head inside and have room to spare.

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  6. what is that ... what is in warhead some fuel, oil, solid-explosive, gas explosive, or some mecanism with toxic substance, I doubt that it would then be so soldiers walked around the warheads without masks or protective suits, we all look like some kind of hybrid of missiles with a huge quantity of explosives that Hezbollah tries out for the needs of future conflict with Israel and the idea for such an exotic weapon is unlikely given Iran

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    Replies
    1. This appears to be the explosive variant of that munition, more details on that here
      http://brown-moses.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/video-showing-high-explosive-variant-of.html

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  7. it is 122 mm but firs of stage of this ''missile''

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  8. what is tipe of those yellow high explosive that fills the warhead

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    Replies
    1. Hard to be sure, I'd guess it's military grade though, not something whipped up in a bathtub.

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  9. http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/report/2004/isg-final-report/isg-final-report_vol3_cw-anx-b.htm - very very interesting information about Iraq cw especialy Figure 19

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  10. General observation on the rocket motor. The rocket motor tube outside diameter (OD) is definitely larger then its little brother and the rocket motor is also longer. Without measurements its hard to tell how much bigger this particular rocket motor is. Here is just one possibility.
    Rocket motor (maybe); The rocket motor contained in the gray tube could possibly be a modified 220mm 9m27F URAGAN or variant. This would be an increase of about 100mm (4-inches) in OD over the smaller UMLACA rocket motor. This initial "best/first guess" is based on;
    1. What other rocket motors are widely available in Syria, which the URAGAN appears to be.
    2. Approximate rocket motor length (over 3 meters).
    3. Approximate OD increase of 100mm overt the smaller UMLACA rocket motor.
    4. Rocket motor nozzle plug design and outer most external nozzle cap color (red cap; see referenced video; stop frame at 24 seconds). Most of the weight of my initial observations is placed on item 4.

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  11. I'll find something very very similar to our misterious rockets --- so It's a type of rocket that has been used all over the place, and modified and built in Russia for years. Similar to the BM-14 series of rockets, and equipped with MS-14-style chemical warheads.It's a type of rocket that has been used all over the place, and modified and built in Russia for years.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_images/130828_SLUFAEhome2.jpg

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  12. http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69919000/jpg/_69919631_chem_weapon_disposal_top_624.jpg

    http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69919000/jpg/_69919633_chem_weapon_disposal_base_624.jpg

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  13. plese look at this picture from ww2 - anti submarine mines

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/33/Hedgehog_anti-submarine_mortar.jpg/781px-Hedgehog_anti-submarine_mortar.jpg

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  14. Luccum did a measurement based on the truck wheel here:http://luccum.blogspot.no/2013/10/different-tail.html

    570mm calibre. This should be possible to verify now, since this new material is far superior. The big UMLACA seems to be an exact upscale of the small UMLACA, for which we know all dimensions.

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    1. Warhead caliber - 570 mm, diameter engine part ~ 226 mm.

      • 220 mm - 9M27F "Uragan" (Weight 280 kg, Payload 100 kg, Range 35 km)

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    2. Luccum,

      The jumbo Eskimo seems to be sized for 500 kg TNT payload. i.e. more bang than a FAB-500 and nearly as large as a Scud-D

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    3. The Uragan seems to fit the bill. Uragan means Hurricane in russian, by the way. And Grad means Hail. The meterological naming is no coincidence; the Uragan is simply a bigger version of the Grad - except the Uragan is spin stabilised as well as fin-stabilized. I'm sure there are plenty of good shots of the nozzle cap, as this rocket is usually fired from a truck array.

      http://splav.org/en/arms/uragan/m27f.asp

      The above illustration shows a thicker section midway in the rocket engine section. This section can also be spotted in the new material, suggesting that the rocket does not have an external, Syrian made casing - only a bolt on fin-assembly. This may be the case with the small UMLACA as well.

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    4. Amund Hesbøl
      — The Uragan seems to fit the bill.


      Engine "Zar-Eskimo" is very similar to 9M27F, but this is not it - the Soviet missiles not smoke as much as their Middle Eastern twins:

      http://youtu.be/0m6Qlf0lt6M?t=49s

      And they have different nozzle caps:

      http://youtu.be/fwqJHv9vGyA?t=36s

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    5. Amund,

      The thicker part on the jumbo Eskimo may be the start of a doubler - an extra sheath where it connects to the payload to handle aerodynamic sideways forces on the tail.

      The motor in the jumbo Eskimo could easily be from an Iranian Fadjr3 240mm missile - which has a 3.842m fuel section, a 465mm nozzle section, and the same wrap-around fin arrangement that the 122mm Grad does. The Fadjr 3 is fin stabilised.

      Also, the Fadjr 3 has a 4 second burn time (all data are from the manufacturer www.diomil.ir)

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    6. CW, yes it could very well be the Fadjr 3 rocket motor and all the measurements/nozzle design/doubler are also consistence with the estimated size/design of the jumbo Eskimo.

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  15. to Brown Moses: could you please start posting updates on the progress of the front lines? Ramp up for a military offensives etc? I think you focus too much time on the chemical weapons issues. Increasing I don't find anything interesting on your blog, it's just sarin, sarin, sarin... and even this is updated every now and then. I know this is important but most people don't have much doubts about who did gas the innocent people. But we have no clue how this war is actually going.

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  16. The heading of the original video on the Ndf site says it is being fired at insurgent gatherings at the Tameco Pharmaceutical Factory which is the east of a damascus rural area. If the launch site can be identified then this would give the range of the Jumbo Eskimo. Does not help with your obsession with sarin, these are clearly not chemical weapons, I don't think many crew would swing this thing about on a sling unless they were your suicidal jihadi friends.

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  17. My translator says that in the second video the UMLACA is described as Syrian made, the first clue to it's origin.

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  18. I also made some search on this rocket engine, and related to this post, here are some thing that i found. May some part already was told here before, but i try to focus on new things.

    - The launcher truck is the same as we seen in the first launching video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6CZtF6pGvQ ), but now with a different loader truck. Also the "crane"s are placed at the rear of the truck which is very rare. The crane looks very short so mabye it's came from an engineer vehicle or something.

    - They probably are around or at the Mezzeh Military Airfield, because the terrain and the vegetation looks very similar.

    - The rocket engine have 2 cover. At 0:24 (but also in the whole first video), it can be clearly see that the rocket nozzle has a red cover, which were removed as soon as it was loaded to the launcher. Below that we seen a grey cover. The second cover will be removed when the rocket is at the firing position and ready to fire.

    - The firing working on remote way, probably with the white/yellow wire. This wire can be found on the first launch video at the (4:44, and watch the guy who walk in from the left).

    - About the exact type of the rocket engine I have no idea, but I think it's manufactured by Iran, and some poor quality of fuel material lead to the lot of smoke.

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    Replies
    1. Smoke doesn't mean poor quality. It means high aluminium powder content - which improves the combustion and energy output.

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    2. CW, Thanks to describe this about the smoke, I didn't know that. The smoke is a disadvantage for a missiles, there should be a reason for doing on that way. What do you think is it possible to "boost up" a smaller engine so much to can carry this big warhead?

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  19. I would think that the increased payload (x4) combined with the vast increase of drag - would change the characteristics of the rocket launch - maybe a lot more smoke is seen because of the slower start? Imagine a fully loaded Zil-truck trying to climb a 45 degree hill. The poor rocket is under a lot of pressure...

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  20. In case there's any doubt about the 2nd video being the Syrian military, Damascus based SAMA TV showed the footage, describing them as a "modern warhead" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03YkXY28N60

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    1. Ha ha! Modern? Seems like they're quite proud of their medieval rocket design department. On the other hand, and more importantly: they show complete negligence about the CW-attack-link. This can be interpreted in a number of ways - 1. They don't care. 2. The link to the CW-attack is maybe not as strong as we think.

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