Historically isolated from arms suppliers and outgunned by Islamic State militants, resourceful Kurdish security forces have built their own makeshift armored vehicles—all in a desperate bid to beef up their own fighting strength.
But guess what. These homemade tanks really suck.
In northern Syria and neighboring regions of Iraq, the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit—or YPG—has modified vans, trucks and construction equipment with guns and shielding.
Which doesn’t mean the improvised tanks can shoot worth a damn … or survive a hit by the militants’ rocket-propelled grenades.
The DIY tanks are worse than useless on the battlefield—they’re a waste of time and effort and are likely to get their crews killed. But they sure do look cool—or hilarious, at least—on Twitter.
Some of the tanks function as ambulances, trundling through enemy fire to retrieve wounded Kurdish fighters, according to Opsiyon Haber, a Turkish news Website covering Kurdistan.
The DIY designs vary, as do their color schemes. The Kurds like to spray-paint their homemade tanks in gaudy “camouflage” and add eyes, flames and other features as flair. You might also see the improvised armored vehicles sporting YPG insignia and flags.
The Kurdish tanks aren’t the world’s only homemade heavy weapons. Syrian rebels manufacture their own rockets. And of course, generations of Taliban and other insurgent fighters have made a fine art of designing and building improvised explosive devices.
IEDs have proved remarkably effective. But the YPG tanks undoubtedly lack the horsepower and mobility for serious fighting. And bolt-on armor has a bad habit of shattering and blasting out shrapnel when struck by enemy fire.
On Reddit, the YPG tanks’ rectilinear forms have inspired comparisons to the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V, an iconic German armored vehicle from World War I.
That vehicle led to the development of the much more capable tanks of World War II and beyond. The YPG tanks, on the other hand, are evolutionary dead ends, as they’re all basically farm or construction vehicles with a bunch of stuff welded on.
On Aug. 14, the U.S., France and the U.K. pledged to supply Kurdish forces with modern weapons to aid in their fight against Islamic State. The new hardware could kill the demand for DIY tanks.
Not that the homemade vehicles ever were particularly useful in combat.
You can follow Mitch Swenson on Twitter. Sign up for a daily War is Boring email update here. Subscribe to WIB’s RSS feed here and follow the main page here.