As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) continues its blitz across northern and central Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have emerged as the most credible military challenger to the jihadi threat.
In the early days of ISIS’s recent onslaught, the Peshmerga took the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, under the pretense of protecting it after the Iraqi Army fled. Since that expansion of Kurdish control, the Peshmerga has dug in around Kurdistan’s borders in an attempt to deter any ISIS advance into its territory.
ISIS would have a serious conflict on its hands if it focused its offensive on Kurdistan. The Peshmerga number upwards of 190,000 official fighters, not counting militia members who can be called upon to swell its ranks.
The Peshmerga also has a range of equipment dating from its time as a guerrilla force — as well as more modern U.S.-supplied weaponry. For more information on the Peshmerga and its capabilities, check out this 2005 masters’ disertation by former intelligence officer Michael G. Lortz.
The BGM-71 TOW is a U.S.-built anti-tank missile. TOW missiles were produced by Raytheon and entered service in the 1970s. The system has an operational range of 3,750 meters.
TOW missiles have highly effective anti-armour, anti-bunker, and anti-fortification capabilities.
In the 1990 Gulf War, U.S. M2 and M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles armed with TOW missiles were more effective against Iraqi armour than even the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.
The United States has provided Humvees to the Iraqi Army and to the Peshmerga. Armoured Humvees allow for quick and effective movement of Peshmerga forces across rougher terrain than most other vehicles would allow.
The Humvee's heavy armour also protects Peshmerga forces against small-arms fire. Humvees can also provide protection against collateral damage from indirect explosions -- although the vehicles offer little protection against land mines or buried IEDs.
The D-30 122 mm howitzer is a Soviet-made artillery gun.
It's an older model of howitzer, and must be towed into position by a truck or armoured tractor. Age aside, the D-30 can still pack a considerable punch.
The D-30 can fire anywhere between four to eight rounds a minute at distances of up to 15 kilometers. It can fire multiple types of rounds, including smoke and incendiary shells.
Both the Iraqi Security Forces and the Peshmerga have access to RPG-7s.
RPG-7s are highly portable unguided shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons. These systems are highly durable and relatively low cost. They're also fairly simple to use.
The grenades can reach distances of up to 920 meters, although at greater range the projectile may self-destruct without hitting a target.
The M224 Mortar is a long-range and relatively light-weight weapon that operates at a high angle of fire, allowing its projectiles to clear obstacles that other weapons cannot.
The M224 usually provides cover fire for ground troops, and can fire up to two miles. It can fire a variety of ordnance, including high explosives, smoke cartridges, and infrared illumination rounds.
The SA-7 Grail MANPADS are a shoulder-mounted, high explosive, homing surface-to-air missile system.
Missiles from the SA-7 can travel upwards of three and a half miles to hit a target, making them incredibly effective at taking down enemy helicopters or other lower-flying aircraft. The weapons are Soviet in origin, and have seen widespread use in conflict zones since they first entered service in 1968.
The T-54 and T-55 tank series are a Soviet tank line that was produced from the end of World War II through the 1950s and 1980s, respectively.
Despite the tanks' age, they remain operational in up to 50 armies around the world. The tanks feature heavy armour, along with a 100 mm rifled gun and a secondary 7.62 mm machine gun.
The Eurocopter EC120 Colibri is currently under the command of the Kurdish Authority's traffic police. However, the pilots have been trained to use the helicopters for surveillance and rescue operations.
The EC120 is developed by a French company and has a wide variety of uses. Spain, Singapore, China, France, and Indonesia use it as a military aircraft while a number of other countries use it in police enforcement.
The AK-47 is the standard assault rifle of the Peshmerga due to its low cost, durability, availability, and ease of use.
The AK-47 was originally developed for use by the Soviets, but it quickly spread to other armies and irregular forces around the world. AK-47s are low weight, fairly effective, and easy to obtain.
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