More Data on Arms to Share: The IRAMs of Iraq and Syria.
In the interest of sharing material about arms transfers with a wider audience and fellow researchers, we now post (with permission of the man who wrote it) the raw memorandum on Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munitions, or IRAMs, which are in use in Syria in 2012 as they were in Iraq through 2011.
The travels of IRAMs appear to be a case not necessarily of arms transfer, but of know-how transfer. And that’s every bit as interesting and important a phenomenon to document, and ultimately has the same effect.
The note below, which we drew from for an NYT At War post today, was written by John Ismay, a former U.S. Navy E.O.D. officer, who happened while serving in his former profession to write much of the classified material inside the USG on this particular type of weapon. (John also co-wrote with me a piece earlier this year about the legacy of American arms transfers to Libya, in a military-to-military aid campaign that went badly awry, creating the army that gave rise to Muammar el-Qaddafi, who led a coup against the throne.)
When At War decided to look at the IRAMs, John offered to share what he could with the so-called open-source world. We hope the following information might be of value to colleagues and follow-on researchers about a weapon that, almost beyond a doubt, will show more of itself in the future, and perhaps continue to evolve.
For past data-shares, go to the Pinterest account for a visual index on RPG-7 projectile and launchers, on FN FALs, and others..
John’s IRAM memo is immediately below:
The term IRAM was coined by the British Army during the Troubles. The IRA made something similar to what appeared in Iraq, so British ATOs on staff at CJTF Troy picked up the term and placed it into circulation among Coalition forces. The name improvised rocket-assisted munition and improvised rocket-assisted mortar have both been used by the USG, but I think the former has won out.
The Brits also used the term lob bomb to describe the IRA’s different weapons of that class, so I think that’s why IRAMs have been placed into this Wikipedia page:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lob_bomb
The Iraqi weapon was comprised of three major parts:
1) 107mm rocket motor. These were sourced from either a Chinese Type 63 rocket or an Iranian Fadjr-1 (copy of the Chinese original). Contrary to some of the open source information in the media, I don’t think the Soviet Union or Russia has ever made a 107mm artillery rocket. Three Letter Agency intel analysts speculated that Iran would use bigger rocket motors, such as those from the 240mm Falaq-1 artillery rocket, to create bigger IRAMs. Sometimes these were called VL-IRAMS, as in “Very Large.” As far as I know, these have yet to surface.
2) Metal tank. This was often an acetylene or oxygen tank. The explosive fill inside was usually Iranian C4, and up to 200-300 lbs of it. Pieces of metal like screws or nuts and bolts were sometimes added to increase the fragmentary effect.
3) Nose fuze. Every IRAM storyboard I saw from Iraq had a time-delay fuze.
The Iraqi IRAM was purpose-built for one thing: popping over t-walls and Hesco barriers at short ranges that prevented interception by C-RAM and creating mass casualties on-target.
Method of employment.
Iraqi IRAMs were often serially fired from a launcher built into the bed of a bongo truck. The first IRAM might get off the launcher okay, but it often damaged the launcher enough to cause the other rockets to fly off course or not fire at all. This photo is a good example, as is this.
Since 107s are electrically primed, the ignition system used is usually some kind of electronic circuit board with a time-delay feature rigged to a power supply. When the time ran out, current was applied to the rocket motors in sequence.
The fuzes were long cylinders made in a machine shop. For an improvised system, they were rather consistent in design and manufacture. I just looked at these two links again, and noticed that the EOD Techs at CJTF Troy had removed the fuzes prior to letting media photogs take these pics, or these.
The specifics here may still be S//NF, so I’ll generalize a bit. Each fuze had a “cocked striker” at the forward end that was held back by a pin. The pin was attached to a lanyard, and the lanyard in turn was secured to the launcher. So when the rocket motor ignited, the pin was yanked free by the launch of the weapon. The cocked striker then initiated a pyrotechnic fuse that burned down in-flight.
IRAMs that did make it off the launcher successfully often failed to function as designed on-target. Reason being that the pyrotechnic burn lasted longer than the flight time, and when the weapon hit the ground the thin-walled nose fuze gets sheared off. I always wondered why the enemy went through the trouble of making these elaborate fuzes that rarely worked instead of just making some kind of point-detonating system. It never made sense to me.
To the best of my recollection, these weapons were solely used by Jaysh al Mahdi (JAM) Special Groups, which were the Shia fighting groups trained/funded/financed/equipped by the IRGC and the Quds Force. And if I’m not mistaken, only one group was really tied to the IRAM, and that was Kata’ib Hizballah.
The one shown here is very interesting for two big reasons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg7kCKW56TM&feature=em-uploademail-new First being the short stubby metal tank atop the rocket motor. I don’t know if it was something repurposed, or built specifically for the task. Second, the fuze appears to be point-detonating.
This one is more like an Iraqi one, except for the fuze: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHlfvJgJVqU It has the big tank of an Iraqi IRAM, but the fuze looks like a machined point-detonating system. Very interesting.