Iraq Receives T-72s & BMPs – With Another Armored Brigade Planned
DID can now close out the story of the 77 refurbished Hungarian T-72s that will equip Iraq’s 9th Army Division (Mechanized). MNF-I’s Nov. 12, 2005 issue of The Advisor magazine notes that the division took delivery of the tanks over three days at their HQ in Taji, north of Baghdad. The delivery culminated on Veterans Day, and also included 36 tracked BMP infantry fighting vehicles, 4 armored recovery vehicles and several containers of parts and weaponry.
Hungary had approached Iraq earlier this year about donating the T-72 tanks; another country offered to donate 500 BMPs through NATO, but Iraq accepted only 100 of them. The remaining 64 BMPs are expected in the coming months.
Further growth is also planned for Iraq’s lone armored division, whose story thus far has been little short of inspirational.
The 9th Division’s 1st Brigade currently has a battalion of early-1960s era T-55 tanks, plus two mechanized battalions built around Soviet MT-LB and BMP armored personnel carriers. The division also has one support battalion at present. Admiring reports have cited their work and professionalism, describing the division as ‘built from a junkyard’ out of salvaged vehicles and parts thanks to the mechanical expertise of the Iraqis.
The T-72s and BMPs will equip the 9th division’s 2nd Brigade with two tank battalions and one mechanized battalion, said Iraq’s Gen. Bashar, who also noted that the division expects to form a third brigade within the next year.
Under Saddam, only the most elite troops had T-72s – so their arrival means a lot for Iraqi morale. Lt. Col. Saleem, commander of the 1st tank Battalion, 2nd Brigade noted simply:
“We have no trouble using these types of tanks and maintaining them… The soldiers are very happy because now we have enough weapons to kill the terrorists in our country.”
The 45-ton T-72 medium tanks can move as fast as 60 km/h and fire up to eight 125mm rounds a minute with their auto-loaders and a three-man crew. Installed laser range-finders give some fire on the move capability, allowing the tank to shoot accurately while moving at speeds up to 20 km/h. The pictures DID saw did not show reactive armor on the tanks, which are important for full protection against some RPGs.
Although the vehicles were donated, the cost of refurbishing and shipping them here was covered by Iraq’s Ministry of Defense, which paid about $4.5 million. NATO handled much of the logistics of the effort. As part of its assistance to Iraq, the Alliance – through the NATO Training and Equipment Coordination Group – established at NATO Headquarters on October 2004 – is coordinating training and equipment provided by NATO countries to Iraq on a bilateral basis. To date, NATO has delivered some 26,000 light weapons, 200 RPGs, 10,000 helmets and more than 9.3 million rounds of ammunition to Iraq.
The T-72 tanks will be operational prior to the Iraq’s December 2005 legislative assembly elections.
The Story Arc
- DID’s Original Story (May 20/05) – Rebuilt T-72 Tanks for the Iraqi Army
- DID Story Follow-Up I (Nov 10/05) – T-72 Tanks Headed for Iraqi Army… or Impoundment. The tanks almost didn’t make to Iraq, as a result of non-payment. Learn what happened.
- DID Story Follow-Up II (Nov. 14/05) – Iraq’s T-72s: Payment Received. and CENTCOM’s MNF-I sends us a note explaining what went wrong.
- DID Story Follow-Up III (Nov 20/05) – Iraq Receives T-72s & BMPs – Another Armored Brigade Planned. Iraq’s 9th Division (Mechanized) has been impressive in making it this far. These T-72 and BMP vehicles will equip a second brigade, and a third brigade is planned.