15 April 2012

Mortar position, Homs

Syria. Homs: heavy mortars (M-240 and M-160). 120 mm mortars (M43). Video sources analysed.  
(latest addition June 28, 2012, minor editing April 10, 2013, except for the plead)

Please notice: this is a layman's post. If you read it please don't skip the notes during and at the bottom of the post. Also before you decide what to think of my writings: please read through my latest post (plead added 03/06/2014).

On April 14, 2012 a video was tweeted:
"@tweets4peace: 14/04/2012: Homs: The artillery used to shell #Homs and positioning of regime forces. Alghabeh - Alwaar neighbourhood. [ video ]"
I decided to see how much information I could get from analyzing the footage (and more further down):

Stitched-together frames form video on 434343aaa's YouTube channel.

In the image above I have stitched together a number of frames from the video, and what the image shows is an artillery position with four mortars: two 120 mm and two larger mortars that I believe to be 160 mm models. During the video the 120 mm mortar to the fare left is fired three times (sec. 1:05, 3:09, 5:32) with grenades that seems to be stored in the tent next to it.

Left: frame form video on 434343aaa's YouTube channel. Top right: image of 2B11 Sani from wikipedia. Bottom right: for comparison only an image of a 120 mm mortar round from here.

I originally considered the 120 mm 2B11 Sani as the best candidate as the model used here. I have since changed that position and from what I've read I now find it more likely that the model used is the earlier M43 (see note 1 for more on this). The size of the mortar looks right for a 120 mm model. Also the grenade being prepared in the frame to the left seems to match that calibre.

Left: frame from video on 434343aaa's YouTube channel. Right: image of M-160 mm mortar from Worldwide Defence.

The larger mortar seems too slim to match the 240 mm mortar M-240, that I have pointed to in another post. Instead I think it might match the Russian M-160 . The M-160 is an improved version of the WWII 160 mm mortar M1943.

White arrow: a roughly estimated direction of fire. Aerials from Google Earth and Wikimapia.

In this image I have marked an area that I believe to be the place where the mortars are positioned. In the tweet, the video is said to be from the "Alwaar neighbourhood", and according to Wikimapia the neighbourhood to the South East of the marked position is called Al-Waer. That is likely to be a match. And, as can be seen in the enlarged section, the area is framed by some kind of ditch-like structure. I believe that structure matches the concrete structure that is visible in the video.
As indicated on the aerial, the distance from this position to areas in Homs that have been shelled heavily is about 5-6 km, which is within the or at the limit of the 5,7 km range of the 120 mm M43.
What exactly is being targeted by the mortar in the video I can't say. To the North East of the position is a military training academy. This leaves open the possibility that this is some kind of exercise, but my guess is that it isn't.
My main reason for this is that the mortar is aimed in the (general) direction of the place from where the video was filmed. And since my analysis points to a filming position somewhere on the slope on the North-Western edge of Al-Waer, this leads to a roughly estimated direction of fire as indicated by the white arrow in the aerial.

* note 1 (June 25. 2012): I recently read that the 120 mm M-43 mortar - the predecessor of the 2B11 Sani - is in the Syrian weaponry. Also; Wikipedia does not list the 2B11 as operated by the Syrian army. Therefore if the  M-43 is still in service, I believe it would be a more likely possibility. The 120 mm M1938 mortar - predecessor of the M-43 - might be another possibility. Also models made by other manufacturers has - at least in theory - to be considered as well.
But in order not to lose perspective: the primary aim of this post is not to identify specific weapon models it is to document the type of military force used in this conflict. In that context the significant characteristic is the calibre, and I still consider my 120 mm estimate to be right.

addition, May 21: 240 mm mortars and tanks
(revised and edited after review on December 18 and 28, 2012)

Some time after making the study above I became aware that two 240 mm M-240 mortars I had added to the post Weapons used on Homs on March 28. were positioned close by. The two positions were filmed in different videos, but a third video linked them together. Therefore I thought it would be an idea to collect both parts for a better overview.

The three videos:
#1: 0:47 min video, uploaded March 27, 2012 (the video showing the two 240 mm mortars).
#2: 7:21 min video, uploaded April 14, 2012 (the video studied in the first part of this post). 
#3: 1:43 min video, uploaded April 14, 2012 (the video linking videos #1 and #2).

The aerial below is an extension of the zoomed-in section above. In the upper-right corner a part of the military academy can be seen, in the lower-right corner the Al-Waer neighbourhood appears. The position of the 120 mm and 160 mm mortars are in the lower-left corner marked "A". Other relevant positions are marked as well and sought explained in combination with relevant video frames.

A: position of the two 120 mm and the two 160 mm mortars studied in the first section of this post.
Aerial from Google Maps.

B: position of the two 240 mm mortars. Both visible in recording uploaded March 27 (frames from video #1).

B: same position as left frame above. By comparison it looks like a covered 240 mm mortar.
 C: something is covered at this position. Could be the other 240 mm mortar, but impossible to determine.
Both frames are from video #3.

D: position of the garages. Tanks are parked inside in both video #1 and #3 (frame is from video #3 ). 
E: position with tanks visible in video #1 but not in video #3 (frame is from video #1).

By comparing the earlier upload (March 27) to the two later (April 14), this could be seen as indicating, that at least some of the heavier weapons have been made less visible. And, with the presence of UN observers in mind, this can easily be interpreted as a tactic of covering heavy weapons to avoid detection. However, this does not amount to proof of such a tactic: if tanks have been moved into garages, this could actually be seen as in accordance with the Annan agreement. And since this is a military area; having one or two heavy mortars standing around under covers shouldn't be a violation either.
But on the other hand; while the 240 mm mortars - that most likely were used in the bombardment of Homs in February and March - are covered, the 120 mm and 160 mm mortars clearly keeps firing. Therefore, rather than a complying with the ceasefire agreement by the government army, this to me seems more like an adjusted but continued use of military force on the opposition.

Video uploaded June 4. showing a large mortar being fired - allegedly at Homs on June 3. It is hard to get a handle on the size here, and I have not made an effort to make sure, but by comparing the effects of the shell being fired to those visible in the videos linked to further down from June 11. and 13. it seems clear to me that this is a 160 mm rather than a 240 mm model.
I haven't tried to firmly establish it, but it looks like this mortar is being fired from the same area as the one I've studied above (by the video uploaded on June 11. and linked to below I concider this confirmed to be of the same position - even if I would still need to do some work to prove it).

Video uploaded June 11: showing the 240 mm mortar being fired (at 2:46). It also shows both 240 mm mortars in the same position as in the video of March 27. (Link received via .)

Video uploaded June 13: This video is the clearest recording of the M-240 being used. During the video the mortar is being loaded - it takes a team of five or six to carry the 130 kg grenade. The mortar fires at 4:05.

Video uploaded June 28: An unexploded 240 mm mortar shell that - according to the title - was found in Homs. (link via @HamaEcho.)

The post weapons used on Homs contains more material on the 240 mm mortar (scroll down some to find the relevant section).

relevant posts on this blog:
- M5 highway, Aleppo - Damascus - (Homs on the map)
- air base missille attack - (A similar study)
- Hama
- Rastan
- weapons used on Homs
- Syria: Local photo sources. - (Local photographers)

- any corrections and additions are welcome. You can leave information as a comment or you can contact me at my Twitter account.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Just so you know, this area is a known garrison.