Iraq - AMX-30 AuF1 / GCT 155mm

In 1982 Iraq ordered a total of 85 AuF1/ GCT 155mm units from France, with deliveries commencing in 1983 and being completed in 1985.

The AuF1 is a SPG (self propelled gun) artillery unit is based upon the hull of AMX-30 MBT (main battle tank) but incorporating a new much larger turret to accommodate a 155mm/39-caliber gun with automatic loading system along with 42 rounds of ammunition.

Although it was conceived and designed to meet a French Army requirement due to an exclusive deal it was actually Saudi Arabia who received the first units with deliveries of 51 units beginning in 1978.

Iraqi AuF1s during a military parade in Baghdad.

Though this photo is undated part of the Arc of Triumph (also known as the Swords of Qādisīyah or Hands of Victory) is visible in the background.  This monument to the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) commissioned two year before it ended was opened to the public in late 1989 and dedicated to Saddam Hussien the following year, therefore it this photograph was taken between 1990 and the 2003 invasion, although probably in the earlier stages of that period.

The addition of the side skirts is visible, a feature also of Saudi but not French examples.  Indications of vehicle markings are also present on the front left fender.  These are likely to consist of a green triangle (generic army symbol) and the vehicles registration in Arabic numerals against a black background.

 Iraqi AuF1s were known to have been employed in the Iran-Iraq war, for which they were specifically ordered for, where the accuracy and 23.5km range of its gun reportedly proved very effective.

Whilst it is expected they played a role in the Invasion of Kuwait and subsequent Gulf War (1990-1991) no details of such service and potentially losses are readily available.  Their role, if any, against the 2003 invasion of Iraq is also unclear.  

However what is clear is that a number of AuF1 survived both conflicts relatively intact and this may be attributed to their potential lack of operational status following the arm embargos since the invasion of Kuwait which would prevent spares and support from the French manufacture.

This is evident from the large number of photograph of derelict Auf1s that have emerged since the 2003 occupation.  It is in fact one of the most photographed types, presumably due proportions of the 155mm gun.   The majority of these examples reside within Camp Taji (formerly a republican guard base) often in long rows.  Here are some of the better photographs I have identified:

A line of derelict AuF1s and a single 2S3 Akatsiya (far right) at Camp Taji

Close up of one of the AuF1 and 2S3 Akatsiya seen previously.
Note the machine gun gradle visible on the top right of the turret.  It is unknown what type of of machine gun Iraq would of mounted on their AuF1s but the following two options would seem the most likely: a)12.7mm/ 0.50 caliber M2 Browning (US) as mounted to French Army examples.  Iraqi forces had already had this type in service for many decades before receiving AuF1s OR  b) 7.62mm AA-52 (France) as identified fitted to a  Saudi AuF1, based on the only availalble photo.

Perhaps someone with more knowledge can identify what specific type of gun would fit this cradle?
UPDATE: 10/07/2011

In regards to the turret mounted machine gun, it has been highlighted that in the early parade photograph that no gun or cradle is mounted.  This therefore raises the possibility that it was a later Iraqi addition thus widing the range over which gun could of been fitted, including the russian DShKM.


Sri Lanka Daimler Mk.II Armoured Car

The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) previously operated an unknown number of Daimler Mk.II Armoured Cars.  However there is very little information available about their service with the SLA.  

Daimler Armoured Cars were designed and produced in the United Kingdom during WWII with a total of 2,694 (Mk.I&II) being built.  They were exported to a handful of countries, with some staying on in British service into the 1960s.

It is unclear when the SLA first received its Daimler Armoured Cars or in what numbers.  They may have been handed to Ceylon Defence Force (the colonial precursor to the SLA until 1949) during British rule or possibly exported later following independence.  It is equally unclear exactly when these WWII era vehicle were withdrawn from active service, although it would appear some examples were operational into the 1990s and possibly early into the next century.  The SLA may also retain one or more examples in workable condition for ceremonial duties.

The Curious Case of AY4277

By far the most common and often only photographed SLA example is the remains of “AY4277” at Elephants Pass in Northern Sri Lanka.  There are a large number of photographs of this particular vehicle available online, many more than I have displayed in this article.  Although it might appear that there may be more than one example, closer inspection indicates it to be the same vehicle.

The registration AY4277 can be seen on the front of the vehicle.  The front of the vehicle is facing the camera however the turret is facing the rear although the gun barrel is not present.
Elephants Pass is a strategically important military base connecting the Jaffna Peninsula to the rest of the island.  Consequently it has been the scene of much fighting between the SLA and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) also known as the Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan Civil War.

It is not known quite how or when AY277 was damaged and immobilised in this position.  Reports that the vehicle struck a mine are often cited but I am not convinced the damage is consitent with this.  The vehicle was probably damaged in the first battle of Elephant Pass (1991) which was an unsuccessful attempt to capture the base by the LTTE or the Second battle of Elephant Pass (2000) in which the LTTE succeeded and not only captured the base but also a number of SLA equipment.

Another view of AY277, this is one of the earliest dated photograph (2002) with the original SLA camouflage scheme is still at least partially visible.  It consisted of light tan/sand, green and black, a common scheme for SLA vehicles, particularly other SLA armoured cars like the Alvis Saladin.
This less common side view indicates that a significant amount of the rear engine compartment has been removed or destroyed.

LTTE relocation and refurbishment of AY4277

Whilst the area was under LTTE control and some point between 2006 and 2009 AY4277 was relocated next to the main road near to the road sign for Elephant Pass.  It was also refurbished to some degree, however it appears such efforts were purely cosmetic and that the vehicle was not repaired to a workable operational standard.

The purpose of such efforts would likely either be for LTTE propaganda and/or to act as a decoy against Sri Lankan government forces.

Study of the available photographs indicates the following modifications were made:

  1. New wheels/tyres. These appear to be smaller than the originals although also apparent is the damage to the suspension.
  2. Chassis repair work.  Previously damaged areas reworked using sheet metal or spare parts from other vehicles.  The most obvious areas this is visible are the rear engine compartment and front, neither of which match the original design.
  3. Repainted to a four tone green, brown, tan and black disruptive camouflage scheme.  This scheme closely matches those applied to other LTTE vehicles and equipment.
  4. Replacement gun barrel.  This appear to be a fake barrel possibly a drain pipe or similar.  This is not present in all photos indicating it was either later addition or was at some stage removed.

This vehicle is still assessed to be AY4277, primarily due to the reworked rear engine section, which was destroyed and the rearwards facing turret.

Other examples……

The only other example of an SLA Daimler Armoured Car I have been able to identify is a preserved example at a SLA base.

From left to right; Daimler Ferret, Daimler MK.II Armoured Car, Alvis Saracen, a very rare shot of a SLA BTR-152 and a further unidentified vehicle.  Note the curved shape of the gun mantle of the Daimler Armoured Car identifying it as a Mk.II as opposed to a Mk.I which was more rectangular mantle.  Another interesting note is the two headlights on the front as opposed to the one visible on AY4277.

The same row of preserved vehicles during an open day in 2009, with the further addition of a [operational] T-55 in the background.  The standard SLA markings are clearly visible.