Iraq’s war on ISIS has come to an end and redevelopment of the armed forces with new equipment has become a priority. The Iraqi armored divisions played a pivotal role in the war on ISIS with heavily armored tanks such as the Abrams being a center point in operations. In several ISIS videos the Abrams tank was hit by an Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) but time and time again the Iraqi tanks were able to keep operating, sometimes with minor repairs. In total after 4 years of fighting ISIS the Iraqi military had 18 damaged Abrams, with most being repaired. While budget constraints prevent the Iraqi military from ordering more Abrams there is now a project to upgrade T-55/Type 69 tanks to a more modern standard, greater protection and cheaper operating costs than the Abrams. Many operations utilized the Abrams not just for it’s protection but for it’s advance suite of electronics, target acquisition and fire power. In this respect, many older tanks could fulfill the role of the Abrams in the Iraqi Army if appropriately upgraded.
Commander of the ‘Al Abbas Fighting Division’ Maytham al-Zaidi stated that “The aim is to transform these (T-55/Type-69) tanks into capable modern tanks in this arena”. When queried about the expectations of the upgrades Commander al-Zaidi gave a short list.
- Locally manufactured electronics and ballistic computer to enable firing on the move and hitting moving targets
- Locally manufactured armor as well as Reactive armor layer imported from European suppliers
- Day and Night thermal gunners sight as well as a 360 degree panoramic commanders sight. Import country not noted.
- Encrypted communications and anti-jamming suite imported from Europe.
- Remote-operated commanders machine gun, independent of the gunner.
- Separate compartment to hold ammunition, similar to the Abrams to protect crews from breaches.
The tanks will be designed with combat experience against ISIS in mind as well as the terrain of Iraq. This will better optimize the tanks against potential threats in Iraq. Offers for tanks by European suppliers have been made but the size and role of these Main Battle Tanks is not in line with Iraqi combat experience. Nimble and well equipped tanks have been designated this role with the Russian T-90 and American Abrams taking the role of Main Battle Tanks for the Iraqi Army.
The tank design has been dubbed Kafil-1 or ‘Guarantor-1’ in English. After recent visits to the Czech Republic the Iraqi team organizing the upgrades were happy with the international support available for the project to ensure all critical components were available. Czech company ‘Excalibur’ specializes in upgrades for Soviet-era tanks and discussions with Iraqi officials were fruitful for the project.
Utilizing the combat experience of the Iraqi Army the team hopes to develop a tank that is very suited to Iraqi usage and provides for a niche that international tank suppliers have not filled. There has been interest by foreign countries in the project as many countries have similar built up urban and desert regions that would suit a tank of this nature.