On April 20th 2017, The Islamic State-affiliated ‘Amaq News Agency’ published a video report from the raging battle in western Mosul. The video, titled “An innovation enters the battlefield in Mosul”, showed an Islamic State (hereafter IS) brown camouflaged SVBIED fitted with five rocket pods on the roof of the car.
Each pod contained a (likely) 73mm recoilless rifle round, and the rocket pods were in turn wired to a firing mechanism operated by the SVBIED driver. The firing mechanism appeared visually similar to the standardised white box detonation mechanisms commonly seen in SVBIEDs used by IS. It contained 5 firing switches (each corresponding to a rocket) wired on separate firing circuits, with a safety mechanism that needed to be pressed before the rockets were primed.
Furthermore, the video featured a sequence filmed by an IS hobby drone, in which a rocket-upgraded SVBIED could be seen racing toward an Iraqi army position in western Mosul, firing off a few rockets before detonating the main payload.
While most rocket-upgraded SVBIEDs were fitted with 5 rocket pods, the quantity and placement of the pods varied. Examples ranged from between 4 to 7, and even 10 rockets. One example had its 4 rocket pods fitted close together right above the driver’s seat, facilitating aiming and increasing the accuracy of the rockets when fired.
However, IS only ever manufactured around a dozen rocket-upgraded SVBIEDs. On top of that, they were introduced at such a late point in the battle that the majority of them were captured intact by Iraqi forces as the remaining IS enclave in western Mosul collapsed.
Its low usage coupled with the lack of recordings of its use also made it difficult to determine how successful rocket-upgraded SVBIEDs were compared to other SVBIED designs employed by IS during the battle of Mosul.
While an impressive SVBIED design innovation, its introduction was too late and too low in numbers in order for it to have had a military impact on the course of the battle. Rocket-upgraded SVBIEDs were only used during the late stages of the battle of Mosul, and have never seen use since then.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Islamic State’s development and use of SVBIEDs during the entire battle of Mosul, read my lengthy case study that I wrote for Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Centre. An excerpt is available here.
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