Thomas Wictor

Improvised weapons mean that nobody is supporting you

Improvised weapons mean that nobody is supporting you

I’m fairly sure that almost all of the opinions expressed about the Syrian civil war are superficial talking points. In other words, almost nobody is actually taking the time to think. We’re told that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are supporting Islamist rebels who are virtually identical to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. If that’s true, why do Islamists in Syria use improvised weapons such as the “hell cannon”?

Improvised worthlessness

Jihadists in Syria went back in time a full century and recreated the Livens projector.



The original projector was improvised by Lieutenant William Howard Livens of the Royal Engineers in 1916.


He also invented the first dishwasher.

The Livens projector was a steel tube used to transport flamethrower oil. Livens found that a smaller container fit snugly inside, so he put an explosive charge in the tube, filled the other can with oil, and dropped it in. When he set off the charge, the can of oil flew very far and burst when impacting the ground. Livens then began manufacturing purpose-made projectors that fired either oil or poison gas. These devices were used in batteries of 25.

In Aleppo, Syria, a hundred years later, jihadist terrorists have adopted even crappier versions of the Livens projector. They call it the hell cannon.

Although these improvised weapons cause casualties, the question remains: Why hasn’t Saudi Arabia or Turkey provided the Islamists with modern mortars?

Improvised versus the real thing

Here’s what a trained mortar squad can do.

Mortars are easily disassembled and sent anywhere.


If Saudi Arabia and Turkey wanted the jihadists to win, they’d send them mortars by the truckload. We wouldn’t see hell cannons or ridiculous, suicidal toys like this.

Here’s the muzzle flash made by the monstrosity above.


It’s a giant neon sign for counter-snipers, which is why that weapon was never used in combat. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) fired it at empty buildings.

Improvised lies

I’m now convinced that Russia is as destructive as Iran. Here’s a totally bogus report about the Aleppo neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud, which is populated by Kurds.

So much to unpack.

Here’s a shallow crater made by a hell-cannon round that didn’t explode.


If the jihadists had real mortars, they could kill everyone in Sheik Maqsoud. So again, why haven’t the Saudis and Turks given the Islamists the weapons they need to win?

This is all street-level blast damage.



It’s pretty convenient the jihadists fired their hell cannons right where a Russian journalist was visiting. I’m guessing that it was an improvised explosive device (IED) planted by Assad’s allies.

The destruction below was without question caused by explosives placed inside the house.


A round from a hell cannon can’t level an entire concrete building. The explosive is ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO); since the rounds are made from small propane tanks, a single shot couldn’t bring down a building.

Here’s a hell-cannon round.


It wasn’t fired. There are no scorch marks from the explosive charge used as the propellant.

People armed with improvised weapons always lose. If the Saudis and Turks wanted the Islamists to win, they would give them the means.

Next: This is actually one of the Syrian Arab Air Force’s barrel bombs. See the red arrow?


That’s a suspension lug. Only aerial munitions have them.


You hang the munition from the aircraft using suspension lugs. A munition with a suspension lug can’t be fired from a cannon. The Russian reporter is lying.

Vanes (red arrow) caused the tube on the end to spin in flight.


That tube is the arming assembly. By spinning, it removed a safety pin from the fuse and exposed the detonator to a firing mechanism, which should’ve caused the bomb to explode when it hit the ground. Since the whole thing is improvised, it failed.

Improvised dialog

The Russian screws up again.


That’s the warhead of a French 68mm SNEB rocket.



The whole room is full of SNEB rockets, because they’re fired by Syrian Arab Air Force Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopter gunships. Below is one captured by the Israelis.


And finally we have this.


Why, yes! We can determine the origin! That is a Bulgarian Bulcomers KS 82mm high-explosive mortar round.


The Saudis use French and American mortars; the Turks use American, French, and Israeli mortars. You know who uses Russian mortars that fire Bulgarian rounds? The Syrian Arab Army and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Therefore pretty much everything in the video was caused by Assad and his allies.

Improvised? No

The video caption says that the Jazira Canton (Kantona Cizîrê) was attacked from this village. Therefore fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) approached, made contact by radio, identified themselves, and fired warning shots.

Then four men went to speak to the villagers. Below is a very interesting screen grab. At the top is one of the gigantic gun trucks that I told you I could hear in videos. This is the first time I’ve seen one.


It’s a vehicle used by special operators. I count at least three gun stations.

All four of the men who met with the villagers carry their rifles slung barrel down, an internationally recognized signal that trained soldiers use to demonstrate non-hostile intent. The man on the left is armed with an AK-47, while the others have American M-16s. Those three also wear body armor. One has a boonie hat (red arrow).


The boonie hat was adopted by the US Army during the Vietnam War and has become the signature headgear of unconventional warriors all over the world. Below are Chilean naval commandos.


I’ve never seen a Syrian Kurd wearing a boonie hat.

There’s no doubt that the non-Islamists fighting in Syria are being supported with large numbers of special operators on the ground.

So far I’ve seen no concrete evidence that the Islamists have wealthy sponsors. You don’t see Kurds having to go back in time and cobble together improvised weapons that are next to useless. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey have supported a multitude of groups, but it seems clear to me that the idea expressed below has no bearing on reality.


Besides, Carlos Latuff is in no position to bitch about terrorism, given his doglike love for Hamas.

If Islamists in Syria are getting state support, why has their war turned into a deadly version of this?