Meet the latest innovation from Syria’s cash-strapped rebels.
Using a video game console remote, television screens and a large rusty metal box, opposition forces have engineered a rudimentary homemade tank they hope will help them conquer President Bashar Assad’s last strongholds.
An AFP reporter met the designer of the “100 percent made in Syria” contraption constructed from a car chassis as its base. Mahmud Abud of the Al-Ansar rebel brigade says it took him a month and $10,000 to design and assemble the vehicle he’s calling the Sham II.
The fully-enclosed vehicle made from light steel is about four meters (yards) in length and two meters across, mounted with a 7.62 mm machine-gun controlled from inside the cabin.
The vehicle has five cameras: three at the front, one in the back and another attached to the gun.
The crew inside the cabin are fully protected, with the driver maneuvering the vehicle by watching a screen which displays video from the cameras.
The gunner, seated next to the driver, can activate the machine-gun by watching another screen and using a control stick equipped with push buttons.
Adam Clark Estes of the Atlantic Wire describes the Sham II as “sort of rough around the edges, but it’s got impressive guts.” He writes:
Inside, it kind of looks like a man cave. A couple of flat screen TVs are mounted on opposite walls. The driver sits in front of one, controlling the vehicle with a steering wheel, and the gunner sits at the other, aiming the machine gun with a Playstation controller.
Designer Abud believes the tank can withstand up to 23mm cannon fire, but not rocket-propelled grenades or Syrian military tank fire. An earlier model rebel tank called the Sham I protected the driver from enemy fire but – unlike this enhanced version – other fighters in the vehicle were left exposed.
Rebels hope to deploy the Sham II soon to support their forces in Aleppo.
An interesting note about the name rebels chose for their new hardware. “Sham” is a name historically associated with the geographical region known as “Greater Syria.”
Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes wrote in his 1992 book Greater Syria: The History of an Ambition that until 1920, “Syria” referred to an area much larger than the Syrian Arab Republic of Bashar Assad (and prior to that of his late father Hafez Assad.) Pipes explained that region:
…stretched from the borders of Anatolia to those of Egypt, from the edge of Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea. In terms of today’s states, the Syria of old comprised Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, plus the Gaza Strip and Alexandretta. This larger land, known since 1920 as Greater Syria, is what they dream of reclaiming.
There’s continued evidence that extremist Islamist fighters, many from outside Syria, and Al Qaeda members are among the rebel forces. Some have expressed their desire to one day conquer Israel and Europe after they’re done with Assad. Add to this the name of the new tank – the Sham II – which leaves us with the question: Is “Greater Syria” including Lebanon, Israel and Jordan what they’re really after?
Watch video from Russia Today profiling the new fighting machine: