Kit Up! friend and best selling author CJ Chivers strapped on his body armor and pulled out his notebooks and pen for a wild ride with the so-called Forces of Free Libya over the last couple weeks.
(Photo: Bryan Denton from the CJ Chiver blog)
He’s had a number of great dispatches on the New York Times’ At War blog and at his website about the gear and tactics being employed by the rag-tag group of anti-Gadhaffians. But the latest post left me gasping.
Looks like our friends tooling around in DShK-wielding Toyotas have started welding aircraft rocket pods to their technicals in hopes of matching Libyan army firepower.
When it comes to mounting aviation weapons systems on pickup trucks, these kinds of weapons are, in a word, a sight. They are also a fright. They seem to spring from some post-apocalyptic dream, and in the eyes of many rebels their mere presence among otherwise lightly equipped forces suggests promise and power. But this is not quite so. In truth, the men who fire them have little idea of how far these rockets fly, a limited ability to change their elevation, and, (depending on the makeshift mount), often have no ability to traverse them left or right. Often times, those who fire them fire them this way: They point the front grill of their truck in the rough direction of the intended target, and commence launching a barrage. The result is obvious even before the first rockets whoosh into the air. Those involved can make their high-explosive rockets go up. They have only the faintest sense of where the rockets will come down.
And Chivers brings up a good point later in his post when he makes the uncomfortable admission that since these things can’t in any way be even close to accurately fired, they border on the indiscriminate.
Now, isn’t that what NATO forces are dropping bombs in Libya — to protect civilians. How can we be assured that the Libyan Mad Max weaponry isn’t hitting the very people we’re trying to “protect?”
Many Libyan rebels – more spirited than experienced – nonetheless approve of their rocket brigades. With their almost sci-fi aesthetic, and the tremendous noise and show they make when fired, they are a morale-booster for troops who know little of effective tactics or of how modern weapons actually work.