Donkey-Borne Rocket Launchers Make It Into U.S. Army Manual
First seen in Iraq, these improvised weapons now feature in a training guide
During the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, American troops came under repeated attack by crude, donkey-hauled rocket launchers. The Pentagon quickly doubted the seriousness of the weapon. An official American Forces Press Service story called the attacks “militarily insignificant.”
“But, these attacks have had, frankly, no tactical value and they are militarily insignificant,” Kimmitt declared.
Kimmitt noted that three of the four donkeys rounded up after the Baghdad rocket attacks were harnessed to rocket-launching devices.
Another donkey, Kimmitt remarked, was found carrying explosives and a propane tank. “You’d detonate the propane tank; loud boom, loud flash – dead donkey,” he concluded.
Why, Kimmitt rhetorically asked, would insurgents be “firing rockets at an empty (oil) ministry building on a Friday, which is (the) equivalent of a European Sunday?
“They’re trying to grab headlines,” he answered.
But that didn’t stop Iraqi fighters from trotting out another launcher almost three years later, according to an official U.S. Air Force feature story. And that sort of persistence is probably how the weapon earned its spot in the World Equipment Guide.
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Intelligence Support Activity – a.k.a. TRISA – compiled three volumes covering ground weapons, aircraft, missiles, warships and coastal defenses. Army commanders refer to the handbooks to make sure troops playing enemy forces during drills are realistically armed.
In a cover sheet, TRISA director Gary Phillips further explains the manual’s purpose.
The equipment portrayed represents military systems, variants, and upgrades that U.S. forces might encounter now and in the foreseeable future. It is a living document and is updated. The authors analyze real-world developments and trends to assure that the OPFOR remains relevant.
The WEG was developed to support OPFOR portrayal in training simulations (constructive, virtual and live) and other related activities, and is approved for those uses.
In keeping with this goal, the entry on the “Donkey Cart Multiple Rocket Launcher” – also referred to in the section as an “improvised multiple rocket launcher,” or IMRL – fills a surprisingly detailed page.
Although communications are not necessary, organized cells can employ observers with cell phones to monitor the targets to assure maximum loss of target personnel and materiel.
The weapon is moved within 300-600 [meters] of the target. In targeting hotels, the target size increases the likelihood of a hit. The weapon may be mounted on an adjustable launcher for aiming. In the case of the September-November 2003 Iraqi attacks, the launchers were fixed and canted upward, and the carts were shifted around to aim the launchers. During one launch, no more than 10 of the 30 rockets launched, with 6 hitting the hotel.
Configurations will vary to avoid creating a recognizable pattern. Mounting on trailers or carts permits IMRLs to be configured to resemble a variety of common sights which can be seen and disregarded by passers-by. One IMRL was disguised to resemble a generator trailer. They can be pulled behind vehicles, or even be hand-drawn into launch position. The same launchers can be mounted in the back of vehicles.
At least one cart was wired for detonation as an improvised explosive device (IED). Some of the better equipped insurgents/ terrorists have used IED remote detonating systems (garage door openers, cell phones, stopwatches, mine command detonation systems, light beam triggers, seismic switches, thermal sensors, etc.). Addition of such a device would create additional hazard in dealing with these systems.
Militants first used the donkey-borne rocket launchers to attack hotels in Iraq in September 2003. What was once “military insignificant” has officially made the training manuals and the history books.