Mahdi Army Using ‘Flying IEDs’ in Baghdad


Our boy Bill Roggio got his hands on some intel that filled in the blanks on that truck explosion in Sadr City this week.

“…the explosions were caused by the premature detonation of a Special Groups improvised rocket launching system. The system, which has been described as a flying improvised explosive device, or airborne IED, had received little attention until yesterdays explosions in Shaab.

“What I find disconcerting is there have been few corrections. This was not an engagement and these were not Special Groups transporting missiles and mortars in a bongo truck.”

The bongo truck was actually the “launch vehicle,” according to bomb experts who surveyed the scene. “This was a crude rocket launching system we call an IRAM [improvised rocket assisted mortars] that prematurely detonated causing the other rockets in the truck to catastrophically exploded,” Stover said. Two Mahdi Army Special Groups fighters were killed in the subsequent explosions, as well as 16 civilians. Twenty-nine civilians were wounded and 15 buildings were severely damaged.

There were five blast sites, the US military reported. The initial blast occurred at the rocket launcher, while the four other rockets were thrown several hundred meters to the east and detonated. “It is believed the intended targets were US Soldiers at [Forward Operating Base] Callahan and while in the final stages of preparing for the attack, for an unknown reason one rocket prematurely detonated causing the remaining rockets to launch and explode erratically.”

I dunno, what’s the difference between an improvised MLRS and an IED? Roggio tries to explain:

While the US military related the IRAM explosions in Sha’ab to the April 28 IRAM attacks on Joint Security Station Thawra I in Sadr City and Forward Operating Base Loyalty, there may be two improvised weapons systems at play. Both the JSS Thawra I and the FOB Loyalty attacks were conducted by pulling trucks right outside of the bases’ blast walls and firing the improvised rockets into bases. The attack on FOB Loyalty resulted in two soldiers killed and 16 wounded.

The US military said the weapons used in the April 28 attacks had a limited range of between 50 and 150 yards, according to a source familiar with the attack who wishes to remain anonymous. The US military said the range and size of the warhead on the IRAMs is classified.

Based on the images of the launchers used in the April 28 attacks [see slideshow], the IRAM looks to be a large canister, perhaps a propane or fuel tank, filled with explosives and propelled by 107mm rocket booster. These types of improvised weapons — essentially flying IEDs — would have a short range and would be highly inaccurate.

So, in a sense, what we’re looking at is a remote controlled, improvised multiple-mortar system. Kinda like an insurgent version of the Non-line of sight Launch System, or NLOS-LS…

What is clear is that the devices are using 107mm rocket charges. The US military said these charges are “of Iranian-manufacture.” The lot numbers and dates of manufacture show the rocket casings have been manufactured within the past three years.

The rocket casings shown in the images provided by Multinational Forces Iraq are the same type used in the Chinese-made Type 63 towed 107mm Multiple Launch Rocket. The Iranians manufacture this weapons system and the rockets, according to a former US military intelligence analyst familiar with Iranian munitions and weapons systems.

The type of improvised launch system and rocket is not new to warfare. The Irish Republican Army used a similar system to conduct a February 1991 attack on 10 Downing Street, the London office and home of the British prime minister.

(Gouge: BR)

— Christian

  • pedestrian

    I’ve seen many concepts of IEDs in the past few years, I’ve heard about anti-air IEDs as well, but I have no clue about the advantages of this system over trucks loaded with mortar and MLRS. Usually I get excited about new concepts, but there were just unanswered questions that flooded my mind before getting excited. I don’t know what the Mahdi Army is trying to achieve with this ineffecient system. Why blow it up and trash an equipment? Why not just engage in MLRS attacks?

    • wayde
    • wayde
  • C4Casey

    Anti-air IEDs? How do those work?

  • DJ Elliott

    It means they are running short of munitions. they are trying to get a bigger bang from smaller propelents since they are not getting the heavy 240mm rounds anymore.
    The supply lines are being rolled up.
    Notice this started in April, after Basrah and the south were engaged. No supply lines…

  • atacms

    This is a job for the Centurion/Phalanx CIWS, we definitely need to have more of them out there, not just for the Green Zone!

  • SpudmanWp

    I think these are designed to overwhelm any defenses. Being close in and multiple rounds does not give the defenders much time to react.

  • Camp

    Reminds me of the IRAs 10 Downing Street attack.
    It’s rather interesting to see 2005 & 2006 stamped on those tubes. I’d have to guess they’ve run out of the pre-war stockpiles. Makes you ponder where the new stuff came from… No?
    I have no idea how the CRAM would handle a multiple spread & short range system like this. But I wonder if the Army could modify an anti-RPG system (with longer range) to use inside the wire & work it in conjunction with the CRAM?… Eh, maybe.
    The IRAM probably has a trajectory just like the Israeli Carpet system at 65m-165m.
    For the heck of it…
    “Tropic Thunder” :p
    “Royal Irish Regiment – Clear The Way”

  • J House

    It seems like a good way to stealthily move closer to the target without being tipped off early that it appears to be a weapons system.
    I hope trucks near FOB’s are thoroughly being searched for armaments like these.
    Quite an improvement over the Donkey-assisted MLRS attack on the al Rashid hotel in Oct 2003.
    I don’t think these are acts of desparation, but more like improvements in the enemy TTP’s to move in closer to coalition forces before executing an attack, instead of firing blindly from a distance like in Sadr city.
    This IED terminology business is starting to lose meaning…these aren’t much different in their workings to mortar rounds, and probably less effective (and definitely less safe to transport).
    Maybe they are having difficulty getting quality arms, but I doubt it. There is still alot of money flowing around Iraq and plenty of opportunities to get hold of weapons like mortar rounds, rockets and RPG’s.

  • J House

    How many Iranian-assisted attacks must our country suffer before we unleash the full military might of the U.S. on Iran?
    They have been responsible for killing our troops directly and by proxy now for over 25 years.
    When will we have a leader that will say ‘enough’, and bring war to the Iranian leadership responsible for this?
    Would we have taken this crap in 1944?

  • SZ

    First off, quit calling the group the Madhi Army, they are not the Army of the Mahdi, they are the Muqtada (al Sadr) Militia. To call them the Mahdi Army, is to give them a religious mandate and further their aim.
    Second, Iran is providing a great deal of expertise and arms support. We must acknowledge that and interdict that support.

  • Hooded swan

    If they call themselves the Mahdi Army, then that’s what they are. To call them something else is another version of calling other people “supporters of terrorism” just because they don’t support Bush administration policy. (If I was a Shia Muslim that doesn’t approve of MAS, I’d be offended at this mis-appropriation of the title of my messiah)
    If these guys were really being armed by Iran, they wouldn’t have to improvise their own rockets instead using ones made in Iranian factories.

  • Kaltes

    “Air IED”?
    Oh please, call it what it is: a crude mortar.

  • TB

    To call them the Mahdi Army, is to give them a religious mandate and further their aim.
    Their actual literal name is Jaish Al Mahdi, “Army of the Mahdi.” They have business cards and and their members carry ID cards stating as much.

  • David

    So why dont we just go stick an American flag in IRAN already what the hell are we waiting for? They talk the talk but do they really think they can hold up against us in a all out war? My boots are on Stand by waiting for the day. Hopefully we make a move sooner than later before they catch us off guard. Why wait for them to attack? When we can have the element of surprise, to our advantage.

  • Sven Ortmann

    “The US military said the range and size of the warhead on the IRAMs is classified.”
    OMG. They don’t want civilians to know abut foreign weapons. That’s BS. As long as it’s no Western weapon design but an adversary design there#s no good reason fro classifying.
    This classifying does not protect our secrets, but protects secrets of “them” that were already compromised.

  • Brad B.

    Sven, it’s safe to assume that whoever built this thing was never able to field test it. Because of that, the US releasing data on the range of the weapon would only help the builders either develop tactics based on it’s capabilities or help improve the weapon. That’s why it should remain classified.

  • Jimbo Jones

    i bet the antiwar lefties are rejoicing about this…

  • pedestrian

    >Anti-air IEDs? How do those work?
    Aerial IED may be the more often used term back then. It was also mentioned in Defense Tech. You may also look at the article from Telegraph for a brief explanation. This was one of the most shocking IED concepts I have ever heard in my life. However, there are also reports that denies such IEDs, and not much is known about it, and it has not been often used.'aerial-bombs‘.html

  • pedestrian

    >I’d have to guess they’ve run out of the pre-war stockpiles.
    I hope so, but there are more rumors coming from Pentagon about China exporting weapons to these terrorists via Iran. Is this a nother proxy war of a New Cold War against China?

  • Da’ Buffalo Amongst Wolves
  • Smith

    At least there is one small consolation – bomb builders who work out of their garages have a difficult time surviving their own learning curve.

  • Smith

    And to those who want to invade Iran – with what army? Afghanistan and Iraq currently have the Total Force (all services) stretched to the max in order to sustain it. Iran has a population of about what, 70 million? How on earth do you intend to exert control over that large of territory and population?
    A limited incursion is more feasible, but from what we saw of the last limited incursion into Iran (Hussein in the early 1980s) it would offer no lasting advantage for he who attempted it.
    The only option for Iran now is air strikes, which thankfully both the US and Israel greatly excel in.

  • hj

    Our troops need to invade our own government, specifically those who have motives in directing our government to fight and hate.

  • upchuckie_cheezits

    This is my first time at this site so I may be asking a question which may have been answered before, or which is obvious to everyone but me. If so, my apologies.
    Why do Iranians mark their 107mm rockets with date and lot labels in English?