ISIS Weapons Manufacturing Facility Uncovered in Fallujah
Ian Wright posted on July 12, 2016 |
Documents reveal “sophisticated production chain, involving seven different workshops.”
ISIS-manufactured improvised rocket-assisted munitions. (Image courtesy of Conflict Armament Research.)
ISIS-manufactured improvised rocket-assisted munitions. (Image courtesy of Conflict Armament Research.)
The struggle between civilization and barbarism is a staple of human history.

The ancient Romans had the Visigoths. We have the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Although the rules of the game haven’t changed for millennia, the weapons systems have advanced considerably. So how do modern day barbarians like ISIS get their hands on modern day weapons?

The answer, it turns out, is by manufacturing them.

Field investigation teams from Conflict Armament Research (CAR) discovered numerous weapon production workshops in the recently recaptured city of Fallujah, which had been held by ISIS since January 2014.

The teams discovered daily production schedules in two of the workshops, one of which was issued by the ISIS “Committee for Military Development and Production.” According to a CAR report, “This document, and the physical evidence observed in the facility, suggests a sophisticated production chain, involving seven different workshops responsible for various stages of a weapon’s production.”


Inside an ISIS Workshop

One of the workshops visited by a CAR field investigation team was responsible for manufacturing improvised rocket-assisted munitions (IRAM). The workshop showed evidence of machining warheads, rocket motor nozzles and coupling screws.

Lathe in an ISIS workshop (left) and lathe-produced detonating fuses (right). (Image courtesy of Conflict Armament Research.)
Lathe in an ISIS workshop (left) and lathe-produced detonating fuses (right). (Image courtesy of Conflict Armament Research.)
Machined cones were welded to warheads and fitted with workshop-lathed contact fuses. A separate facility was responsible for filling the warheads with homemade explosive and loading the rockets with homemade propellant. 
 (Image courtesy of Conflict Armament Research.)
(Image courtesy of Conflict Armament Research.)
The homemade explosive is referred to as “grey material” by workshop personnel, which CAR identifies as likely being “a mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum, which is one of the most commonly observed homemade explosive substances produced in Iraq.”

Notes were found detailing the required lengths of detonating cord. A high-ranking ISIS bureaucrat, the assistant to the region’s “governor,” was in charge of distributing the spools of detonating cord. Other documents indicated that ISIS tested several types of rockets prior to large-scale production.

(Left) ISIS production manager's daily schedule for 2016. (Right) Improvised weapon production from September 2015 to May 2016. (Image courtesy of Conflict Armament Research.)
(Left) ISIS production manager's daily schedule for 2016. (Right) Improvised weapon production from September 2015 to May 2016. (Image courtesy of Conflict Armament Research.)
Even the production chain was carefully documented, including the names of supplier and recipient facilities. “These notes underscore how Fallujah’s workshops supplied IS forces elsewhere on a ‘manufacture to order’ basis,” said the CAR report.


Why is ISIS Manufacturing Weapons?

The most obvious answer to this question—ISIS is a group of barbarians and barbarians need weapons—is also the least interesting. Perhaps a better way to put the question is, “Why is ISIS manufacturing weapons rather than buying them?”

According to Havocscope, which collects and analyzes information about the black market, a rocket launcher can be purchased for USD$100 in Iraq, with grenades costing $50 each. Although ISIS has been losing its cash reserves to US airstrikes, surely if the group can afford to set up sophisticated supply chains then it could afford to purchase weapons rather than make them.

This raises the disturbing question of whether these workshops are part of the ongoing ISIS effort to establish an actual state. In Mosul, still under ISIS control, the group has reportedly been revising school curriculums, setting tariffs for waste disposal and banning litter. Could establishing a manufacturing infrastructure be another aspect of the group’s pretentions to governmental legitimacy?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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