Syria’s rebels may have taken the concept of a video game a tad too far. A homemade rebel tank has recently been seen rolling down the road like a post-apocalyptic battle wagon — and armed with a machine gun controlled like it’s a PlayStation.
The Sham II — reportedly so named after ancient Syria — is also ready to be added to the rebels’growing arsenal of DIY weapons. According to the AFP, a rebel engineer based near the city of Aleppo spent a month building the armored vehicle around a re-purposed car chassis, added cameras to it, and then hooked up a machine gun to a PlayStation controller and a TV screen inside. Four meters long and two meters wide, the vehicle is now readying to “join the fray in Aleppo as part of the Saad Benmoaz battalion of the Al-Ansar brigade.”
It’s the gun that makes it into a proper fighting vehicle, if on the crude side. The machine gun appears to be a 7.62 millimeter PKM with a camera hooked onto it. This gun and its camera are also controlled by a game controller from inside the truck. The driver, meanwhile, has a TV screen linked to three cameras mounted to Sham II’s front with a fourth camera in the back. Protecting both the driver and gunner are 2.5 centimeters of steel plating, which can’t resist rounds from tanks or rocket-propelled grenades but is reportedly able to withstand fire from a 23-millimeter cannon.
“Not including from the gun, the vehicle costs about $10,000,” a rebel named Abud, whose brother built the vehicle, told the AFP.
But it’s hard to say how effective the machine really is at resisting bullets. If the armor is sloppily built, it risks being knocked out by “spall.” That’s what happens when a piece of armor is hit by a projectile of sufficient power, and the armor is strong enough to stop the round from penetrating, but is still hit with enough force to cause a concussive blast wave to detach shards of material from the armor’s interior side. The blast wave then propels that material through the interior of the vehicle at incredibly high speeds. That can be very lethal to passengers and crew, and means that bad armor can often be worse than no armor at all.
The Sham II is also reportedly an upgrade to an even cruder predecessor. The first Sham has already seen combat, but only had enough armor to protect the driver. Syria’s rebels aren’t the only insurgents building crude, homemade armored trucks, either. Mexican drug cartels use them, often F-150s and semi-trucks re-purposed with steel plates, firing ports and room for passengers.
The thing is, the rebels also have real tanks captured from Assad’s army. Those have been used in recent weeks to repeatedly shell regime troops and bases, as the rebels continue seizing territory, particularly in Syria’s north. On Sunday, a rebel group comprised of Islamic extremists reportedly captured a major military base to the west of Aleppo — the last base to the city’s west that was still under Assad’s control. But the war isn’t over yet, and the rebels need every piece of equipment they can get their hands on; which apparently now includes a meatspace videogame.