BISHQATIN, Syria - From a distance it looks rather like a big rusty metal box but closer inspection reveals the latest achievement of Syrian rebels: a home-made armoured vehicle waiting to be deployed.
Sham II, named after ancient Syria, is built from the chassis of a car and touted by rebels as “100 percent made in Syria.” It required a “month of work” for the design, assembly and development of the vehicle, says its designer Mahmud Abud from the Al-Ansar rebel brigade in the Aleppo region of northwest Syria. The fully-enclosed vehicle made from light steel is about four metres (yards) in length and two metres across, mounted with a 7.62 mm machinegun controlled from inside the cabin.
The vehicle has five cameras: three at the front, one in the back and another attached to the gun.
The crew inside the cabin are fully protected, with the driver manoeuvring the vehicle by watching a screen which displays video from the cameras. The gunner, seated next to the driver, can activate the machinegun by watching another screen and using a control stick equipped with push buttons. Pictures taken by an AFP photographer show at least two crew members comfortably sitting inside the cabin. The metal walls are 2.5 centimetres thick and said to be able to resist up to 23 mm cannon fire. The vehicle, however, can not withstand a rocket-propelled grenade or tank fire.
“This is my brother, a trained engineer, who got the idea. We got a car, left its diesel motor on the chassis and built the engine,” says Abud, based in a rebel command centre in Bishqatin, near the flashpoint city of Aleppo.
“Not including from the gun, the vehicle costs about $10,000,” he said.
Sham II, as the name suggests, is an enhanced version of its predecessor. The earlier model shielded the driver but the rest of the crew were exposed to enemy fire.
Sham I has already been deployed in combat while Sham II is soon to join the fray in Aleppo as part of the Saad Benmoaz battalion of the Al-Ansar brigade, says Abud.