On Thursday, April 30, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) shared a picture of a camouflage painted pickup truck fitted with four Grad 122mm unguided rocket launcher tubes mounted at the rear of the vehicle.
The improvised and mobile weapon system reportedly used to target Buni Yadi in April, a town in Yobe State, poses a threat to civilians in relatively safe garrisons, towns and troops located in super camps.
It enables the insurgents to target these heavily fortified and protected towns and super camps from a longer range of about 20km to 40km.
The first known use of “Grad” rockets was on the morning of February 23, 2019, when ISWAP targeted Maiduguri hours before voting began for presidential and parliamentary elections.
Another incident was recorded in March at the Diffa Airport in Niger Republic used by Nigerian and Nigerien aircraft to support Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF, operations against Boko Haram.
Both attacks were crude and highly inaccurate and did not involve an improvised Grad rocket launching system.
The 122mm Grad rockets are usually mounted on a Russian made BM-21 and its heavier Czech variant, the RM-70 multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) trucks, which are in the stock of the Nigerian Army.
Almeen Yaqub, a security expert tracking the Lake Chad conflict, described the MLRS pickup trucks by ISWAP as innovative, adding that the equipment would positively affect the group’s battlefield capacity.
“Two things worth noting, however, is that ISWAP would still remain faithful to their usual guerilla tactics in using them, conducting hit and run attacks before the Airforce shows up.
“The 122mm Grad rockets have proven extremely difficult to come by. ISWAP’s only supplies of them come from Nigerian Army stocks.
“ISWAP captured a rather large cache of them with the fall of Baga in 2018 and it has since used them in the Maiduguri and Diffa attacks. It’s reasonable to assume that ISWAP ran out of the rockets from then until the devastating March ambush in Goneri,” Yaqub said.
He said ISWAP would have the 122mm Grad rocket in too small a quality to really make a difference unless it was able to acquire them in large quantities through illicit arms markets.
Furthermore, Grads are also quite inaccurate in line with typical Soviet arms. They rely on saturation attacks with dozens of rockets to the point where accuracy doesn’t matter anymore because you know for sure that your target has been hit, Yaqub said.
HumAngle can also report on the use and recapture of other forms of artillery weapon systems deployed against military positions such as man-portable mortar and OTO-Melara 105 mm light howitzer.
According to security experts, for the military to fulfil its mandate of protecting the lives of citizens and securing the country, it must track and destroy such weapon systems, and there is no better time to do this than now, as it continues its unrelenting push to end the decade long insurgency.