Reuters van attack: 70mm unguided rocket?

posted at 10:37 am on August 29, 2006 by Allahpundit

So I e-mailed Noah Shachtman of Defense Tech and asked him to look at the photo of the Reuters van that was hit by the IAF in hopes of identifying what ordnance they used. While conceding that the damage looked “strange, strange,” he said he wasn’t overly familiar with the Israeli arsenal and therefore refused to speculate — a show of scruples and prudence which, if there’s any justice, will lead to his immediate excommunication from the Church of Blogging.

Fortunately, a reader claiming to be an intel expert who’s done some work on battle-damage assessment shot me an e-mail about it soon afterward. Here’s what he had to say (all emphases mine):

***
The van was hit with either the “M” variant of the Hellfire missile or a 70mm unguided rocket.

The AGM-114M Hellfire is a recent variant that, unlike earlier models, is not designed to penetrate armor. If the van had been hit with an anti-armor variant, the van would have been toast. Although a van like that does have decent armor, it’s nothing compared to a tank, which is what the Hellfire is designed to destroy. If you do a search on youtube for “hellfire missile”, you’ll see what I mean. With the new war on terror, the “M” variant was developed to attack “soft” targets like personnel in the open and unarmored vehicles. It’s designed to do blast and fragmentation damage.

The damage on the van looks a little light to me for this missile, but it’s still possible given the armor. The way the Hellfire works is that it’s a top-attack weapon. It’s designed to fly up and then dive down at the target – not hit it from the side, like you’d expect from a low-angle helicopter shot… The missile detonates above the target, spraying the surrounding area with shrapnel. The large dent and rupture in the top above the passenger seat is probably the nose of the missile (if it was a hellfire). The front of the missile is a guidance and electronics section, followed by the warhead, and finally the rocket motor. The front section on these missiles doesn’t always blow apart and it could have continued downward to cause the large dent and tear in the metal skin. The diameter of the indentation is two [sic] small to be blast damage from a hellfire which, like I said, explode above the target.

One problem with my hellfire theory is that the Israeli’s [sic] are not supposed to have the “M” variant yet. They had it ordered though. It’s possible that we shipped them some ahead of schedule similar to what happened with some other ordnance they were running low on. This would not be at all unusual, but I haven’t seen any reporting on this specific missile. Another problem with this theory is that the “victims” reported two missiles. Two Hellfires are never fired near-simultaneously at the same target (and even if they were, they would both hit). It’s possible another Hellfire went after a nearby target and gave the impression of two missiles. This kind of thing is hard to judge based on the limited information we have. The final problem with this theory is that the damage still does not look heavy enough to me. I can’t say for sure though, since the “M” variant is new and I’ve never seen it in action before.

My second theory, which I think is a slightly more probable, is that the van was attacked with two 70mm unguided rockets. Apaches and other helicopters frequently carry pods with these rockets. Here’s what they look like fired at night. Although unguided, at close range they are very accurate. This scenario would better fit the report of two rockets since they are usually fired in pairs. Although not definitive, the damage could easily have come from hit from one of these rockets. The 70mm rocket has a smaller warhead than the hellfire and is typically impact detonated. I think the damage seen is consistent with a rocket of this type.

Also, if you carefully watch the video of the van that first came out, you’ll notice a hole immediately above the left headlight. Because of the angle of attack for both a Hellfire, and a rocket, I don’t see how that hole could have been made there from a blast at or above the roof. However, a second rocket, hitting a short distance in front of the van could have caused that, which would be consistent with two rockets being fired. But this is pretty weak evidence – that hole could be from a lot of things.

So, in my view, it’s a tossup with a slight lead to the 70mm rocket theory in my mind.

A word about fighting at night. Much has been made in the MSM about the fact that the Van was emblazoned with Press, etc. Well, this means jack … at night unless the paint is designed to be seen in the Infrared spectrum. Attack systems use IR sensors at night – so a vehicle’s paint scheme can’t seen at all. The pilots were undoubtedly flying using image-intensifying NVG’s, but they are not magnified and you can’t make out detail with them from a distance. You can see the poor contrast they have by watching NVG videos on TV. So, it’s really impossible for the Israeli’s [sic]to know it was a press van at the time, especially since it was in close proximity to actual fighting. Press people who get in the midst of a battle at night are stupid. Identifying non-hostile targets is much more difficult. I suspect from the Israeli perspective it looked like reinforcements. Judging from the probable weapons used, the Israeli’s [sic] also didn’t realize it was armored – that’s something else that you can’t tell from IR – it just looks like a van or SUV. If they could tell it was armored, they would have used an anti-armor weapon.

Finally, a word on rust. There’s been a lot of talk about rust, including comments on several blogs about the Reuters van. Let me assure you that it doesn’t take visible surface rust very long to form in the Lebanese climate. If you look up the weather data for Lebanon for the past few days, you’ll see it’s been hot with 70 – 80% humidity. In that environment, rust can form very fast. This is especially true with metal exposed through battle damage. The missile explosion, or whatever, not only strips off the paint, but also the factory-applied galvanization designed to inhibit rust. With no protection in a hot humid environment, rust can and does form pretty fast – within a day or two easily. Overnight under ideal conditions. If you look at the first video of the van, you don’t see rust, but pictures taken a day or maybe two later show lots of rust.

***
Any Air Force people out there able to confirm/deny any of this?

Here’s FAS’s page on 70mm unguided rockets. If that was the weapon they used, it sounds like an M151 warhead was the culprit.

Update: Could it have been shrapnel? See here.


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One picture and we are suppose to trust that it’s the same vehicle! Sorry Charlie!!!

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on August 29, 2006 at 10:56 AM

quick question… if there is a logical explanation, and this really was some Israeli munition… why would they use it? You know what I mean? If this is the kind of damage it does, why wouldn’t they just fly over and drop a big rock? If they were intending to destroy the vehicle, I think they’d have used something to do it. (admittedly haven’t read the entire email above yet… perhaps this question is answered?)

RightWinged on August 29, 2006 at 10:59 AM

Judging from the probable weapons used, the Israeli’s [sic] also didn’t realize it was armored – that’s something else that you can’t tell from IR – it just looks like a van or SUV. If they could tell it was armored, they would have used an anti-armor weapon.

Anwyn on August 29, 2006 at 11:32 AM

Um … yeah. And the new versions of the missiles that were used, have also been designed to spread the damage with rust. It also causes temporary insanity, which then causes the injured victims to go crazy, rubbing their injuries on the side of the door as if bonding with the vehicle in some sick mating ritual, thus scaring the surrounding population and rendering them fearful of responding to the attack.

These missiles are especially unique in that they cause very little damage to human flesh, but only to the surrounding button down shirts and any hand held cameras. Using this new technology, we can then later extract information from the survivors by forcing them to watch South Park.

Gregor on August 29, 2006 at 11:41 AM

They were getting out of the van when the rocket hit. It’s impossible that they were wounded by shrapnel, then one guy staggered against the door, smearing blood on it?

Occam’s Razor: is it likelier that the IAF hit this van — as they’ve admitted doing — causing minor injuries to the two men inside and a few bystander, or is it an ingenious staging cooked up instantly by crack Palestinian propaganda squads, who somehow convinced the IAF that they actually targeted the vehicle when they hadn’t?

I’m going to stop posting about this stuff because the lengths to which people are willing to go to assume conspiracies is getting embarrassing.

Allahpundit on August 29, 2006 at 11:47 AM

There is no way that vehicle was hit with a HE warhead, unless it was a dud.

Where is the scorching? Where is the shrapnel damage? Where is the remains of the rocket?

I don’t see any of the above. FWIW, I’ve got some experience firing the 66mm LAW rocket. They go boom, make fire, blow shit up. They do not punch a hole and quit.

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 11:50 AM

We’re gonna have to start rolling back these allegations.

Up next–smoke clouds over Lebanon caused by Israeli “Clone Stamp” Explosive Ordinance. Bonus: Israeli Feathered Copy and Paste Flares Newest Tactic in Misinformation Warfare.

Not to disagree with Noah, I just thought it sounded funny.

JamesVersusEveryone on August 29, 2006 at 11:54 AM

I’m going to stop posting about this stuff because the lengths to which people are willing to go to assume conspiracies is getting embarrassing.

thank you.

pullingmyhairout on August 29, 2006 at 11:55 AM

It’s impossible that they were wounded by shrapnel, then one guy staggered against the door, smearing blood on it?

No, it isn’t impossible. At least until you look at the interior of the vehicle. (First photo here)

Do you see a single tear in the front seat he would have just left and been standing immediately next to? Unless they’ve developed flesh seeking shrapnel, it’s bull.

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 11:56 AM

I’m EOD, we see the results of these kinds of attacks up close and personal. I can say that a direct hit from either a Hellfire Missile (even the AGM-114M variant) or a “70mm” (commonly called a 2.75 inch rocket by U.S.) would have done significantly more damage to even a heavier armored vehicle.

According to Wikipedia the hellfire “M” variant is designed for targeting “Ships, Caves and Air Defense units” with a “Blast/Fragmentation and Incendiary” warhead. Where’s the burn marks? Where is the fragmentation damage? These things are laser guided, they don’t miss, and I find it hard to believe they’d use such overkill for a single vehicle. If they’re designed to be used against ships, they have to have some armor-piercing capability, and the hole is simply not consistent with that.

The 2.75 rockets are a more likely choice to hit a single vehicle, they’re cheap, and they’d do the job nicely. Unfortunately, the amount of damage from a direct hit would be much greater. The warhead on the smaller variant of those would carry 10 lbs – more than 60mm mortars do, and I’ve seen what they do when dropped off an overpass onto an armored humvee! This just isn’t enough damage. The fuses on these rockets are PD (meaning “Point Detonating) and function upon impact. If the warhead had actually penetrated into the vehicle, there would have been nothing but hamburger left of the occupants (not to mention the blast overpressure would have blown windows and doors off, pulping the occupants lucky enough to be missed by fragmentation.

I think this new ‘expert’ is way off on this.

RustMouse on August 29, 2006 at 12:00 PM

Allah,

From a retired AF EOD Tech.

I was reading the article “Reuters Alleges Israeli Air Strike” and I have to disagree with Mike Weatherford. I retired last year after 24 years in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). I have years of experience with post blast investigations.The first photo of the Land Rover clearly shows evidence of an explosion. Looks to me like a hit from a 2.75″ HE rocket. The reason you don’t see a “normal” entry hole is the warhead detonated after glancing off the truck. Many of the fuzes used have a graze sensitive feature, so that even if you don’t get a good impact the secondary detonation train fires. The metal failed along the lines of least resistance. The pattern of damage is consistent with an explosion not in contact with the vehicle. As for the rust in the next photo, I was a steel worker before I enlisted. High tensile strength steel easily flash rusts once the protective coating is removed. I have no comment about the blood photos. The last photo I believe Mike Weatherford is correct in his interpretation.

He doesn’t have an account here on Hot Air so I’m posting this for him.

Sarah D. on August 29, 2006 at 12:05 PM

How would the localized dent be explained, since it is quite deep, a glancing blow wouldn’t have formed it, and at any distance away from the surface, you would have seen a much greater pattern of fragmentation in the metal. The photo doesn’t show enough frag on the rest of the roof to be either a hit or a graze from a 2.75 rocket.

RustMouse on August 29, 2006 at 12:12 PM

Sarah D,

The reason you don’t see a “normal” entry hole is the warhead detonated after glancing off the truck.

If the warhead glanced off, what punched through the roof and hit the dashboard? Please direct him to that interior shot, also posted at Powerline.

RustMouse,

How would the localized dent be explained, since it is quite deep…

It’s more than quite deep, it’s punched through. See the interior shot.

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 12:29 PM

Oh, wait Sarah, I know who that is! :-)

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 12:35 PM

More-

the 10 pound warhead of the M151 HE round is the total weight of the warhead, not the explosive filler. The warhead actually has about 2 pounds of explosives.

And in reply to RustMouse -

The 2.75″ HE warhead is primarily a blast warhead. It’s not uncommon to see the warhead just split in half. Years ago when you could still smoke in gov’t buildings, I had half a 2.75″ for an ashtray! The warhead detonated around a foot above the roof IMO. If you look at the roof rack towards the back of the roof you can see some frag damage. The blast blew the hole in the roof. If it had been in contact with the roof, the damage would have been worse.

Hi Pablo!

Sarah D. on August 29, 2006 at 12:36 PM

Pablo asks:

If the warhead glanced off, what punched through the roof and hit the dashboard?

From JC’s quote above:

The metal failed along the lines of least resistance. The pattern of damage is consistent with an explosion not in contact with the vehicle.

IOW, the opening is caused by blast effect…not penetration so there wasn’t a missile (or rocket in this case) fragment associated with impact to the dashboard. As RustMouse asks,

How would the localized dent be explained, since it is quite deep…

I think JC means that the detonation train fired very close aboard. I would expect that means fragments are actually directed away from the vehicle.

EW1(SG) on August 29, 2006 at 12:47 PM

I would expect that means fragments are actually directed away from the vehicle.

Or rather that you just expect many. ;)

EW1(SG) on August 29, 2006 at 12:56 PM

Lame! why are we bending over backwards to try to imagine how this shoddy story could possibly be accurate.

The blast/frag HELLFIRE theory: Where is the fragmentation damage? There is none. Theory dead. Don’t get me started on the lack of BLAST damage. The missile supposedly detonates while IN CONTACT with the vehicle, its nose sticking into the top, and it leaves what? Scuff marks??

70mm unguided rocket theory: Unguided rockets are incredibly inaccurate, which is why they are fired in volleys. Your reader points out that, at close range, the rockets can be used accurately, and this is true at very close range. Thing is, if the rocket is fired at this close range, it does far more damage. It also doesnt make sense that the IAF would bother trying to play sharpshooter with rockets when guns would do the same job more easily from a greater distance with elss collateral damage. The smallest warhead, the M151, is described by the army as having a blast radius of 10 meters and a lethal fragmentation radius of over 50 meters, and yet this barely-armored-if-that light vehicle less than 1 meter away ends up with nothing more than cracked glass and a little hole in the roof? Please…

MY THEORY: The vehicle pictured was not fired on by the IDF. The IDF fired on, and destroyed, a DIFFERENT vehicle, and this whole thing was a calculated propaganda ploy planned for in advance by the Palestinians. It was poorly done from a technical standpoint, because the vehicle was nowhere near damaged enough and the individual who was supposedly injured did not look very believable either, a notch better than the ‘relief worker’ lying in the rubble perhaps.

I think, at this point, my theory is the only reasonable one. I lament that these supposed experts are even contemplating that something with the power of a Hellfire or a 70mm rocket detonated anywhere close to this vehicle without causing any fragmentation damage whatsoever, let alone no blast damage, leaving the vehicle completely intact. As other commenters have mentioned already, maybe this was a rollover, but that is really irrelevant. It does not matter how this vehicle was damaged as long as it was NOT hit by a missile/rocket, which it clearly was not. The vehicle the IDF targeted and destroyed, a different vehicle, is probably nothing more than a blackened twisted frame, or a scattered mess of debris.

kaltes on August 29, 2006 at 1:05 PM

EW1, look at the center of the dashboard, where the windshield is shattered. It looks like something came through travelling at approximately a 45% downward angle from the passenger side toward the driver side. That may well explain what our intrepid photog was struck by. (I don’t recall any Pallywood productions that involved voluntary bleeding, so I’m assuming there was indeed some sort of event) Something hit the dashboard, and again I haven’t seen any shots of anything that looks like shrapnel impact or burn damage.

Now, if a rocket hit, and glanced off the roof while detonating, how would a guy climbing out of the passenger seat get struck by shrapnel? He’d be below the roofline, and it would go right over his head unless it was Magic Shrapnel. I had been assuming that they were asserting that the missile blew up inside the vehicle, in which case he’d have easily gotten hit.

And hey, many congratulations you crazy kids! The family that blogs together, erm… does other stuff together! Many, many happy returns.

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 1:10 PM

We’re bending over backwards to keep from being like them, and I think it is a discussion worth having. We at least need to be fair and debate both sides of an issue, doncha think?

I personally haven’t a clue (about this, anyway), but I do like to hear about various possibilities.

Bob's Kid on August 29, 2006 at 1:12 PM

And hey, many congratulations you crazy kids! The family that blogs together, erm… does other stuff together! Many, many happy returns.

Thanks Pablo!

Sarah D. on August 29, 2006 at 1:27 PM

The IDF fired on, and destroyed, a DIFFERENT vehicle, and this whole thing was a calculated propaganda ploy planned for in advance by the Palestinians.

Alternate theory: IDF struck a nearby building and a flying chunk of concrete from that explosion struck the vehicle, penetrated the roof and fragmented in the process, some of which hit the bleeding guy.

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 1:32 PM

Kaltes:

Thing is, if the rocket is fired at this close range, it does far more damage.

No, it has the same size explosive payload at launch as it does at impact. Maybe there’s a little fuel left at very close range, but the boom is pretty much the same.

Allah:

They were getting out of the van when the rocket hit.

That’s not what they said the next day; they said the rocket blew the doors open and they did not get out of the vehicle.

Finally, Allah, I think you’re cutting up a straw man with Occam’s razor. I don’t think we’re saying–at least I’m not– ” this was all a carefully staged Pallywood deception,” but rather a softer version: Reuters is relying on potentially biased witnesses to give context to this event. Something, I’ll concede, hit on or near a Reuters truck an injured the cameramen; by the time new reporters got there to interview eyewitnesses and snap the cameramen being loaded on stretchers and into ambulances, there were unnamed eyewitnesses (one with a cell phone wire in his ear) who just happened to blame it on an Israeli missile.

The only deception or inaccuracy that I suspect here is the eyewitness accounts blaming this on an IDF strike.

I’ve put in an e-mail to another expert and hopefully I’ll have a fuller rebuttal posted by this evening.

see-dubya on August 29, 2006 at 1:33 PM

Pablo:

It looks like something came through travelling at approximately a 45% downward angle from the passenger side toward the driver side. That may well explain what our intrepid photog was struck by.

It apparently wasn’t the rocket entering the passenger compartment, so whether the damage to the top of the car is related to the reported injuries, is open to conjecture.

And hey, many congratulations you crazy kids! The family that blogs together, erm… does other stuff together! Many, many happy returns.

Thank you!kaltes:

my theory is the only reasonable one. I lament that these supposed experts are even contemplating that something with the power of a Hellfire or a 70mm rocket detonated anywhere close to this vehicle without causing any fragmentation damage

Sorry, I’ve spent time at the explosives range with the EOD tech Sarah D. quotes above. Now, while I do a considerable amount of forensics myself, this is not my area of expertise by any means so I’ll defer to him. If he says it looks like a close aboard detonation of a 2.75″ rocket, I’d be willing to take that to the bank.I wouldn’t waste my time however, speculating how much of the rest of the story is accurate.

EW1(SG) on August 29, 2006 at 1:48 PM

Somehow, Pablo’s “Thank you!” and the separation to me quoting kaltes below that got squished together.

EW1(SG) on August 29, 2006 at 1:51 PM

No, it has the same size explosive payload at launch as it does at impact. Maybe there’s a little fuel left at very close range, but the boom is pretty much the same.

Actually while the warhead does not change, there is a substantial difference in damage inflicted because when a rocket is fired into a target at close range, it is still accelerating. The warhead weight is the lesser part of the rocket. There is a huge difference between a rocket that hits a target at long range where the momentum of the rocket at the time of impact is much less than one at close range, where the rocket motor is driving it through the target. This difference in momentum means that rockets that cannot defeat the armor of a given target under normal circumstances can sometimes destroy such targets at close range. I remember specifically reading about this being proven in combat in Vietnam, where, in situations where US troops lacked anti-armor weapons, helicopters used rockets at close range to defeat armored targets.

kaltes on August 29, 2006 at 1:58 PM

It apparently wasn’t the rocket entering the passenger compartment, so whether the damage to the top of the car is related to the reported injuries, is open to conjecture.

Those open questions are central to this event. I certainly respect JC’s expertise, but his suggestion that this could have been a 2.75, while it could account for the exterior damage, it doesn’t tell us what happened to the inside of that vehicle or what injured the photog. And something penetrated the roof. You can see stuff hanging from the hole from the inside in the top left of the interior shot frame. Do you know if he’s seen that shot? It is right next to his quote on Powerline, so if he hasn’t, he should!

See-dubya, your thoughts are very much along the same lines as mine.

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 2:04 PM

Ah ha, kaltes–you’re talking about its ability to penetrate armor, which is certainly going to be greater with a rocket motor pushing it along, and I’m just talking about the size of the boom (and resulting damage) when it gets through the armor and detonates, which ought to be a constant. Looks like we’re both right.

see-dubya on August 29, 2006 at 2:05 PM

Pablo,

…can you tell Pablo that what impacted the dashboard of the Land Rover was part of the roof of the vehicle itself. When an explosion happens outside of an armored vehicle the impact of the steel being driven inwards fragments the materials in the roof and drives them in. The military term for it is spalling. We used to have a round that the Sheridan tank fired called a HEP round, it was designed to not puncture the armor but deform it violently and causing spalls.

Sarah D. on August 29, 2006 at 2:12 PM

Sorry, I’ve spent time at the explosives range with the EOD tech Sarah D. quotes above. Now, while I do a considerable amount of forensics myself, this is not my area of expertise by any means so I’ll defer to him. If he says it looks like a close aboard detonation of a 2.75″ rocket, I’d be willing to take that to the bank.

I don’t think his explanation is possible. I do not think a rocket would “glance off” that paper-thin roof where the tear is. Weapons that glance off armored targets do so because the angle of impact is high enough that the armor is not defeated. Look again at that roof. The metal sheet covering the roof is thin, with a triangular hole TORN into it. If a rocket tore that hole, it would have continued down into the vehicle, not deflected away from the vehicle.

Also, if there was a rocket that exploded “not in contact” with the vehicle, but nearby, where is the fragmentation damage? All I see is some scratched glass on the back window.

I also want to emphasize that this is not an “armored” vehicle, something that other people have already posted. I think people jumped to that false conclusion because the vehicle looks boxy like those armored cars that haul money around.

kaltes on August 29, 2006 at 2:16 PM

kaltes– Reuters itself says it’s armored–as in bulletproofed against small arms fire. So there is some armor on the roof. But more about that later today…

see-dubya on August 29, 2006 at 2:23 PM

From the FAS page:

Motor burnout velocity:

2425 fps
Launch spin rate: 10 rps
Velocity at launcher exit:

148 fps

So let’s say the rocket was still accelerating and hasn’t yet hit burnout velocity. Say it was moving at, oh, 2000 fps. The rocket weighs sixteen pounds at launch; let’s say some of that fuel burns off and it weighs ten pounds at impact.

We’re still talking something hitting much, much harder with much more energy than even a .50 caliber round, which rips through all the after-market bulletproofing I’m aware of.

see-dubya on August 29, 2006 at 2:27 PM

As a mechanical engineer with 17 years design experience on the Apache, my gut feel is that divot was not made by any of the Apache’s ordinance.
A hellfire would’ve moved much more metal than shown, with a more missile-shaped hole, as it descended vertically through the roof. The metal wouldn’t be able to just move back and fill most of the entry hole—it would have been plastically deformed, not elastically.
I’d be shocked if the Israelis were actually using 2.75″ rockets at all. They’re very conscientious about collateral damage. These rockets are completely unguided and just follow a ballistic trajectory. Like someone else noted these are area suppression weapons. And the angles seems all wrong, too—much too steep.
The chain gun isn’t a candidate for this kind of damage, either. It, too, is an area weapon. It’s much more precise these days than it used to be but its fire rate is such that you’d see a whole bunch of roundish holes instead of one tear in the metal.
I could get all technical about this but others have covered it fairly well here.
In my opinion, the hole looks like a cement block fell onto the roof, tearing the metal. Other chunks of building material or shrapnel broke the windows. A missile may have indirectly caused that to happen, I suppose.

jdpaz on August 29, 2006 at 2:44 PM

A Final word about RUST.

Is the rate at which parts rust not consistent given the same temperature and humidity.

I mean given the same atmospheric conditions and length of exposure, would not all contiguous parts of like matal rust at the same rate?

If so, then why is the exposed metal around the “entrance” hole not rusted?

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on August 29, 2006 at 2:48 PM

kaltes– Reuters itself says it’s armored–as in bulletproofed against small arms fire. So there is some armor on the roof. But more about that later today…

Reuters saying it doesnt make it true, as we all well know, I think the reporter just saw the thing and assumed, or was told such by a nearby palestinian who was perhaps trying to explain away the lack of damage. Who knows? We can all see the picture, and what you can clearly see in the picture is a very thin sheet of metal covering the roof, with a hollow section beneath that (which probably includes the vehicles frame), then another sheet of metal below that. I don’t see how that is armored. It does not make sense that the vehicle is substantially armored anyway, for a variety of reasons, including cost, availability, etc.

Also even if it is armored in some way, would bulletproofing of a civilian vehicle even include the roof? The roof is the least armored area of military vehicles because it is hit the least often. Civilian vehicles can’t handle all the extra weight of armor very well, so it seems like it would be foolish to attempt to armor a large roof, I dont even think the US military puts much if any armor on the roof of the “up armored” humvees, though that is just a guess on my part.

Another commenter pointed out in one of the earlier posts on this that this is not an armored vehicle because it doesnt sit lower to the ground due to weight, as an armored vehicle would. That makes sense to me.

kaltes on August 29, 2006 at 2:49 PM

They may have “up-springed” when they “up-armored” so as it would ride the same. I agree that the roof wouldn’t likely be armored.

jdpaz on August 29, 2006 at 3:01 PM

Roofs are armored. Sorry to tease; more later. I’d like to combine a few different threads into one big post.

see-dubya on August 29, 2006 at 3:04 PM

I’m in agreement with the vehicle being “hardened”. It has the thick poorly fit doors (look at the handles inside, they’re not stock, they’re put together by a welder, for sure), and the glass cracks on the inside definitely indicate several laminated layers, (because none of the cracks extend through the whole thickness of glass) and because it’s more designed for small arms fire, they’ve probably balanced weight against protection by putting less armor on the roof (the doors and windows being designed for direct hits, the roof being designed for protection against fragmentation and spent rounds).
I can see a near miss (such as being close to the actual target, like Hezbollah positions), but I don’t see the claim of a direct hit as being very likely.

As another EOD tech (not retired), I know exactly how the warhead is composed. The explosive charge, and total weight of the warhead on the rocket (assuming it’s the smaller M151 warhead) is still greater than that of a 60mm mortar round.

The dent on the roof appears to be directional (meaning the slope is shallow on the door side, but changes to an abrupt slope back up towards the center of the vehicle) (mind you, the photos are not the best quality, so this is simply what it appears to me). Similar to crater analysis, the shallow slope implies that whatever hit the vehicle entered from that direction, towards the steep slope. A glancing blow off the vehicle would have some sort of approach scrape, with the fuse functioning slightly after, I would think. A hit, hard enough to leave that dent, would have detonated the rocket while still in contact with the vehicle.

I personally lean towards the theory that it was a hit somewhere near the vehicle, and that they caught a large fragment from that nearby target. There simply isn’t enough damage for a direct hit, and either claim (that the doors were blown open, or that they’d already exited the vehicle when it was hit) would have left far more injuries than the photos show. It would be quite simple to capitalize on this for propaganda value, given the fact that there is, indeed some sort of damage to the vehicle greater than would be normally caused in a motor vehicle accident, for example.

As for the press vehicle markings and all, well, most pigments are not tested in infrared light, so despite the fact the markings are clearly visible to the naked eye, it’s very likely that the vehicle is a uniform color through night vision equipment. (Note to Reuters: ensure markings are clearly visible in both visible and IR light, or use reflective decals!) An excellent example of this is most permanent markers. They’re clearly black to us, but they’re transparent to IR light.

RustMouse on August 29, 2006 at 3:23 PM

RustMouse what about the lack of fragmentation damage? If the warhead exploded anywhere in the vicinity of that vehicle wouldn’t the vehicle be pock-marked?

This vehicle was photographed at a later time and different place than the attack, so there is nothing even tying this vehicle to this attack other than the rather unreliable word of the Palestinians involved. The fake-looking blood splattered on the outside of the outer shirt of the “victim” and the blood that was wiped on the door all point to a hoax. The Palestinians fake and exaggerate news all the time, so when all the evidence points to this also being a faked incident, why is everyone just taking their word for it? If the Israelis said they hit something, I believe them. I also believe that whatever was hit was destroyed, not just superficially damaged.

That means this vehicle was not the one that was hit, instead they either planned, or opportunistically, staged this little media event for propaganda purposes.

This is the only theory I can think of that explains everything we see in the photos.

kaltes on August 29, 2006 at 4:32 PM

First of all, I’m the person who sent in the orignal email that Allah quoted above. I’d like to thank him for hooking me up with a comment account.

I called a knowledgeable friend and asked about the “m” hellfire variant. Based on what he told me, I now think it’s very unlikely this was a Hellfire attack. The damage would have been much more severe than what we see in the pictures and not localized to the area around the passenger’s seat.

Like others in the comments have said, I think the damage is consistent with a 70mm point-detonated rocket. I understand some people disagree and I’m cool with that – weapon damage isn’t always consistent. I didn’t make it clear in my email to Allah, but the rocket itself certainly did not penetrate the vehicle before exploding. It detonated at, or just above the roof. The ‘crater’ seen in the pictures with torn metal is consistent with blast damage pushing the metal down and tearing it. In other words, the “crater” was caused by the blast, not the impact of the rocket itself. If the weapon had penetrated the roof and exploded, everyone inside would probably be dead and the hole would be blown outwards, not inwards. Another indicator (that I should have noticed earlier) that the weapon had to have detonated at or just above the roof is the lack of much, if any, frag damage on the hood of the vehicle. This also rules out the Hellfire, which would have detonated about six feet above the vehicle.

The passenger would be wounded if he was still in the passenger seat or just outside. The explosion tore open the roof, so if he was sitting in the passenger seat, some of the explosive force along with some shrapnel would have made it into the interior of the vehicle and the passenger just underneath. If the door was open, and the passenger was getting out when the missile hit, then fragments could easily ricochet off the inside surface of the open, armored passenger door or come through the breach in the roof. The photo of the injured cameraman looks like he has only one abdominal wound, so the armored vehicle obviously saved his life.

This vehicle appears to be a level 6 armored Land Rover Defender. Here are some pictures of a similar, undamaged vehicle. Level 6 protection means that a lot of ballistic steel is used instead of Kevlar blankets, so the roof is not thin sheet metal.

Finally, I don’t understand why people are disputing the rust thing. It’s obvious from the pictures the vehicle rusted rather quickly, and a quick google search would tell them why. I completely agree that the Lebanese ambulances were a complete fraud, but this rust conspiracy is getting out of hand.

In short, I see no good reason to question that this was anything other than an Israeli attack. Furthermore, I don’t think the Israeli’s intentionally targeted the press. Allah highlighted the salient points above – that vehicle identification at night from the air is very difficult. Rather than urge the press corps to use IR significant paint on their vehicles (a tactic the Palestinians and Hezbollah would, I’m sure, copy), the press should stay away from areas of combat at night unless they want to be mistaken for an adversary.

NPP on August 29, 2006 at 5:05 PM

I’d be shocked if the Israelis were actually using 2.75″ rockets at all.

Another great question (and note that 2.75″ is also 69.85mm or close enough to 70mm): Is the IDF using that rocket?

I can’t seem to find it, but I’m beginning to suspect that see-dubya is going to tell us.

Speaking of which, any word on whether the IDF plans to investigate as Reuters asked?

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 5:14 PM

Pablo,

Yes, the IDF uses that rocket on their Apaches and Cobras. So do we, actually. And yes, the 2.75″ and 70mm rocket are the same thing, just different nomenclature.

NPP on August 29, 2006 at 5:47 PM

With all due respect, but:

I didn’t make it clear in my email to Allah, but the rocket itself certainly did not penetrate the vehicle before exploding. It detonated at, or just above the roof. The ‘crater’ seen in the pictures with torn metal is consistent with blast damage pushing the metal down and tearing it. In other words, the “crater” was caused by the blast, not the impact of the rocket itself. If the weapon had penetrated the roof and exploded, everyone inside would probably be dead and the hole would be blown outwards, not inwards. Another indicator (that I should have noticed earlier) that the weapon had to have detonated at or just above the roof is the lack of much, if any, frag damage on the hood of the vehicle. This also rules out the Hellfire, which would have detonated about six feet above the vehicle.

So why exactly would an Apache or Cobra of the IAF equipped with such an ordnance target an invalid vessel at night? Let me get this straight: You described the inherent attributes of the ordnance as causing the damage as described, i.e. very little. Which means that regardless of the enemy status of the vessel, there could’ve been no explosion or any other area damage but the one we’ve seen in the photographs, right? Again, why would the IAF do such a thing? Why shoot with low-damage ordnance when it could’ve been terrorists, i.e. the assumed combatant status of the vessel’s personnel?

You’re making two big assumptions here: One, the IAF made a mistake in the assessment of the vessel’s combat status, and two, they didn’t even kill the personnel. I’m not an expert on military, and I don’t mean to be rude, but I believe you’re wrong on both ends.

Niko on August 29, 2006 at 6:15 PM

Oops, the quote should’ve ended after the first paragraph.

Niko on August 29, 2006 at 6:16 PM

NPP, thanks for your input. The first thing that bothered me and is still the biggest issue for me is the lack of scorching. I don’t see anything in any photos I’ve seen that looks to me like it’s been subjected to the fireball I would expect with the detonation of an explosive munition. At the very least, I’d expect to see some burnt or bubbled paint or some evidence of soot on the roof, and I don’t.

Is there a reason for that which I’m missing?

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 6:27 PM

And one other question, if you will. You’ve said the damage is consistent with a 70mm hit, but do you think that’s what happened with certainty, or do you simply see it a possibility?

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 6:33 PM

Pablo,

I think it’s the most likely possibility based on the evidence I’ve seen. I don’t think it’s definitive, but I don’t know of any other weapon in the Israeli arsenal that would cause that kind of damage. I think the possibility of this being an ambulance-style information operation to be remote. I don’t discount it entirely, but there isn’t anything that definitely shows this as fraudulent unlike the ambulance scam.

As for the fireball, there isn’t much of one. I’ve seen a couple of these (not from real close, admittedly), and I don’t remember a fireball at all. One of the EOD guys could give you a definitive answer, but I believe that comp b (the explosive in these rockets) isn’t going to burn any paint that isn’t blasted off – IOW, most of the explosive energy is blast energy, not heat energy.

Niko,

My point was the Israelis thought it was a threat and didn’t know it was armored. Why they didn’t reattack, I can’t say. The pilot may have assumed that since one rocket hit the vehicle directly, then the vehicle was destroyed. Again, it’s sometimes hard to discern this stuff through only IR sensors. I don’t know the Israeli rules of engagement so I won’t guess at what methodology or criteria they use to determine whether a vehicle can be attacked.

NPP on August 29, 2006 at 7:13 PM

I agree with Pablo. The paintjob is almost pristine with a dusting of dirt on it—hardly consistent with a 2.75″ rocket exploding above it.

I know that the Israelis have 2.75″ rocket capability. I’m just questioning whether they would use them in urban conflict. I suspect not (with no corroborating evidence).

jdpaz on August 29, 2006 at 7:18 PM

Thanks, NPP.

I think the possibility of this being an ambulance-style information operation to be remote.

I agree. That one was cut from whole cloth, and it’s incontrovertible. I suspect this has been spun into something it was not, namely that Israel targeted the press. In fact, I’m certain that’s true (as they wouldn’t have been able to see the markings), but not certain exactly which facts are wrong.

Pablo on August 29, 2006 at 7:42 PM

Pablo,

I agree. It seems to me there are a few questions here:

Did a piece of Israeli ordnance hit the Reuters vehicle?

If yes, was the attack deliberate?

If yes, did the Israeli’s know it was a press vehicle?

If yes, then the Israelis deliberately tried to kill those “reporters.” If no to any of those questions, then they didn’t.

It’s also important to note that our debate here is not taking place anywhere in the Muslim world. As far as 99.9% of people in the region are concerned, it’s a given that Israel deliberately attacked the press.

NPP on August 29, 2006 at 8:39 PM

Some of the information has been cleared up: This story in the Bangkok Post portrays facts much more consistent with the damage to the vehicle. Bangkok Post

This would also be more consistent with the Israeli policy of minimizing collateral damage.

Kaltes:
There is what appears to be some fragmentation damage to the roof of the vehicle (the grey speckles that look like a splash on the roof) and some possible damage to the roof rack. Depending on the type of fragments that hit it and the velocity, you wouldn’t necessarily see gaping holes, yet still could have hits – This, for example, could have been caused by a large chunk of the warhead (ashtray-sized) hitting the vehicle, some distance away from the actual detonation. It could also have been caused by secondary frag, like a chunk of building, propelled towards the vehicle by the explosion (which could give it that whole peppered look that it has – the chunk wouldn’t come alone, rather it would be accompanied by gravel and other bits.)

The level of damage also is consistent with my original theory, that they may have been near to the actual target when the damage happened (rather than being the target of the attack)

The problem with interpreting these photos is that most EOD techs have seen explosives do some really strange things, so the longer they’ve been around, the more explanations they can find for the same event. Add to this the misleading captions and poor photography, it becomes more and more difficult to conclusively rule out possibilities. (that’s the beauty of an open discussion forum, though – your opinions are subject to peer review)

RustMouse on August 29, 2006 at 9:28 PM

The problem with interpreting these photos is that most EOD techs have seen explosives do some really strange things, so the longer they’ve been around, the more explanations they can find for the same event. Add to this the misleading captions and poor photography, it becomes more and more difficult to conclusively rule out possibilities. (that’s the beauty of an open discussion forum, though – your opinions are subject to peer review)

That’s an important point – thanks for making it.

I’m not convinced it was shrapnel, but I’m willing to concede it’s a possibility. As I said in the “Don’t be stupid” thread, if that’s the case then we are no longer looking at 70mm rockets.

NPP on August 29, 2006 at 9:40 PM

About the Rust:

Car Rust happens very fast after an accident. I’ve been an Insurance Adjuster and have seen quite a few accidents. They can rust in less than 24 hours in humid weather.

Here is a fresh night time photo of the Rover taken with a Flash. It clearly shows no rust.

I agree that a 2.75mm rocket using a fragmentation warhead can bounce and then explode.

Maybe the first strike hit the Rover causing the people to jump out and were fragged by the second warhead shot.

The blast can strip off paint

Egfrow on August 30, 2006 at 2:13 AM

RustMouse and NPP

Well see that is the problem, we are coming at this from two very different perspectives. My perspective is, what is the most likely explanation for these photos? Your perspectives seem to be: is there any possibility that the palestinian allegations could have been remotely accurate?

Explosives can do some strange things, but the vast majority of the time they do what they are supposed to do. That is why I think the far more likely explanation is that the palestinian sources are being dishonest, and that this vehicle was not attacked by the Israelis.

I have seen what fragmentation damage looks like. I know it doesnt leave gaping holes. It will tend to leave a vehicle pock-marked, with more (small) holes the closer the weapon hits. The shrapnel would not merely scratch this vehicle. Look at the roof, regardless of what you believe about the armor of the vehicle, the outer skin of the vehicle is obviously thin, because you can see the torn metal skin and the hollow area underneath. Shrapnel would not deflect off of that. Now since you EOD guys have seen a lot of strange stuff, maybe that is because of defective weapons, especially since EOD guys get called in when rounds/rockets/etc are defective, so you guys can clean up the unexploded ordinance. I think it is really stretching to construct very unlikely scenarios where something resembling the palestinian story might have taken place when there is a far more likely theory that neatly fits the facts.

kaltes on August 30, 2006 at 5:56 AM

It’s also important to note that our debate here is not taking place anywhere in the Muslim world.

Ain’t that the truth.

As for the rest, I’d sure like to hear from the IDF in their post-reflexive apology mode.

Pablo on August 30, 2006 at 7:12 AM

Pablo,

Agreed!

Kaltes,

I think my theory is as good as any. It’s always possible the palestinian just put a chunck of C-4 on the roof to make the hole. There are many possibilities here, but I think the most probable is an Israeli attack. I can respect that others might have different views. I still maintain that the damage is consistent with a 2.75″ rocket, though that is certainly far from proving anything.

Hopefully the Israelis will release the video of the attack from the helicopter’s perspective. That would certainly settle the matter.

NPP on August 30, 2006 at 9:02 AM

I found all the unambiguous Israeli Apache pics I could on the internet (admittedly not a very large sample). They all have something in common. They are never shown with a 2.75 FFAR rocket pod. You can see from these that the common configuration seems to be two external fuel tanks and eight Hellfires.

This one looks like Apaches are on review.

Flying overhead and firing off a Hajj.

Another pic showing the “standard configuration”

I don’t mean to harp on this, but I just can’t believe they’re using FFARs in urban combat. FFARs are a wide area weapon—not intended for pin-point attacks, and inconsistent with a fighting force that warns everyone before it attacks.

jdpaz on August 30, 2006 at 11:15 AM

I find this article very interesting.

NPP on August 30, 2006 at 11:43 AM

Can we continue this discussion in the comments to the new post?

Allahpundit on August 30, 2006 at 11:44 AM