Barrack buster


Barrack buster

Barrack buster is the colloquial name given to several improvised mortars, developed in the 1990s by the engineering group of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The first barrack buster - known to the British security forces as the Mark 15 mortar - consisted of a 1 meter long metal propane cylinder with a diameter of 36 cm that contained around 70 kg of home-made explosives and with a trajectory between 75 and 275 m. The cylinder is an adaptation of a commercial 'Kosangas' gas cylinder for heating and cooking gas used in rural areas in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It was first used in an attack on 5 December 1992 against a RUC station in Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone, in Northern Ireland. [Geraghty 1998; Smith 2006.]

Provisional IRA's improvised mortars

The barrack buster belongs to a series of home-made mortars developed since the 1970s. The first such mortar - Mark 1 - was used in an attack in May 1972 and it was soon followed by the first of a series of improved or differentiated versions stretching into the 1990s:

* Mark 1 (1972)
* Mark 2 (1972-73) -- Resulted in the first fatality when a British soldier was killed trying to defuse a misfired mortar projectile.
* Mark 3 (1973-74) -- During an attack on a police station a misfired mortar killed two IRA men (aged 16 and 27) operating the mortar.
* Mark 4 (1974) -- Used only in one known attack on 22 February 1974.
* Mark 5 (1974) -- Never used in any known attack.
* Mark 6 (1974-94) -- A small calibre mortar with a possible range of hundreds of yards. Its warheads were filled with 200-300 grams of Semtex and using a propellant charge of homemade gun powder. Was used in March 1994 in three attacks on Heathrow airport in the UK. It is not known to have been used after these attacks. [Geraghty 1998; Smith 2006; Davies 2001, 13.]
* Mark 7 (1976) -- Longer version of Mark 6.
* Mark 8 (1976) -- Longer version of Mark 6.
* Mark 9 (1976-?)
* Mark 10 (1979-94) -- A large caliber mortar containing 20-100 kg explosives. Its first use on 19 March 1979 caused the first deliberate victim - a British soldier - from an IRA mortar attack. It was primarily designed for use against police stations and military bases, and was used in the 1985 Newry mortar attack. It was used in several attacks using configurations with multiple launching tubes, "often launched from the back of Transit type vans". [Davies 2001, 14.] Three such mortars using a mixture of ammonium nitrate and nitrobenzene - known as 'Annie' - as warhead were used on 7 February 1991 in an IRA attack on 10 Downing Street in London against British Prime Minister John Major and his War Cabinet during the first Gulf War. [Geraghty 1998; Smith 2006.] It was superseded by the larger Mark 15.
* Mark 11 (1982-?)
* Mark 12 (1988-?) -- Not really a mortar but more of a bazooka.
* Mark 13 (1990-?) -- A spigot mortar.
* Mark 14 (1992-?)
* Mark 15 (1992- ) -- First mortar known as "barrack buster". It is the "standard IRA large calibre [mortar] system" and described as having "the effect of a 'flying car bomb'". It has a calibre of 320 mm and loads with 80-100 kg explosives. It has also been used in configurations with multiple launch tubes with an attack using 12 tubes against an UK military base in Kilkeel in Northern Ireland as being the "record". [Davies 2001, 14.]
* Mark 16 (1993-?)
* Mark 17 (1998?-
* Mark 18 (1998?-
* Mark 19 (2000?-

Use by other groups

These mortars have also been appropriated by other political militants using terrorist tactics. These mortars have been used by the Real IRA in the 2000s which also developed their own fusing system for the mortars. [Smith 2006; Davies 2001, 14.] Furthermore, what appears to be a similar or identical mortar technology has also been used since 1998 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the ETA in Spain was in 2001 rumored to have built mortars "very similar" to the IRA's. [Davies 2001, 15.] The possible transfer of this mortar technology to the FARC was a central issue in the arrest in August 2001 and later trial of the so called Colombia Three group of IRA members that were alleged by Colombian authorities and by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations to have trained FARC in the manufacture and use of this mortar technology. [cite web | title = Summary of Investigation of IRA Links to FARC Narco-Terrorists in Colombia
author = Committee on International Relations | url = http://www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/archives/107/findings.htm | publisher = US House of Congress | date = 2002-04-24 | accessdate = 2007-06-16
]

Notes

Bibliography

* Davies, Roger (2001), "Improvised mortar systems: an evolving political weapon", "Jane's Intelligence Review" (May 2001), 12-15.
* Geraghty, Tony (1998), "The Irish War: the Hidden Conflict Between the IRA and British Intelligence", Johns Hopkins University Press.
* Smith, Steve (2006), "3-2-1 Bomb Gone: Fighting Terrorist Bombers in Northern Ireland", Sutton Publishing.


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