March 12, 2022 Newsletter #16.0

Good morning everyone,

I just wanted to thank everyone for their continued support, especially with all the great feedback about the app and website. I will admit I am still trying to get used to posting on it, but I am definitely getting better at it. Everything right now is a work in progress and it will only get better from here.

So with that, let's dive in:



Sunday, March 13, 2022: At approximately 0105 local time, several missiles attempted to target the United States Consulate in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. Sabereen News, a media outlet closely affiliated with Iran-backed militia groups, claimed shortly after the attack that several Iranian Fateh-110 surface to surface missiles were launched, however, it did not say by who or from where. Meanwhile, footage began to emerge online with accompanying claims that the missiles were launch from inside Iran, rather than by Iran-backed militia forces inside Iraq. The footage was quickly geolocated to Khasabad, Iran, which also helped back other reports suggesting the missiles were launched from an Iranian military base in the same town.

The Kurdistan Health Ministry reported that there were no casualties from the attack, which was echoed by the U.S. State Department, who told Fox News that "There is no damage or casualties at any U.S. Government facility," further adding that "The incident is being investigated by the government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government and we refer you to them for comment. We condemn this outrageous attack and display of violence." At the time of me writing this (2130 on Saturday), there has been no official statements by the Iranian government confirming that they had carried out the attack or their motivations.

Typically, Iran has utilizes proxy groups (i.e. Shia militias) to carry out their attacks against American installations since the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. The attacks also play into Iran's influence over Iraq and their mission to accelerate the full withdrawal of American forces from the country. For the past two years, militia groups aligned with the Popular Mobilization Forces have carried out frequent rocket or drone attacks against Baghdad's Green Zone or the Erbil Airport. The last direct attack by Iran against American forces was on January 8, 2020, when they launch missiles at American military installations in Iraq.

As I stated before, without a statement by the government we won't know an exact motive. This latest attack was very close to recent Israeli airstrikes against Damascus, Syria, that killed two Iranian military Officers. Iranian proxies have targeted American forces before in response to Israeli strikes and this may also be the same case. This may also play into why pro-Iranian sources are claiming the attacks blew up “top secret Mossad spy bases.” The attack also came just two days after Soleimani's birthday, which was on March 11. The reason for the attack could have been a mixture of both or neither. In regards to a reaction from the United States, we will have to wait and see.

Table of Contents

  • Conflict

    • India Accidentally Fires Missile at Pakistan

    • First Recorded Use of Loitering Munitions in Ukraine

    • British Troops Going AWOL to Fight in Ukraine Against Russia

    • Israel Downs Two Iranian Drones Marking F-35s First Air-to-Air Victory


    • Weapon of the Week



Wednesday, March 9, 2022: On Friday, India’s Ministry of Defense stated that it “accidentally” fired a missile at Pakistan on Wednesday, blaming “a technical malfunction” during “routine maintenance,” further calling the launch “deeply regrettable.” The ministry added that a “high-level Court of Enquiry” has been launched to investigate the incident. On Thursday, Pakistani military officials stated that a “high speed object” crashed near the city of Mian Channu over 120km into their territory the day prior, later summoning India’s charge d’affaires over the incident in which they warned “to be mindful of unpleasant consequences of such negligence and take effective measures to avoid the recurrence of such violations in the future.” There were no reports of casualties from either side. The incident became a cause for concern for many, as the two nuclear powers have waged several wars against each other in recent decades and that a future “mishaps” may spark another armed confrontation.



Saturday, March 12, 2022: The apparent lack of loitering munition and suicide drone use during the Russian invasion of Ukraine was somewhat of a mystery to me. They proved their effectiveness against both infantry and armor during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in which Russia took note and greatly increased its production of ZALA systems and attempted to counter these weapons with "cope cages" on their armor (granted they were also for ATGMs as well). All in all, Russia saw the threat and increased its capabilities to use them and tried out ways to protect themselves from it. For the first two weeks of the invasion we saw no use by either side. Ukraine has a few Loitering munition platforms still in development and said to be in the field in limited capacity, but none have been used. Same went for Russia until now.

On Saturday, photos began to emerge online of a Russian ZALA KYB-UAV explosive drone in the Kyiv district of Podil. While it still remains unclear if the drone was intercepted or just crashed in the middle of a street, we now know Russia is utilizing these systems. On the Instagram page I noted that because the invasion is "slowing down" in some parts, we will expect to see a lot more of these weapons. By "slowing down," I was making reference to the lack of ground being taken around Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other northern areas of Ukraine. Whether it be by Ukrainian resistance or strategic re-pacing of Russian ground forces, the lack of movement means an increase in static targets. Loitering Munitions are best suited for static targets, whether it be trenches, road blocks, artillery, armor, buildings, essentially anything that isn't mobile. While explosive drones can and have targeted moving targets, the Nagorno-Karabakh War showed that they were best used against dug in positions.

I know I make reference to Nagorno-Karabakh quite often, but it is a perfect cat study for weaponized drones in conventional conflicts. Most conflicts over the past 20 years have been centered around counter insurgency and thus isn't the best thing to look at when it comes to two conventional militaries. During Azerbaijan's assault into the Nagorno-Karabakh region, they attempted to overwhelm Armenian defensive positions with armor and infantry, but it just didn't work. There was a point where they were losing enough armor per day to potentially run out if they kept at what they were doing. This is when they began utilizing explosive drones and TB-2 drone strikes to hit positions at a distance and spare their ground forces. With Russia having difficulties pushing into Kyiv from the north, I can force them using more ZALA weapons to try and gain in upper hand with puncturing through Ukrainian defenses.


UK Ministry of Defense Confirms a Number of Active Duty Troops Left to Fight in Ukraine

Thursday, March 10, 2022: Since the start of the Ukraine Civil War, foreign fighters have been drawn in on both sides to take part in the conflict. On the Ukraine side, one such foreign fighter some of you may know is Johnny, or better known as “CossackGundi,” a Brit who fought alongside the YPG in Syria against the Islamic State before joining the Ukrainian military to fight on the frontlines of Donbas (above). On the other end you have Russell Bonner Bentley III, also known as “Texas,” an American who joined the separatist forces of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in 2014 to fight against Ukraine. With the outbreak of the Russian invasion, the conflict has further drawn in volunteers from around the world, especially with the Ukrainian military creating an “International Legion” for foreign volunteers. So far, Ukraine has claimed that 20,000 foreigners from 52 countries have signed up to fight. There has already been wide spread coverage of American volunteers heading over to support Ukraine, as well as the several dozen Japanese nationals. Other countries with known volunteers in Ukraine include Belarus, Canada, Georgia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden, Mexico, and Lithuania to name a few.

The United Kingdom confirmed today that “a number” of active duty soldiers have gone AWOL and left to join Ukraine’s volunteer fighting forces. The British Army told Sky News that “We are aware of a small number of individual soldiers who have disobeyed orders and gone absent without leave, and may have traveled to Ukraine in a personal capacity,” adding that “They will be breaking the law and they will be prosecuted when they return for going absent without leave or deserting.” Speaking on the issue, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stated that in his “experience from having been security minister is people who went off to join the YPG and other organisations: it didn't end well.” This appears to be the first confirmed instance of active duty military personnel from a foreign country leaving to fight in Ukraine.

The UK has come under criticism in recent years for prosecuting its nationals that leave to volunteer in foreign fighting groups. While active duty personnel leaving to fight is a completely separate issue, the UK has regularly charged its citizens who left to fight alongside Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria with terrorism offenses. One such case is YPG volunteer and British national Daniel (IG @dan92_uk), whose father was charged with financing terrorism after sending him £150 while he was in Syria. In regards to Ukraine, UK Transport Security Grant Shapps warned soldiers, both active and former, that they are prohibited from traveling to the country to fight. It remains unclear if UK nationals will face prosecution upon return from Ukraine.



Last March, Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35I stealth jets downed two Iranian drones en route to Gaza with a shipment of handguns, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) announced on Sunday. This incident marks the first air-to-air victory for the aircraft platform in its operational history. The IAF and IDF released footage of the incident, in which Iranian Shahed series drones can be seen. While it is a bit hard to make out exactly which model they are, it looks like the one in the second shot has a propeller, suggesting to me that it is a Shahed 181. 

The IDF appears to have misidentified the drone in releases posted to Twitter. They called the UAV a “Shahed 197,” which technically doesn’t exist. I think they may have meant to say “Shahed 191,” which is a jet powered version of the Shahed 181, or they are just classifying Iranian drones on their own.

The IAF released a statement online providing more details about the incident, asserting that the weapons were meant for Hamas. The IDF told the Times of Israel that it was tracking the drones as it neared Israeli airspace and that they were intercepted by the F-35s “prior to entering Israeli airspace, in coordination with neighboring countries.” Channel 12 News, citing Israeli military officials, also suggested that a third drown was downed using electronic warfare means, but there has not been any additional information to corroborate this. It’s not really clear where the drones landed after they were engaged, but it was likely Jordan since they did not land in Israel.

This incident highlights one main thing: low cost drones vs. multi-million dollar aircraft and defense systems. The use of small unmanned aircraft have exploded over the past several years, especially in the Middle East involving Iran and its proxies. Looking at Iraq and Syria, Iranian drone platforms operated by militia groups have faced off against American air defense systems, which were not always 100% successful in countering them. For Saudi Arabia, they face constant drone attacks by Iran-backed Houthi Rebels in Yemen. This is the first time I have heard of Iran using Shahed drones to deliver weapons, because they are typically deployed as combat drones or loitering munitions. Looking at cost, the price to counter these drones is far superior to what the drones cost to build and operate. There are fuel, maintenance, weapons, and operations costs associated with countering these drones that span into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars each time. These drones cost a few thousand at most. Costs run high the more often they UAV systems operate, which is increasing year by year.




By @InfamousSidearms

AS VAL and VSS Vintorez, Soviet Union and Russia

The Kalashnikov-based, integrally suppressed AS VAL is a 9x39 chambered assault rifle that was developed for use by Soviet special operations and reconnaissance forces.  

The 9x39 round is based on the 7.62x39 (AK47 bullet) but with an expanded neck to accept the larger 9mm projectile - not unlike the concept behind the US .300 Blackout.  This round subsonic with a ported barrel and was developed specifically for use in rifles like the AS VAL and Vintorez.

Commercially available Wolf ammunition weighs 276 grains (18 grams), and travels under 1,1000 feet per second which is the sound barrier at sea level.  Covert troops are issued Armor Piercing 9x39 designated as SP-5 and SP-6 in the RU arsenal. 

The heavy weight of the ammunition coupled with the integrated suppressor make the AS VAL an ideal weapon for urban combat.  

Avtomat Special'nyj (AS) is Russian for Special Automatic Rifle and the VAL designation comes from the project's codename, “Shaft”.  This assault rifle shares about 70% commonality with the VSS Vintorez and the systems were developed together, with the main differences being in stock and optic mount.

The VSS Vintorez (Vintovka Snayperskaya Spetsialnaya) or “Special Sniper Rifle” is also a gas operated 9x39 weapon but can be considered the “Sniper” or “Marksman” version of the weapon system, it features a 10- round magazine, and the AS VAL a 20 - round magazine. 

They have an effective range of about 400 meters and the VSS is issued with a PSO-1-1 Russian Novosibirsk telescopic sight.   

Later the arsenal was supplemented with the VSK-94, a lower cost alternative to the Vintorez.


If you want to get involved in someway with Atlas News, reach out to us and reply with your experience or ideas. If its good enough we will follow back up and reach out. If its not good enough, well try harder.– The Atlas News Team

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2021 Atlas News.