There's been a lot of attention on the internet recently to the funny-looking home-made tanks Kurdish forces have been building to help with their fight against ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever we call that pack of assholes. Most of that attention has been, frankly, ridicule. I'm not so sure that ridicule is warranted here.
It's not like I can't understand the urge to ridicule here — the tanks are pretty funny-looking. Some are almost like cute cartoon versions of tanks, with chubby proportions and many obviously hand-made looking details. But I don't think we can judge these based on what we know about modern tanks or Armored Personnel Carriers, or assume that the people who've been building these things even think of them as substitutes for actual tanks.
I think if you assume that these are built with the naive idea that they're going to work as well as conventional, factory-built tanks, of course they seem absurd, and most of the harshest criticism seems to be making this assumption.
But that's not the case. As others have pointed out, these are armored vehicles, not tanks, and they're used with extensive infantry support. These tanks aren't expected to deal with anti-tank weapons or rocket-propelled grenades. They could be very effective against small arms fire, shrapnel from mortar and rocket fire, both of which are a huge deal during the conflict. They provide a relatively safe and mobile location for soldiers in such small arms battles, and I know I sure as hell would rather have one of these than nothing.
They're also used as ambulances to provided protected transport of soldiers out of harm's way, and it's easy to see how any sort of armor would be appreciated in such a role.
Engineering-wise, they're not sneeze-targets, either. Most are built on truck or construction-equipment chassis, and while their armor isn't amazing, they're still pretty impressive work when you consider the makeshift and desperate conditions they're built in.
Sure, they may not be able to take a HEAT round directly, but how many US lightly armored vehicles can? If we're going to criticize these things, let's at least try and be realistic about what they are.
From the looks of things, they're being remarkably creative with this stuff. I'm not 100% certain, but I think some of these are using repurposed dumpsters for body panels. Sure, some of the camo looks like the pattern you'd find on a '70s bathmat, but I'm a fan of the massive animal faces they're painting on some of these things. Why the hell not?
So far, the Kurds have been pretty much on their own in the fight against ISIS, and I don't think their improvised armor is "terrible" at all. I'm seeing a lot of clever and innovative solutions to some very serious problems, all executed in what must be some of the shittiest conditions imaginable.
And, I don't agree with the claims that these are a drain of resources. I think that constructing these vehicles gives tangible, visible examples of their struggle, and even if they weren't that great on the battlefield, their very existence helps give a morale boost to their people. We've seen this sort of pride in home-made arms before.
So, sure, these DIY armored vehicles look like they've lumbered out of a cartoon about WWI drawn by a kid who was raised on a diet of printed-out Etsy pages, but that doesn't matter. These vehicles have utility far beyond their awkward looks, and it's worth remembering that before dismissing them all in one big swipe of a hand that's thankfully nowhere near this shit.