Photos posted to Twitter last week show Kurdish forces in Iraq with a limited number of Chinese QLZ87 automatic grenade launchers and M99 anti-materiel rifles.
The QLZ87 is a direct gas impingement operated, selective fire grenade launcher chambered for the Chinese 35 x 32SR mm cartridge. With an effective range of 800 metres with a bipod – extended to 1750 metres with a tripod – it is available with a 6-round or 15-round drum magazine, though only 6-round magazines have been seen amongst the Kurdish fighters. The QLZ87 differs from its American and Russian counterparts in that it is often employed as a light support weapon that can be carried by a single soldier, rather than a crew-served weapon. Other than China’s military, the QLZ87 is used by armed forces in Bolivia, Pakistan, and multiple African states. Additionally, it has been documented in the hands of non-state armed groups in Syria, Chad and Somalia. For more detailed information on the QLZ87, including development history and technical characteristics, see ARES Arms & Munition Brief No. 1.
A Kurdish fighter takes cover with a QLZ87 AGL.
The Chinese M99 anti-materiel rifle (AMR) is chambered for 12.7 x 108 mm or 12.7 x 99 mm (.50 BMG), and has been in service since late 2005 with Chinese armed forces. With an effective range of 1500 metres, the M99 has been seen on more than one occasion in the hands of Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces, sometimes mistaken for the externally similar Accuracy International (AI) AS50 AMR.
An M99 anti-material rifle held by a Kurdish Fighter in Iraq
It remains unclear how Kurdish forces in Iraq have acquired these weapons. They may have been captured during skirmishes with Islamic State (IS) forces (who, in turn, may have captured or acquired them from Syrian rebel forces), supplies by rebel groups within Syria, or supplied by a foreign state. Qatar, for example, are believed to have supplied Syrian rebel forces with Chinese weapons procured from Sudan, including the QLZ87 and M99, as well as HJ-8 anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW) and FN-6 man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS).
M99 Anti-Materiel Rifle
QLZ87 Automatic Grenade Launcher
|Calibre||12.7 x 108 mm, or 12.7 x 99 mm||35 x 32SR mm|
|Action||Direct gas impingement||Direct gas impingement|
|Capacity||5 round box magazine||6 or 15 round drum magazine|
|Effective Range||1500 metres||800 metres (bipod), 1750 metres (tripod)|
|Length||1.48 metres||1.04 to 1.3 metres|
|Weight||11.8 kg||12 kg (weapon), 8 kg (bipod)|
Special thanks to Paul Mutter, Yuri Lyamin, Aris Roussinos, Timothy Yan, and N.R. Jenzen-Jones. Photos taken from Twitter user @green_lemonnn.