Weapons Used and Captured by the PKK in 2021
PKK or “Partîya Karkerên Kurdistanê” (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) organization, which was initially established with the aim of establishing an independent and socialist Kurdistan state in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, has undergone various changes over time and has become an organization aiming for democratic autonomy in designated Kurdish lands.
Although the PKK is active in many regions today, most of the conflicts take place in the Kurdish areas bordering Northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government and eastern Turkey. Although the PKK occasionally engages in conflicts with various structures, most of the conflicts take place between the Turkish Armed Forces and the PKK’s armed forces.
Organizations such as ARGK (Artêşa Rizgariya Gelê Kurdistan) and ERNK (Eniya Rizgariya Neteweyî ya Kurdistanê), which operated as the armed structure of the organization, developed over time.
The PKK currently has two active armed wings today. These consist of the HPG or “Hêzên Parastina Gel” (People's Defence Forces) and the female guerrilla group YJA Star or “Yekîneyên Jinên Azad ên Star” (Free Women's Units).
The main purpose of this article is to provide a basic analysis of the weapons and ammunition used and seized by the PKK in the conflict.
One of the attack methods used by the PKK is to drop bombs from UAVs. They conducted many of these attacks in 2021. One of the most commonly used grenades in these kinds of operations is the 30mm VOG-17 pattern grenade.
30mm VOG-17(M) pattern grenades, used during a PKK attack in February, 2021.
In addition to VOG-17 type bombs, various kinds of modified RPG-7 ammunition were also used in various attacks from time to time.
Chinese HEI-AP projectile were used to carry out the attack on a TAF post in Uludere, Şırnak. HEI-AP’s MJ-7 fuze markings and part of Lot No can be seen: 24-9324.
PKK’s DJI Matrice 600 Pro (M600 Pro) UAV with two PG-7VM and one PG-7VL projectiles. Location & date is unkown.
PKK’s DJI Matrice M600 UAV with OG-7 pattern projectiles.
PKK’s X-UAV Talon
However, these UAV attacks are not very effective. The biggest reason for this is that the ammunition dropped from above has a lot of deviation and often misses the target. However, it can be used to cause material damage to larger targets and to harass the soldiers in the selected area.
Moving on, the use of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) is one of the PKK’s more impactful options.
Almost all of the attacks carried out by the PKK with guided anti-tank missiles in 2021 were carried out with 9M113 Konkurs pattern missiles. ATGMs are effective weapons used by many organizations in the region. 9M113 Konkurs pattern ATGMs can avoid being blocked by various jammers, as they are wire-guided.
PKK fighter who carried an ATGM attack on a TAF position in Avaşin on June 20,2021. He can be seen with a 9P135M pattern GLS (used to fire 9M113 Konkurs pattern ATGMs).
Syria is the main source of most of the Konkurs used by the PKK. First supplied to the Syrian government by Russia, Konkurs ATGMs are used by many organizations in the region. Due to regional instability, these missiles have found their way into local arms markets.
1983-dated 9M111M Faktoriya ATGM, captured from HPG in Northern Iraq on May 20, 2021.
When surveying the PKK’s videos in 2021, it is apparent that the group used only a limited range of ATGMs. In contrast, the PKK employed many different types of anti-tank-guided missiles.
A MILAN ATGM, seized by TAF in Northern Iraq on November, 2020.
It is seen that most of the attack methods used by the PKK in 2021 are remote attacks. In a number of instances, bombs dropped by ATGMs and UAVs were used, as mentioned before.
In addition to these, HPG used mortars from time to time. Looking at the weapons and ammunition seized from the PKK, it is seen that the militants possess a variety of mortars and mortar bombs.
HPG / YJA-Star fighters using an M69 (or its Iraqi copy; “Al-Jaleel”) mortar with and a 81mm HE 81 LDMA pattern mortar bomb with AF66 pattern fuze in Avaşin, 2021.
However, it is clear that mortar attacks were not preferred by the PKK. This is because it is more difficult to attack as effectively as ATGMs. It can be difficult to hit a target consisting of only a few military personnel.
Despite this, mortar bombs are often be found in weapons seized from the PKK. However, most of them seem to have been retrieved from abandoned caches.
Turkish 81mm MKE Mod 214 HE mortar bomb and two PG-7VM projectiles, seized from PKK in KRG on May 11, 2021. This seems to be a fairly new cache.
Sniper rifles are another weapon the PKK uses from time to time and are an important category in their arsenal. The PKK uses ready-made fabricated weapons as well as modified old snipers and even anti-material rifles of their own production. Therefore, it can be said that this section is one of the most important sections in the article.
First, there is the 7.62x54mmR caliber SVD semi-automatic designated marksman rifle. As it is known, SVD DMRs are used by many organizations in many parts of the world.
These weapons were first produced by the Soviet Union and were introduced in 1963. For this reason, it is possible to see these guns sometimes referred to as ‘SVD-63’.
Many countries, especially China and Iran, produced their own copies of SVD DMR. Versions of this weapon are frequently used in the Middle East.
However, the SVD DMRs used by the PKK generally seem to be Russian/Soviet production. Russian/Soviet weapons are generally more expensive on the black market. However, it can be said that the PKK generally did not experience much difficulty in this regard.
PKK/HPG fighter with an SVD DMR likely in KRG, 2021.
SVD DMRs are occasionally seen in the hands of PKK fighters, and it is likely that some of these weapons were used in their operations.
YJA-Star fighter with an SVD DMR, likely in KRG.
In the videos and photos, you can see that PKK fighters have various camo wraps and ghillie suits wrapped around the SVD DMRs. The PKK uses similar bandages for other weapons as well. The SVDs and parts of SVDs (handguard, scope, grip, stock, magazine, etc.) are also wrapped from time to time.
SVD DMRs are not the only 7.62x54mmR rifles used by the PKK, as it is possible to see Russian-made Mosin-Nagant rifles in the hands of PKK fighters.
Mosin-Nagant rifles are also commonly used by several different organizations, especially in Syria. Various modifications are made to these rifles before they are used. Chief among these modifications is the refitted barrel. These barrels are generally taken from the PK and its derivatives. In addition, it is seen that new binoculars and top rails are added from time to time.
However, the Mosin-Nagant rifles used by the PKK do not seem to have been modified as much as those used by the organizations in Syria.
PKK Fighter with a modified Mosin-Nagant M91/30 rifle.
Although minor modifications are noticeable in these weapons, unfortunately, it is very difficult to specify the exact modifications since the barrels are not visible. But at the same time, it is worth noting that some of them are also covered with camo-wraps.
YJA-Star fighter with a possible modified Mosin-Nagant M91/30 rifle.
A 7.62x51mm Turkish MKEK JNG-90 bolt-action sniper rifle seized from a cache of PKK on November 13, 2021.
The recovery of the JNG-90 rifle from the PKK is notable. However, when the seized stash is examined, it is possible to claim that it is an old and abandoned stash.
Anti-Material Rifles Produced by the PKK.
There are lots of sources and an abundance of information about the weapons produced and used by the PKK. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of misinformation on the subject.
The first to emerge among the weapons produced by the PKK is the "Zagros" anti-material rifle. This weapon first started to make a name for itself in 2015.
Zagros AMRs are chambered in 12.7x108mm and they were named after “Zagros Mountains” which are a long mountain range in Iran, northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey. In their production, barrels from DShK derivatives and trigger mechanisms from RPGs are used.
PKK fighters including one of their commanders, Murat Karayılan. A green-painted “Zagros” AMR with can be seen in the background.
Zagros AMR seized from a weapons cache.
YJA-Star fighter with a Zagros AMR.
Many sources initially claimed that this weapon was given to the PKK by the USA — a claim still sometimes being made today. However, there is no real evidence to back up these assertions.
After Zagros, a new AMR named "Şer" (“War” in Kuridsh) and "Şer Portative" was produced. These AMRs were also used by the YPG from time to time while fighting against ISIS. They are very similar in appearance to the Zagros AMRs. But unlike them, Şer AMRs are chambered 14.5x114mm and based on KPV barrels. (More information can be found in the article published by Ed Nash in Silah Report).
Zagros and Şer AMRs are the most well-known PKK-produced AMRs. However, the PKK's AMR production continued after these weapons.
For a while, Zagros models were referred to as "Gen 1, Gen 2" by various sources. This was due to the appearance of a new AMR with a magazine and a collapsing stock, unlike the regular Zagros AMRs. However, it was later learned that the name of this weapon was "Şervan" (“Fighter” or “Warrior” in Kurdish).
Şervan AMRs are also 12.7x108mm just like Zagros AMRs. Therefore, it is possible to describe the Şervan as an improved version of Zagros.
A “Şervan” AMR with a Dedal DH 5-20x56 scope, in use with PKK in Northern Iraq/KRG, 2021.
A “Şervan” AMR with a Dedal-T4.642 (Pro/Hunter) thermal scope, in use with PKK in Northern Iraq/KRG, 2021.
In addition to the AMRs mentioned above, there is one more AMR to be specified.
On June 13, 2021, the music group "Awazê Çiya", which is close to the PKK, released a clip for their song "Bazên Zagrosê". In the music video, many PKK fighters can be seen carrying different AMRs.
PKK fighters with various weapons including craft-produced “Zagros” and “Şervan” AMRs in the music video.
In this video, the fighters are seen with various assault rifles as well as different AMR variants. Most of these AMRs look like "Shervan" and "Zagros". But, in addition to these, another AMR appears in the video.
A scene from the new AMR in the music video.
Unfortunately, not much information is available regarding this AMR. However, it is generally seen to have a longer barrel than "Şervan" and "Zagros" and the caliber is seemingly different from these.
A closer view of the new AMR.
Upon closer inspection, this AMR has a FAB Defense type grip, an AM-50 Sayyad/Steyr HS .50 type stock and Visionking scope (probably Visionking 4-48x65 or 3-30x56DL).
Although there is no clear information about the name of this weapon or its area of use, as a result of trying to get information from the region, I learned that the name of this weapon is likely to be "Çiya" (which means “Mountain” in Kurdish). Although it is said that there may be a model named "Çiya" with a higher caliber than 12.7x108mm, there is no clear information about the caliber or name of this weapon. Therefore, unlike the "Şervan" and "Zagros" AMRs, there is no information about the official name or caliber of a weapon. It can only be estimated that it has a larger caliber of 12.7x108mm, and the possibility of its name being "Çiya" can be put forward as a theory. In short, it is currently impossible to give official information about its name and caliber.
Now that the section on AMRs has ended, the PKK's weapons such as rifles, rocket launchers and machine guns will be examined.
Many of these weapons are used directly in PKK raids. It is worth noting that although the PKK did not carry out a large number of raids throughout 2021, it carried out notable attacks from time to time.
When we examine the assault rifles used for the first time, it is seen that the PKK used 5.56x45mm, 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm caliber assault rifles. Of course, the most common of these are 7.62x39mm caliber AKM rifles and their variants.
PKK fighter in ghillie suit with an AKM pattern rifle.
YJA-Star fighter in ghillie suit with an AKM pattern rifle.
As is known, the 7.62x39mm AKM and variants of the AKM produced in other countries are among the most common weapons in the Middle East. In fact, they are among the most used weapons by organizations in all MENA countries. Therefore, it is not surprising that the PKK has a large number of them.
However, in addition to the common variants, the PKK also has 7.62x39mm AK copies, which are not very common in the region. An example of these weapons is the Serbian production Zastava M05E1 rifle.
Recently-recruited fighters with two AKM pattern rifles and a Zastava M05E1 (rifle on the right).
It is known that Zastava M05E1 guns were given to YPG fighters a few years ago. These weapons have changed hands frequently over time and can appear in the hands of different countries and organizations.
However, there are complaints that this gun jams from time to time and is prone to rust. Therefore, it is not a highly-desired weapon of choice.
In addition to these, it is possible to see that the PKK frequently uses the 5.45x39mm AK-74 and its derivatives.
An English PKK fighter with a 1981-dated Izhmash AKS-74 rifle.
Among these weapons, there is also the 5.45x39mm caliber AKS-74U (AK-74's version with a carbine and side-folding stock). The main source of these weapons is Syria. However, since they are also smuggled into Iraq, they can also be purchased there. These weapons are also a familiar "status-weapon" among jihadist organizations. However, these weapons do not represent any similar status in the PKK. Additionally, they can often be used to attack at close range during raid attacks.
PKK fighter with a 5.545x39mm AKS-74U carbine.
PKK fighter using a 5.45x39mm AKS-74U carbine during an attack on a TAF position in Metina, Northern Iraq on June 2, 2021.
PKK fighrter during an attack on TAF position in Ağrı, Turkey on May 13, 2021.
PKK fighter with an AKS-74U carbine with Meprolight M21 optic.
It can be seen that the PKK has replaced the stocks of fixed stock weapons with folded stocks in order to facilitate use. This includes variants of the AKM and AK-74 rifles.
PKK fighters with Zastava M05E1, AK-74 and AKM rifles. Both the AK-74 and AKM rifles can be seen with locally-added East German/Romanian style side-folding stocks.
A PKK fighter with a Romanian Pușcă Automată model 1986 (PA md. 86) rifle in Iraq. (Note the angled gas block and the position of the bayonet lug).
It's hard to say exactly where the PA md. 86 rifle came from, but it looks like it probably came from Iraq. It's worth noting, though, that it's not a common weapon.
PKK fighter with a 5.45x39mm Polish Kbk wz. 1988 Tantal rifle.
It is known that Iraq bought about 10000 Tantal rifles in 2005/2006. These rifles are now easily available from arms dealers in the region. It is also used by many organizations. The PKK can also be seen using these weapons from time to time.
In addition to 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm AK type rifles, 5.56x45mm NATO guns are also used by the PKK in various attacks. These weapons are usually M4 carbines and M16A2 & M16A4 rifles. Like many other weapons, the PKK obtains these weapons from weapons dealers in Iraq.
PKK fighter with an M16A4 rifle. The rifle also features a suppressor, M4 style stock and an ACOG pattern scope.
An M16A4 rifle, a Polish Kbk wz. 1988 Tantal rifle and a Pulsar Apex XD50 thermal scope seized from PKK in Hakkari on July 5, 2021.
PKK fighter, carrying an M16A4 rifle with a Dedal-T4.642 Pro/Hunter thermal scope.
Fighters during the celebration of PKK’s 43rd anniversary in Qandil, November 2021. A female fighter can be seen with an M4 Carbine.
Unlike assault rifles, heavier weapons used by the PKK can also be seen. These weapons are also frequently purchased from Iraq. However, from time to time, weapons seized from the TAF are also used (to be shown in the next section). Among these weapons, you can see various machine guns.
PKK fighter with a possible 7.62x54mmR Bulgarian Arsenal MG-1M general-purpose machine gun (GPMG) during an attack against TAF in Zap Region on April, 2021.
PKK fighter with a 7.62x54mmR PK pattern GPMG during an attack against TAF in Ağrı on May 13, 2021.
PKK fighters who carried out an attack on TAF position in Ağrı on May 13, 2021.
Fighters appear to be armed with a 7.62x39mm RPD light machine gun (LMG), M16A4 and M16A2 rifles (one M16A4 rifle can be seen with camo wrapps and M4-style stock), AK-74 rifle with locally-added side-folding stock and a Type 69 RPG Launcher (Chinese copy of RPG-7).
YJA-Star fighters with a 14.5x114mm KPV heavy machine gun (HMG)-based ZPU.
12.7x108mm DShKM pattern HMG, Bulgarian Arsenal MG-1M GPMG and RPG-7 seized from PKK in Northern Iraq on April 27, 2021.
It is obvious that the PKK has a wide variety of machine guns. In addition to these, they use various launchers and projectiles in attacks.
The most common of these launchers are the RPG-7 launchers. The RPG-7 and its Chinese production Type 69 were mentioned above. However, these are not the only launcher variants used by the PKK.
An “Al-Nasirah” RPG Launcher (Iraqi copy of RPG-7) with a Chinese HEI-AP bounding projectile with MJ-7 fuze. It was used during the attack on TAF position in Ağrı on May 13, 2021.
AK-74 rifle and Al-Nasirah RPG Launcher with a Type 69-1 HEAT projectile. These weapons were used during the attack on TAF position in Ağrı on May 13, 2021.
PKK fighter with an RPG-7 pattern Luancher and Chinese HEI-AP bounding projectile.
PKK fighter with an RPG-7V Launcher.
A Bulgarian PG-7VL projectile in the hands of a PKK fighter.
PKK fighters with several PG-7V pattern projectiles and a single Chinese HEI-AP bounding projectile with MJ-7 fuze.
As you can see, there are several variants of the PKK's RPG-7 and many different projectiles for this launcher. Some of these projectiles can also be used to attack from time to time by dropping them with UAVs, as mentioned before.
Another famous weapon used by the PKK is the M136 AT4 anti-tank weapons. There is a lot of information on the internet about these weapons. They gained a different reputation in the Turkish press, especially with the claims that the USA supplied these to PKK. However, it is worth noting that these claims do not have a grain of truth.
The main reason for the emergence of this claim is that approximately 1000 M136 AT4 anti-tank weapons were supplied to the YPG in Syria in support of their fight against ISIS. In addition to these, these weapons were given to the Iraqi Army and the Peshmerga affiliated to the KDP as support.
First of all, it should be noted that it is highly unlikely that 1,000 single-shot guns will appear now after not being used for years. It is important to underline that these weapons play a critical role, especially in the fierce battle against ISIS. However, it would not be wrong to say that some of the weapons given to the Iraqi Army and KDP fell into the Iraqi black market. This is true for most weapons supplied to the Iraqi Army and the Peshmerga.
Today, it is still possible to come across M136 AT4s for sale in Iraq from time to time. Considering these conditions, it is possible to say that the PKK procured these weapons from the black market. To suggest the opposite does not seem like a reasonable claim.
Preparation of PKK fighters for a raid on the TAF region. December 8, 2021. At least two M136 AT4 anti-tank weapons can be seen in the hands of the raid team.
The use of single-shot launchers for such a long time indicates a steady flow from the black market, as noted earlier.
However, because cross-border weapons are difficult to smuggle, some single-use launchers may only spawn from time to time. An example of this is the single-shot Czechoslovak RPG-75.
A Czechoslovak RPG-75, an M4 Carbine and two AKS-74U carbines seized from PKK in Van on August 6, 2021. It can be said that the RPG-75 probably came from Syria.
As you can see, the PKK used various weapons in the raids throughout 2021. However, the most important issue is the weapons and equipment they seized from these raids. Considering that the number of raids carried out by the PKK in 2021 has decreased, it can be seen that the number of seized weapons is not much. Yet, it should be noted that some important weapons and equipment were captured.
Captured weapons by PKK from TAF in Avaşin, Northern Iraq on April 26, 2021.
The PKK succeeded in seizing various weapons in its attack on the TAF point on April 26. The most important of these is the 5.56x45mm MPT-55 assault rifle. This rifle also appears to have been fitted with a 40mm HGL-1 under-barrel grenade launcher and Elcan Specter DR 1-4x scope before it was captured. In addition, it is possible to see that the PKK seized a Type 80 GPMG (Chinese copy of the PK) and Turkish Engerek-3 thermal binoculars in the same attack.
During this attack, PKK fighters used the weapons we mentioned earlier, such as the RPG-7, M16A4 and M136 AT4.
In addition, another successful raid was carried out at the end of 2021, on the night of December 8 to December 9 in Zap Region, Nothern Iraq/KRG.
YJA-Star fighter with captured weapons and equipments. She also appears to be carrying two noteable Iraqi HE FRAG hand grenades with UZRGM fuzes.
In this attack, it is seen that the PKK captured 2 more MPT-55 assault rifles, one Bulgarian Arsenal MG-M1 GPMG and two Turkish Aselsan A940 sights.
One of the rifles is fitted with a 40x46mm Turkish AKDAŞ AK-40GL under-barrel grenade launcher.
MPT-55s: “T0624-19BM09280” and “T0624-19BM09299”
AKDAŞ AK-40GL: “TG011-19A01891”
Arsenal MG-M1: Unkown
In this attack, the raid team used weapons such as M136 AT4s, AK-74, AKS-74U carbines, M4/M16A4 rifles & PK/Arsenal MG.
Finally, it is known that from time to time the PKK has carried out attacks with various IEDs and mines. Such attacks were also carried out frequently in 2021. However, since such attacks are carried out and recorded from a distance, explosives or mines cannot be seen clearly. Yet, it is possible to see the damage caused.
TS-50 land mine seized from PKK in Northern Iraq on May, 2021.
PKK’s IED attack on Turkish military in Hakkari on August 16, 2021.
In conclusion, the PKK’s arsenal includes a large number of weapons, ammunition types and explosives. The PKK seems to have generally preferred remote attacks throughout 2021. The most used weapons in these attacks are ATGMs. The number of raids has also decreased compared to previous years. The main reason for this is that they may have increased their capacity to perform remote attacks compared to the past and at the same time, they prefer to avoid casualties.
In short, when examined, it is clear that they have notable firepower in their possession. It is also worth noting that in general the adaptation of the organization to the region has increased significantly and its reflex capabilities seem to have improved.