Cold War-era weaponry in pictures

The battle against Islamic State has highlighted the extent to which Cold War-era weaponry is deployed on the battlefield. From battle tanks to AK-47 assault rifles, these weapons are still widely used around the world.


    Iraqi T-55

    A destroyed Iraqi T-55 main battle tank – one of many that were in Iraq's arsenal prior to the 1991 Gulf War. Today the T-55 is still widely available throughout the Middle East and Asia as upwards of 100,000 were produced from the 1950s to the 1980s. (Photo: U.S. Military/Tech. Sgt. Joe Coleman, USAF)


    Conceived at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s the BMP-1(Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty 1) is a Soviet amphibious tracked infantry fighting vehicle. It was designed to provide supporting fire and increase infantry squad mobility while fighting along main battle tanks.  It was first tested in combat in the 1873 Yom Kippur War when it was used by Egyptian and Syrian forces, and large numbers of these vehicles fell into the hands of ISIS in recent years. This example was captured by U.S. forces in Iraq and is now at the Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. (Photo: Peter Suciu)


    The SA-6 "Gainful" – also known as the 2K12 "Kub" – was developed by the Soviets as a low to medium-level air defense system. It was designed to protect ground forces from air attack. It was actively used during the 2011 military intervention in Libya in 2011 but was ineffective –  no NATO or other allied aircraft were shot down. The system was also used by Iraq, and a USAF F-16 was shot down from an SA-6S during the 1991 Gulf War. Numerous variants of the SA-6/2K12 "Kub" were captured by ISIS forces. (Photo: SSGT Cherie A. Thurlby, U.S. Air Force)

    M113 APC

    ISIS has not only captured Soviet-designed vehicles. The Iraqi Army had been equipped with U.S. vehicles including the M113, a fully tracked armored personnel carrier that entered service in April 1962. The U.S. Army stopped buying the M113s in 2007, but still has some 6,000 in its inventory. It is not known how many former Iraqi Army M113s ISIS may have captured but it is reported that the insurgent group has up to five currently in operation. (Photo:


    While outdated compared to today's modern jet fighters, the Soviet-built MiG-21 was one of the most-produced supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history and the most-produced combat aircraft since the Korean War. It also had the longest production run of any combat aircraft as variants were built from 1959 to 1985. The jet remains in use with the Syrian Air Force and it is believed that ISIS has captured several of the Cold War-era fighters – yet no ISIS pilot has been brave (or perhaps stupid) enough to try to fly one. The example above is in the Cairo Military Museum (Photo: Peter Suciu)

    PKM Machine Gun

    A Ukrainian soldier training with a PKM machine gun. This general-purpose machine gun was introduced in 1961 and remains in use as a front-line infantry and vehicle-mounted weapon. Vast numbers of the PKM were supplied to the Egyptian, Libyan, Syria and Iraqi armies – and this remains a favored support weapon of insurgents and rebel forces throughout the world (Photo by: Army Spc. Michael Sword 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs.)  

    RPG-7 rocket propelled grenade launcher

    An Afghan National Army soldier fires an RGP-7. This low cost anti-armor weapon was developed in the 1960s and is currently used by more than 40 countries around the world. Because of its ruggedness and ease of use it remains popular with irregular and guerrilla forces throughout the world. (Photo: United States Marine Corps/ Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe)


    This second-generation main tank entered production in 1971 and remains in use throughout the world. Following the 1982 Lebanon War, when Syrian-used T-72s clashed with Israeli M60A1 and Merkava tanks, Syrian president Hafez al-Assad called the T-72 "the best tank in the world." T-72 tanks have likely faced one another in the Syrian Civil War as well as in the 2011 Libyan Civil War. Earlier this year Nigerian military forces were equipped with the T-72 to battle Boko Haram. (Photo: Jacob H. Smith, U.S. Army)


    Since the withdrawal of American forces the Iraqi military has been equipped with vast quantities of  U.S. military hardware. However, more than two-thirds of the Humvees that the U.S. supplied have reportedly been destroyed or ended up in the hands of ISIS militants. Last year jihadists captured 2,300 Humvees from Iraqi forces when they took over the city of Mosul, some of which were then converted to armored vehicles. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 3rd Class Shawn Hussong)


    An Iraqi army soldier fires an AK-47 assault rifle during marksmanship training. More than 75 million AK-47s (Avtomat Kalashnikova) and its variants were produced during the Cold War. Even six decades after it was first developed it remains the most popular and widely-used assault rifle in the world. It was estimated that out of the 500 million firearms in the world in 2004 more than 100 million belonged to the Kalashnikov family – and three-quarter of those were AK-47s. (Photo: United States Marine Corps/ Cpl. Jonathan Boynes)
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