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Published on Aug 9, 2017
One of the iconic weapons of the Russian Civil War was the tachanka–a light wheeled carriage pulled by a team of horses and mounting a Maxim heavy machine-gun, which was a weapon system ideally suited to the wide open spaces and low troop densities of that conflict. Tachankas were used by virtually every combatant in that conflict to provide mobile direct fire support to infantry and cavalry formations. After the war, with the Red Army ultimately becoming a regular force well equipped with modern weapons, the tachanka vanished from its arsenal. However, decades later, it was reincarnated as the “technical”–a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck mounting a heavy machine gun, automatic cannon, or even a multiple rocket launcher–for use in the brushfire wars of Africa where once again the conditions of the Russian Civil War obtained. Once the wave of regime change had swept over the Middle East, it was inevitable that the “technical” would see extensive use in those wars. Indeed, the fleets of brand-new, customized Toyota Hillux trucks became indelibly associated with ISIS during its triumphant advances across Iraq and Syria. Their usefulness in that conflict was, again, due to the conditions prevalent in the theater of war: low troop densities and open terrain favoring mobile operations. Even airpower was not an effective countermeasure against this veritable desert light cavalry. ISIS mastery of this method of warfare became particularly evident in its recapture of Palmyra in 2016, when it was able to hit the extended salient from several directions and at many points, thus collapsing the Syrian defenses. The light truck-mounted ISIS units also proved effective at thwarting offensive operations by harassing the vulnerable lines of communications of heavy mechanized forces.