Homemade Syrian rebel-tank with gamepad gun controller

The unfortunately named "Sham II" is a homemade Syrian rebel tank whose main gun is directed with an off-brand video-game thumbstick/gamepad controller. Targetting is via webcam and cheap flat-panel display.

The Sham II, an updated version of a previously made Sham I light infantry by Syrian fighters from the al Ansar Brigade, cost approximately $10,000 (not including the gun), according to one rebel fighter whose brother had designed and built it. The vehicle is reportedly covered with steel plating approximately 2.5 centimeters thick. However, the Sham II is admittedly underprepared to defend against rocket-propelled grenades or tank fire. Rebels claimed the Sham II would soon be ushered into a combat role by members of al Ansar's Saad Benmoaz battalion near Aleppo.

Syrian rebels debut homemade fighting vehicle [Threat Matrix] (via /.)


  1. Someone reverse-engineered the SPI serial interface of the Playstation 2 gamepad a few years back. I used it in 2010 to control a small underwater robot. It’s pretty useful, if you compensate for the lousy stick centering and slop with a control deadband.

    Not surprisingly, gamers are very good at driving real robots with gamepads.

  2. Usually I would scoff slightly at seeing a vehicle putting out so much black smoke – in this case, I marvel at the technical skill.

  3. I don’t think it’d take much to stop it.  Forget RPG’s or another tank, a set of spike strips and the tires would be toast.  But it is pretty cool for something that was done on the cheap with what was on hand.

  4. I admire the craftiness in making a machine like that, and I respect the dedication that would cause someone to put themselves in harms way, merely by standing near that thing…much less going to battle in it.

    But the infatuation with toys of death…leads to more death being dealt.  And while it is incontrovertible fact that Assad is the most cowardly and bloodthirsty despot on the world stage of late, and any man worth his salt would go to great lengths to defend his life, family, home from brutal assault; regardless of the odds…

    This stuck together rattletrap is a perfect target for all manner of weapons the Syrian regime has in plentiful supply.  A fer-crying-out-loud spike strip would shut it down. 

    I hope that in the end, the bloodbath will cease.  Assad goes far away…any sepulcher would be fine.  And the Syrian people can find a way to co-exist.  Maybe Playstation Mobile Weapon Platform can assist in that:  Good luck guys.

  5. The Soviet 12.7 mm heavy machine guns often seen mounted on the back of pickup trucks would breeze right through both sides of this vehicle.

    It would be useful for rooting out snipers if it had more powerful weapon. If it incorporated an RPG into the gun mount, that would multiply the usefulness of this beast. Or even attach a couple RPG tubes to the body and it might be a good ambush weapon. Look at the tiny Ontos with its six recoiless rifles. 


    1. What if we did not compare it to a tank? How about an APC or even an armored Humvee? For something thrown together for $10k in a few backyard type garages I think it is pretty impressive. I am amazed they were able to get it to go anywhere with that much weight, much less add in remote control weapons.

      1. it’d still be a death trap, because widely available heavy machine guns often mounted on much lesser vehicles than APCs or armored humvees would still blow right through it, side to side.

        honestly, the best way to make that thing not be a total waste of lives and money would be if they made it remotely piloted so it could be unmanned. then it may or may not be any use in an actual battle, but at least wouldn’t get (quite so many?) people killed.

        1. What I meant was, is this vehicle any less safe to that kind of fire than an APC or Humvee?

          I am thinking this vehicle, like those, is designed with light arms fire in mind. In that way it seems better designed than most of what the A-Team came up with back in the day :)

          1. It’s too tall.  The chance of it getting hit and spraying the interior with shrapnel is greatly increased by its height.  It would be safer if it were 18″ shorter even if it had less overhead protection.

            Something like the Universal Carrier hauling a couple RPG teams would be vastly more effective.


            Also, the front plate should be angled all the way to the front bumper. Even 1/4″ plate would be a huge help.

          2. I agree there is room for improvement. But if the headline had read, “Homemade Syrian Rebel armored truck with gamepad gun controller” would we have had so much discourse over it not really being anywhere near as good as a real tank?

          3. yes, because APCs and purpose-armored humvees typically have considerably stronger armor than this thing is likely to have.

            mild steel plates such as paramilitary rebels are likely to be able to get just aren’t hard enough to stand up to heavy machine gun fire, much less armor-piercing fire. that takes relatively unusual materials, such as purpose-hardened steel, kevlar, or ceramics. even with proper armor plating, 25 mm of it isn’t really all that much; with soft steel, some hunting rifles might still punch through, at least if the shooter can find steel-core armor piercing ammo for them.

            (which may well be doable. lots of civilian hunting rifles today are built to fire what military rifles of WW2 fired, and surplus military ammo from back then can still work just fine. old russian Mosin-Nagant rifles make good hunting weapons just as they are, and century-old AP bullets for them would likely pierce this vehicle.)

            the overall design of this vehicle’s not great, either. the sides are too vertical, even the front plate isn’t angled enough to make much of a difference, and if it’s got a vee-hull bottom i’d be very surprised indeed. it can probably handle pistol fire, and maybe civilian hunting rifles / infantry assault rifles. but if it comes up against anything vehicle-mounted or with exploding warheads, it’s a steel coffin on wheels.

          4. Yep. This will also have the same problems as the British WW1 tanks even with low-velocity bullets. If you hit the vertical sides with a bullet, the bullet may not penetrate, but the shock wave will, causing a nasty scab of metal to detach on the inside. The early tank drivers wore steampunk leather face armour long before it was trendy.
            You can fix this to some extent by pebble-dashing the outside. Or sticking any granular garbage to the outside that will stop you getting a coherent shock wave, or break up the jet from an anti-tank round. But it won’t be safe.

        2. This or a standard Toyota pickup… these are your choices. Which would you choose?

          Actually the best thing we could’ve done to reduce needless loss of life would be to impose a no-fly zone over Syria as the international community should have over a year ago. The FSA has an up hill battle on their hands as long as that dead motherfucker (mark my words, al-Assad is going to meet his end like Gaddafi did) still has control over the skies.

          1. between this and a toyota “technical”… actually, i’d probably hop on the toyota. it’d move faster and be easier to jump out of at need, plus it’s got better visibility to see what’s coming at it. and is just as heavily armed, while not really being any less well armored; heavy machine guns will chew up both vehicles.

            and yeah, a Syrian no-fly zone is WAY overdue. there’s no good reason at all to go any easier on Assad than on Gaddafi, the only reason that the rest of the world is ignoring Syria is that Russia complains so loudly when it loses client states.

          2. While I agree your logic is sound, the FSA is making these things so there is clearly a benefit to having them. $10k is a lot of guns and I can’t imagine they’d waste scare resource.

            The only OTHER reason the world hasn’t imposed a no-fly zone is because al Assad’s army is actually formidable, whereas Gaddafi’s was comparably laughable.

            Fighter Aircraft:
            Syria= 16th in the world
            Libya= 63rd in the world

            16th largest army in the world in terms of active personnel vs Libya’s 51st position.

    2. You nailed it with the snipers thing. If anyone’s been watching much of what is happening Syrian they’d know that snipers are one of al Assad’s favourite tools for putting terror and fear into the population of places that are centers of opposition to him. I suspect this was designed primarily to allow FSA soldiers to move around those places.

  6. That thing looks like a deathtrap to me.  Thin armor and the only vision is a few poorly protected webcams?  It’s going to be blind a couple of minutes into the battle, and the tires are going to be shot up shortly afterward.  And that’s only if they’re lucky and none of the guys they’re fighting are equipped with heavier weapons.

  7. It would be more practical to create a wheeled version of the British Universal Carrier ( “Bren Gun Carrier””) with firing ports in the hull for an AK gunner beside the driver, a 50 cal in the back with a pintle mount and shield, and racks for carrying a half dozen RPG launchers .  The goal would be to have a very low profile vehicle with the ability to deliver two or more RPG gunners. Ideally the engine would be in the back with the driver and gunner very low up front.

    1. The Bren Gun Carrier is designed to be a mobile machine gun position to counter other machine gun positions or advancing troops. It would be worse than useless at the task the Sham II was made for: responding to snipers. It has an open top and it has a pintle mount with limited traverse and obvious target for snipers even if you put a roof on it.

      The Russians in Afghanistan and Chechnya found that the best anti-sniper vehicle was the ZSU-23-4 – lightly armored, but with excellent gun elevation and optical sighting system. It doesn’t have an obvious target for snipers. I don’t see the Sham II’s gun traverse, but in many ways I see it’s design as going in the ZSU-23-4 direction (all armored, all indirect vision, better than naked eye spotting, and so on).

      1. Keep in mind the Bren carriers actually has as much fire power as this home brew armored car, because the Bren carrier has a dedicated gunner in in the passenger seat. 

  8. This reminds me of the armored cars of the Spanish Civil War: http://www.iisg.nl/collections/spanishcivilwar/a37-977.php

  9. Being that we obviously already have wireless controllers, would it be feasible to pump up that controller signal to a usable range?

  10. Sham–wow! You’ll be saying “wow” every time you use this tank. Works wet or dry. It just does the work. Made in Syria. The Syrians always make good stuff. You’d be out of your mind not to own one of these. If you call now, we’ll give you a second tank, absolutely free. Beware of imitators!

  11. It totally needs an airbrushed Frank Frazetta mural on the side, maybe “Savage Pellucidar” in a burkha.

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