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Fonts Again

US mortar shellIran mortar

First off, I was wrong about the Iranians not using English. Dave Bell, in comments, has found the export division of the Iranian arms industry that does indeed use English and provided a link to their export 81mm Mortar Round which is the bomb on the right. The “CTG M43A1” tells Dave what he needs to know before he drops it on the tube.

Dave then demonstrates a knowledge of mortars, noting that the round is designed for a WWII M-1 81mm mortar and talks about why the markings are important.

Talking Points Memo provides the PowerPoint slides from the Baghdad briefing which is the source of the picture of the 81mm Mortar Round on the left.

[Aside: this is why it is important to have comments, so others with specific knowledge can clear up questions, and it isn’t painful to admit you were wrong about something.]

As Dave points out, there isn’t enough information on the mortar bomb the Americans displayed. I would point out that it is printed on the bottom and lacks the clear contrast of the Iranian bomb. Oh, the American exhibit uses a serif font, while the Iranians apparently use sans serif. [Hey, if it was good enough to get a CBS news team fired and net a “blogger of the year” for the wingers, I might as well go for it.]

Regarding the RPG-7 munitions in the American exhibit, the Iranian site doesn’t list the ordnance in their catalog, although they sell the launcher. The labeling “P.G.7-AT-1” and “LOT:5-31-2006” don’t seem military, there’s too much punctuation. The round pictured is generally labeled “PG-7V” and requires a launch charge to be useful.

You have to wonder if the reason this was done in Baghdad was because of the US law against the government spreading propaganda and misinformation in the United States. It didn’t convince the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs, so why should anyone else buy this?


1 Steve Bates { 02.13.07 at 11:29 pm }

If this administration were not so hostile to our country’s intelligence professionals, maybe they could scrape up someone who could do a competent fake for them. On the surface, this one seems downright insulting to just about any military person who looks at it, weapons expert or otherwise.

One wonders what is so (expletive deleted) secret that they couldn’t at least publish a photo of the complete mortar round. It’s not as if it’s some new, hi-tech weapon. IMO, the most reasonable explanation is that they faked the labels, hastily, on a round that already had other labels on it, in places not visible in the photo.

2 Bryan { 02.13.07 at 11:58 pm }

That’s the other problem that anyone who has ever opened an ammo box will notice, the state of the paint. You don’t waste a lot of paint on ammo, it’s going to be blown up for crying out loud. The paint is always chipped and flaked; it’s a matte finish; there are scratches. The packing is to keep down the force of shocks, like dropping, not to protect the finish. This stuff was supposedly handled by “insurgents” who may have buried it, or had it in the trunk of a vehicle. You don’t wear white cotton gloves to handle ordnance on the battlefield. If you ever saw an aircraft being re-armed in a hurry you would wonder why more of them don’t get blown up on their field while being serviced. These things have obviously been painted for this display.

3 Nemo { 02.14.07 at 1:29 am }

I suspect part of the problem is, if they show the entire mortar, servicemen who aren’t in on the con are apt to go “wait a minute, that looks exactly like the Iraqi mortars we’ve been finding cached all over the country… except for the wierd green lettering.”

4 ellroon { 02.14.07 at 9:54 am }

Along with all this about bombs written in english, why aren’t we addressing the known fact that we were selling weaponry to Iran just a few months ago?

5 Dave Bell { 02.14.07 at 10:10 am }

Thanks for the plaudits. It’s mostly Wikipedia and Google who deserve them. I’m afraid I slipped up by assuming that data would include the day-of-month, though that Lot Number on the AT round does lok a lot like a date.

And possibly just as fake.

For an example, the official British standard for marking mortar bombs (PDF file)

All this makes me wonder what they teach journalists these days. If I can check these details, why can’t they? I’m far too old be be a whiz-kid know-it-all geek. When I was at school, we used slide rules.

(ObPython: Uphill, both ways, in the snow.)

6 Bryan { 02.14.07 at 11:00 am }

Nemo, being a Floridian I would only buy my RPGs and Mortars in Miami where there will be big sales soon when Castro finally dies, but the former Soviet bloc countries, China, and North Korea all export death through the “free ports” of the United Arab Emirates. Gun and drugging smuggling are very old professions in the area. The US and NATO are far behind, but their weapons tend to be very expensive and harder to maintain.

It was interesting that the pictures you found indicate that the Iraqis label below the ribbing, as opposed to above.

Come on, Ellroon, it was just spare parts to maintain the fleet of F-14s that the Iranian air force has. The DoD surplus sales are a good place to pick up a few HazMat suits if you are planning to set off a nerve gas attack, but nothing to worry about.

Dave, I’ve been known to use a “slip stick” and we had to fight off saber-tooth tigers when I went to school. It looks like the Iranians were influenced by the UK labeling standards.

7 Nemo { 02.14.07 at 12:16 pm }

Bryan: Looking at the green-on-green “Iranian” 81mm round, my feeling is it was lettered via screen-printing, and whoever did it decided firstly, a neat serif font would look cool, secondly, shamrock-green paint would be an appropriate color to use, and thirdly, the “fat” part of the mortar, below the ribs, would be easier to print on than the rapidly tapering, synclastic part above the ribs.

8 Bryan { 02.14.07 at 3:15 pm }

Really, Nemo, you sound like you believe this was done by a marketing department instead of an ordnance factory. The US would never…well hardly ever…

Yep, psyops, all they do is linked to psyops.

9 Why Now? » Blog Archive » Language Lesson { 02.14.07 at 11:54 pm }

[…] [Update: see Fonts Again up above for corrections and more information.] […]

10 skeptic { 02.23.07 at 10:21 pm }

I looked through as many Google images as I could find with visible shell markings and found only one that might have had dates as part of their markings on the front.

But I also found this interesting image of South African mortar rounds


Compare the images to the mortar in slide #12 on the PPT slides from the briefing.

11 Bryan { 02.23.07 at 10:30 pm }

These rounds all look alike, but most people, including the South Africans based on the picture your provided label the top of the round. As near as I can tell, the Iraqis are the only rounds labeled on the bottom.