* Sophistication well beyond "improvised" weapons production
* Major acquisition network in Turkey is key to
* Jihadists putting up stiff resistance in Iraqi stronghold
ERBIL, Iraq, Dec 14 Islamic State militants have
been producing weapons on a scale and sophistication which
matches national military forces and have standardised
production across their self-styled caliphate, an arms
monitoring group said on Wednesday.
Conflict Armament Research (CAR) said the jihadist group had
a "robust supply chain" of raw materials from Turkey, and the
technical precision of its work meant that it could not be
described as "improvised" weapons production.
"Although production facilities employ a range of
non-standard materials and chemical explosive precursors, the
degree of organisation, quality control, and inventory
management indicates a complex, centrally controlled industrial
production system," it said in a report following visits last
month to six facilities once operated by Islamic State in
Iraq's military launched a sweeping operation on Oct. 17 to
retake the northern city, the jihadists' last major stronghold
in the country, more than two years after government forces
dropped their weapons and fled.
Elite army troops have retaken a quarter of the city in a
gruelling U.S.-backed campaign, but their advance has been slow
and punishing. Soldiers are constrained by street-by-street
fighting and a built-up urban battlefield.
CAR, which identifies and tracks weapons and ammunitions in
conflicts, said the facilities it visited were part of a system
producing weapons according to precise guidelines issued by a
Production included a monitoring system with regular,
detailed reports on production rates and quality that helped
ensure standardisation - usually to the tenth of a millimetre -
across the jihadists' once sprawling territory in Iraq and
"Mortar rounds manufactured in one part of IS forces'
territory are calibrated to fit mortar tubes produced in
facilities located elsewhere," the report said.
CAR investigators estimated that Islamic State had produced
tens of thousands of rockets and mortar rounds in the months
leading up to the Mosul offensive.
Standardisation required consistency in the supply of source
materials, the report said, achieved through a major acquisition
network in neighbouring Turkey and a supply chain extending from
that country, through Syria, to Mosul.
In addition to technical advantages of standardisation, CAR
said Islamic State sought to mirror the functions of a national
military force in a bid to "legitimise the group's capacity and
coherence in the eyes of IS fighters".
The monitor also said documents it had seen in Mosul
suggested Islamic State had provided its fighters with
sophisticated instructions on making and planting improvised
explosive devices as well as the operation of complex weapons
systems, such as anti-tank guided missiles.
(Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Dominic Evans, Larry