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Ethiopia Acquired The Newest Chinese Artillery

May 25, 2023
Norinco SH15’s at an exercise in January. Via Ethiopian media.

A number of factors have ensured Chinese arms exports to the African continent rose significantly in the 2010s. A crucial one is the cost of Western-made arms compared with shoestring acquisition budgets. But an even more important influence is Beijing’s reputation as an all-weather friend for governments with less than sterling reputations in the West. Ethiopia ended its recent civil war in January this year and fresh evidence has emerged its army fields Norinco’s latest truck howitzer–a 155mm artillery piece combined with a fully protected all-terrain 6×6 transporter. These vehicles are a step up from the towed Norinco AH2’s the army used during the 2020-2022 Tigray War.

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Russia Will Not Run Out Of Gerans

May 15, 2023
Explosions in the city of Khmelnytsky on May 13. Via Telegram.

In the middle of 2022 a shadowy arms deal between Moscow and Tehran covered sizable deliveries for one-way attack (OWA) drones, or “droniv-kamikadze” as Ukrainians refer to them, that became terror weapons in every sense. Labeled the Geran-1 or Geran-2 in Cyrillic but known as the Shahed-131/136 after its Iranian design these propeller-driven delta wing missiles have menaced Ukrainian cities for the past nine months rather than battlefield targets–a distinction for Russian-made Lancets, which are assembled by Kalashnikov and Zala Aero. Although there have been many bad takes about the Gerans/Shaheds, such as claims their inventory is depleted, it’s now a matter of fact that attacks can be expected for months on end without respite.

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The Dubious Rocket Artillery Of The Taliban

May 1, 2023
BM-21 Grad launchers at Bagram in 2022.

There’s no question Afghanistan is awash in weaponry. It’s an ugly predicament that has caused the downfall of successive regimes over the last five decades. With the Taliban now on the cusp of their second year in power since they overran Kabul in August 2021 their leadership have shown no inclination for a lasting peace. In fact, judging by Taliban propaganda, advertising their hard won victory and martial strength is an essential task. To their credit they have swept up a lot of weapons including the same Soviet vintage rockets and ballistic missiles they used to own in the late 1990s. It’s begging to be asked: Is this ordnance even functional?

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The Taliban Have An Immense Humvee Fleet

April 18, 2023
A row of HMMWV M1151A1 trucks operated by the Taliban. Via Afghanistan MoD.

One year and eight months since they swept into power the isolationist Taliban regime have consolidated an immense motor pool. Its foundation are thousands of AM General HMMWVs delivered to the defunct Afghan National Army (ANA) and other security branches across two decades. Competing vehicle types are also in abundance but the Taliban Humvees are distinct for each having a modicum of ballistic protection and a large caliber weapon mounted on the roof. While the previously deposed Taliban regime fielded hundreds of old tanks in the 1990s today’s vast Humvee fleet is more than enough to intimidate a population that suffers in silence. Trying to measure the size and reach of these forgotten vehicles can offer a useful perspective on the Taliban’s iron fisted rule.

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Indonesia Is Almost Making Ballistic Missiles

April 7, 2023
Via PT Dahana.

Back in the 2010s two state-owned companies, the chemicals producer PT Dahana and space agency LAPAN, developed a solid fuel rocket that could deliver a small payload over short distances. From 2016 until 2018 the RX 450 that was renamed the R-HAN 450 became a tactical rocket with a maximum effective range of 100 kilometers. But its manufacturer PT Dahana hasn’t been very aggressive in enhancing its largest weapon system–there’s no doubt about its role since its very name R-HAN complements the smaller R-HAN 122mm “Grad” rockets. This might change soon but nobody knows when. Although manufacturing large caliber rockets isn’t controversial the applications of the same manufacturing processes can lead to so-called strategic weapons.

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Russia Has A Massive Supply Of Killer Drones

April 2, 2023
Ukraine’s TDF practice shooting down Shahed-136 drones. Via Vadym Sarakhan.

On March 28 the Ukrainian Air Force paid tribute to a fallen pilot, Maj. Denis Kirilyuk, after his Su-27 was lost to enemy fire in the southern front. The air force hailed Maj. Kirilyuk’s long service and impressive combat record but didn’t publish details on his plane’s loss. Russian propagandists on social media were quick to exploit the event and spread a rumor that Kirilyuk’s aircraft was “downed” while trying to intercept Shahed-136/Geran-2 one-way attack (OWA) drones. Indeed, late in the evening of March 28 the air force detected 15 Shaheds flown from Krasnodar-Krai in Russia–its coastline is the eastern half of the Azov Sea. The rumors spread about Maj. Kirilyuk’s death were patterned after an incident in October 2022 when a Ukrainian MiG-29 crashed (the pilot survived) after debris from an exploding Sahed-136 struck the canopy.

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The US Army Must Revise Its Playing Cards

March 31, 2023
Via US Army.

In 2019 the US Army’s TRADOC G-2 announced the release of playing cards that will help enlisted personnel familiarize themselves with weapon systems employed by geopolitical adversaries such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. The choice of topic–with a focus on land warfare to suit the US Army’s role–reflected TRADOC’s shift toward historical “Great Power Competition” rather than global deployments versus radical extremists. This trend manifested in the late 2010s and is understood as a return to a cold war not just against a single opponent, but four of them, although the US government doesn’t acknowledge this sometimes. The card decks designed and released by TRADOC are available as free downloads and, surprisingly, the contents are interesting but perhaps should have had some editorial oversight.

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Myanmar Has Serious Naval Ambitions

March 27, 2023
Via Myanmar state media.

With a junta still ruling the country amid a relentless civil war there are indicators it’s determined to stay in power for many years. A grandiose symbol of this intent is the annual military parade that takes place in the secluded capital Naypyidaw on January 4. The spectacle is adorned with marching soldiers and hardware and now concludes with trucks carrying models of naval vessels. (Naypyidaw is landlocked.) It’s in the last demonstration where the junta advertises its vision of national prestige. Since the 2010s the armed forces and its industrial partners–vast holding companies owned by the state and packed with generals–have carried out ambitious plans for shipbuilding, among other endeavors. Today, regardless of the economy’s downward trend, Myanmar does have the means to assemble large transports (LPDs) and even surface combatants like corvettes and frigates.

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Ansar Allah Have A Low Cost Anti-Aircraft Missile

March 24, 2023

There has been a surge of weapons manufacturing in the Middle East and North Africa during the previous decade. Almost none of the resulting systems are innovative and are often repurposed or updated technology originating from the Cold War. But the conflict in Yemen that began in 2015 and has now ended thanks to a diplomatic breakthrough involving Iran and Saudi Arabia has seen an unexpected level of homegrown weapons manufacturing, even if these are limited to assembly. A large parade held in the capital Sana’a, which is controlled by Ansar Allah, during the final weeks of the 2022 ceasefire was a surprising showcase for rockets and missiles. How Iran managed to deliver so many airframes and guidance systems for strategic missiles boggles the mind. The same conundrum clouds the existence of the Miraj surface-to-air missile. (Pictured above.)

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Vietnam Still Keeps Soviet Ballistic Missiles

March 22, 2023
Via Rosoboronexport.

There’s a growing trend of tactical missile development in the ASEAN and this doesn’t attract any serious scrutiny. In December 2022 an arms show in Hanoi, Vietnam, that was organized by the government included an outdoor exhibition of weapon systems. Zealous coverage from an unlikely source–Russia’s own arms export agency–revealed the extent of Soviet vintage weaponry still being used. A pleasant surprise are the most up-to-date photos of Vietnam’s R-17E Elbrus, also known as Scud B, shared online. Vietnam was always acknowledged to have a stockpile of these liquid fueled SRBMs but the origin and size were never well-documented. At least now there’s a fresh media trail to verify its role in the country’s armed forces.

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Indonesia Is Making New Infantry Weapons

March 19, 2023
Via PT Dahana.

A state-owned manufacturer specializing in chemicals and composite materials is building a serious catalog of military products in record time. In late February images shared on PT Dahana’s social media accounts showed trainees touring its sprawling Central Management Office/Kampus in Subang Regency and viewing a display of ordnance, including unguided aerial bombs. Part of the same onsite exhibit was a mockup for a lightweight shoulder-fired rocket launcher. It can be found in PT Dahana‘s free brochure simply labeled “anti-tank weapon” and is armed with a single 80mm rocket loaded inside a 102x1002mm launch tube with an integrated trigger assembly. According to its specifications the launch tube is reloadable and effective range for its munition is up to 300 meters although firing tests in 2021 achieved 600 meters.

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The Elite Small Arms Of North Korea

March 10, 2023
Via North Korean state media.

With its parades serving as theatrical advertisements for national prestige this year’s effort didn’t let anyone down. In fact, the occasion was used to show a new ICBM transporter and the extent of nuclear-armed missile production Pyongyang is obsessed with. However, on the conventional side of things the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and its branches still follow the mold set by Kim Jong Un: only the best and most attractive types of equipment are seen, no more obsolescent tanks and rocket launchers. This has led to rare weapon systems appearing at these events and a total re-imagining of the infantry who march in impeccable formation.

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