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The T-90M Is Stuck In A Hard War

January 21, 2023
A smouldering T-90M filmed using a drone in mid-January. Via social media.

Perceptions of Russian military technology have nosedived since Moscow launched its ruinous invasion of Ukraine last year. But the struggle to change and shape these same perceptions is constant. With the war set to grind on for the rest of 2023 the belligerents are busy deconstructing the mythology around each other’s equipment: the Russian-made T-90M Proryv, sometimes referred to as Proryv-3, has taken a particular beating on and off the battlefield. Although it’s the best protected main battle tank in service with the Russian Army a growing digital trail of “open source” footage has tarnished its reputation.

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North Korea Built The Largest Rocket Artillery Ever

January 13, 2023

Via North Korean media.

As 2022 drew to a close Kim Jong Un visited a state-owned factory to hail its production of a massive tracked launcher for short-range ballistic missiles. Although some may split hairs over the differences between large diameter rocket artillery and SRBMs the munitions shown at this event from December 31 are clearly missiles: they have dimensions and external characteristics for long distance flight paths guided by precision targeting. A tarpaulin above the podium where Kim delivered his prepared speech provided another important detail. This weapon system carries missiles with a 600mm caliber or each missile’s airframe is 600mm’s wide. For perspective many Cold War vintage SRBMs on either side of the Iron Curtain–the MGM-52 Lance and the Tochka come to mind–had nearly the same caliber but this North Korean missile stretches longer and is loaded in multiples rather than singles.

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2022: The Year In War

January 5, 2023
Via Wikimedia Commons.

As a new year commences it’s high time for a retrospective look at how warfare unraveled in the past 12 months. The current record is an ugly one. Readers are no doubt aware Europe is now in the grip of its largest conflict since 1939 and new ones are simmering at the edges of the EU. A decade since the last feeble stretch of American global supremacy the world is now suffering from the ill-effects caused by “Great Power Competition” as imagined by Washington, DC’s foreign policy blob. The United States prefers to envision a generational struggle against four pacing threats–China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea–but this just ignores the unresolved conflicts that have dragged on since the mid-20th century.

As sobering as 2022 turned out there are very encouraging signs amid the troubles. Serious diplomacy as conducted by affected neighbors made some progress and even worked to suspend wars in Ethiopia and Yemen. There are less than successful examples, however, such as in the Caucasus where Azerbaijan is trying to enlarge its territory and the aimless struggle for the Western Sahara. Hope springs in South America as new conflicts no longer erupt and a thaw in the bitter relationship between Washington, DC and Caracas portends good things. But Central America is a different story as criminal violence is on the uptick again and destabilizes whole countries.

But other worrisome trends keep running: authoritarian systems are becoming entrenched to a frightening degree. If Afghanistan is a reflection of bankrupt Western-led nation building the carnage in Myanmar that began in 2021 reflects Western cynicism. Rather than protect the aspirations of Myanmar’s pro-democracy rebellion they are left to their own devices as China and Russia help shore up Naypyidaw’s ruling junta. Across the Indian Ocean there’s an uninterrupted belt of Central African states that have slid back into dictatorships.

Below are the countries struggling with internal and external conflict in the past year. Each will be given short descriptions over the weekend.

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Vietnam Is Assembling Air Defense Radars

January 4, 2023
Via Vietnamese state media.

A low-key arms show in Hanoi called “VietnamDefence 2022” turned some attention to the country’s budding military-industrial sector. The longstanding view that Vietnam’s military is burdened with outdated equipment of Cold War vintage is now incorrect as there’s ample evidence state-owned enterprises are advancing their technological prowess by leaps and bounds. The telecommunications conglomerate Viettel in particular enjoyed a lot of exposure at the event held from December 8 to 10. An impressive variety of products were displayed at its indoor pavilion including ruggedized portable radios and different battlefield radars. One of Viettel’s tabletop models (pictured above) at the event deserves some scrutiny. Judging by its appearance it looks like a long-range 3D surveillance radar for an integrated air defense network.

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Chinese Missiles Can Alter World Politics

January 3, 2023

No other country is enlarging its export catalog for precision weapons as fast as China. During last year’s widely covered air show in Zhuhai the missiles on display attracted more attention than any of the fixed wing aircraft crowded outside and inside the venue. A standout were a pair of air-launched ballistic missiles carried by a single H-6K bomber that was parked along the airport runway. Although they eluded proper identification a mock up for a YJ-21E missile was found at the indoor exhibition and this is a clear and unambiguous signal that it’s export approved; Beijing expects to profit from selling it abroad. The missiles carried by the H-6K and the YJ-21E are understood to be different from each other.

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The Anti-Aircraft Artillery Of Ansar Allah

December 20, 2022

As the year draws to a close there are strong indicators that the absence of major hostilities in Yemen will persist and, possibly, mark the war’s end. The resulting lull has been exploited by Ansar Allah, who dominate the capital Sana’a, and their opponents who are supported by the GCC and based in the south and southeast to pursue other less tactical goals. Since the United Nations brokered ceasefire that lasted from April to October paused all fighting the media arm of Ansar Allah broadened their online presence with multiple channels on various platforms, including a content-rich news website, and these outlets are used to amplify a victorious narrative. Although the Saudi-led coalition devastated Yemen and its infrastructure much of the country’s north is controlled by Ansar Allah.

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India Is Building Its Anti-Ballistic Missile Infrastructure

December 16, 2022


Last month saw another exceptional demonstration of Asian military technology when the AD-1 missile was launched off the Odisha coast. The November 2 live fire test organized by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) was for its long-running anti-ballistic missile (ABM) program and at this stage it was categorized as the “Phase-II Ballistic Missile Defense.” The AD-1 missile is supposed to be a two-stage system with a “solid motor”–its primary and secondary stages use solid fuel. Based on its appearance the AD-1 could have originated as separate missile types that were combined to form a new one. As shown by photos and video of the test the AD-1 was launched from a wheeled multi-axle transporter.

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The VN20 Is The Largest Combat Vehicle In Asia

December 3, 2022
Via Norinco.

With the prestigious Air Show China exhibition switching from a once-every-two-years to a yearly schedule the volume of coverage and hype for the companies involved is, without being ironic, astronomical. (A full-scale replica of the Tiangong space station was assembled for the indoor venue.) But since 2016 more attention is being paid to the event’s military products than the civil aviation that were once the real focus. The shift was unmistakable in 2021 and this year’s installment, which lasted from November 8 until 12, the military-industrial sector owned the venue to an extreme degree. As usual there are some notable firsts and the multirole combat vehicle from Norinco called the VN20 is among them.

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Iranian Drones Are A Menace Over Ukraine

December 3, 2022
Wreckage of a Geran-2 in Kyiv. Via social media.

What could be the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Ukraine as its electricity supply dwindles after relentless airstrikes orchestrated by Russia. Since October 10 waves of cruise missiles and loitering munitions wrecked critical infrastructure and other civilian targets as battlefield reversals forced Russia’s army to retreat across the Dnipro River and consolidate its frontline. But the slow retribution Moscow exacted has taken its toll, with most Ukrainian citizens now rationing their power usage as NATO scrambles to have generators and other humanitarian aid delivered as quickly as possible.

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South Korea Is Working On Its Biggest Arms Deal Ever

November 28, 2022
Via Hanwha Defense.

On September 19 one of South Korea’s largest chaebols–the prestigious conglomerates that dominate the national economy–staged an elaborate review in their factory campus outside Seoul to impress a delegation from Poland. The occasion was meant to kick off a huge arms deal signed in July for several hundred K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers manufactured by Hanwha Defense and are constantly being shopped abroad. Current operators of the K9 in Europe are Estonia, Finland, and Norway while it’s assembled under license in India and Turkiye. Since May this year Warsaw has acted on its plans for building what could be Europe’s largest ground force as a response to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

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Ansar Allah Have The Best Iranian Missiles

November 21, 2022
Via Ansar Allah media.

The record of arms trafficking to Yemen during the active conflict from 2015 until this year is quite substantial. But when it came to the external support for Ansar Allah, who control much of the northwest, it was always Iran that never failed at sustaining the organization’s war effort. Since 2019 the military controlled by Ansar Allah–an institution that combines its irregulars with the Saleh-era armed forces–have promoted “self-sufficiency.” When a ceasefire in April extended for months they went farther by orchestrating huge public events. This is how Iranian missiles, renamed and painted over, have finally been identified as a critical part of Ansar Allah’s arsenal.

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The Heavily Armed Wing Loong 3 Is For Export

November 15, 2022
Via Chinese state media.

The recent Air Show China 2022 that lasted from November 8 to 13 at its usual venue in Zhuhai has taken on a militaristic bent. This became unmistakable after the long pause between 2018 and 2021 when the civilian aspect of the show retreated to the background and media coverage over-emphasized the big military-industrial enterprises that were participating. The aerospace giant AVIC even topped its previous outing with a brand new combat drone: the Wing Loong 3 or Wing Loong-3. A stationary model was at the center of its indoor pavilion loaded with missiles and bombs.

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