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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.

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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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China Is Exporting Its Newest Military Rifle

March 2, 2023
From left to right: Type 56-2, AR 191, two handguns, Type 56, SAR 191. Via Chinese state media.

Having fully recovered from the pandemic-era downswing arms shows have returned in massive scale across Asia. IDEX 2023 lived up to its hype as the Arab world’s best known “defense” industry gathering and Chinese exhibitors built a sizable indoor presence. An unexpected appearance was CJAIE or China Jing An Import & Export Corporation the legal arms dealer that oversees deliveries for Norinco’s arsenal. (Along with products of other Chinese manufacturers.) Thanks to the familiar zealous media coverage by Chinese broadcasters interesting details were gleaned from CJAIE’s participation: the brand new QBZ-series of modular assault rifles are now offered to end users outside China as the “Automatic Rifle/Short Automatic Rifle 191.”

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Iran Makes So Many Kinds Of Grad Launchers

March 1, 2023
IRGC Grad launchers on locally made L series trucks. Via Iranian media.

It’s no secret the Islamic Republic’s various ground forces–whether they are inside the country or not–field significant quantities of artillery. The most common are launchers for small and large caliber unguided rockets and the vehicle fleet needed for transporting them keeps growing. Evidence of this trend is overabundant and found in three countries: Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. The same condition prevails at home. Since the regular army and the Revolutionary Guard participate in at least a handful of exercises each year the resulting media coverage exposes the inventory each branch maintains. What’s noticeable at this point is every single land warfare formation in Iran’s military institutions have rocket artillery and their preferred type is the Soviet vintage Grad.

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Iranian Combat Drones Are Extremely Destructive

February 28, 2023
Photos released on February 22 shows two Israeli MPs inspecting the parts taken from downed Iranian-made drones like the Shahed-131 and Mohajer-6. The large cylinder is the warhead of a Shahed. Via Ukrainian media.

In late February the independent monitoring group Conflict Armament Research released another field dispatch for its ongoing investigation of Iranian Shahed-series munitions in Ukraine. The publication presented evidence gathered in January from the wreckage of Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 “single use UAVs.” Although the term “kamikaze drone” and “loitering munition” have been applied to these weapons that the Russians introduced as early as August 2022–physical evidence wasn’t reported until September–their role has inspired other labels such as “one way attack-UAV” according to British military intelligence.

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Russia Bet On The Wrong Loitering Munitions

February 27, 2023

The wreckage of a Geran-2’s wing section scrawled with graffiti. The fragment was collected after a wave of attacks on new year’s eve. Via social media.

While the Russian military have employed combat drones throughout the invasion of Ukraine their success has been dubious. Like other aspects of Moscow’s war machine the disappointing course of the war has upended many ideas that underpinned the ground and air force’s advanced weapons fielded in the 2010s. The KUB and Lancet munitions, for example, have either too little range or aren’t available in significant numbers. The ironic part is it took Iranian assistance with the low-cost Geran-series of propeller-driven missiles (classifying them as “loitering munitions” has fallen out of fashion) to further Moscow’s air campaign.

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Bangladesh Bought The Newest Chinese Tanks

February 25, 2023

A Norinco VT5 tank at the December 16 parade. Via BTV.

The last Victory Day parade in Dhaka, the capital of the densely populated South Asian state, had few surprises but did offer more proof Chinese armor has a loyal clientele. Seen at the December 16 event at the National Parade Ground were a formation of VT5 tanks accompanying their older siblings the VT1 or MBT 2000. The VT5’s are best described as Norinco’s most up-to-date light or medium tanks–the distinction is arguable–and separate variants of these are in service with the PLA ground force as the Type 15. Although its neighbor India was responsible for securing its independence from Pakistan in 1971 the country’s armed forces have embraced China as its main supplier.

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Myanmar Makes All Of Its Rocket Artillery

February 14, 2023
Via Myanmar state media.

Southeast Asia’s most troubled country is still in the grip of a junta obsessed with national prestige. The widespread indifference towards the ongoing civil war has also served the Tatmadaw’s ends: fresh evidence reveals it has continued a program to build up long-range precision ordnance and, eventually, strategic weapons. At a parade on January 4 to mark the country’s formal independence in 1948 the armed forces showed off its achievements, whether historical or recent. The addition of six mobile rocket artillery systems never seen before is an important milestone as these are armed with the biggest missiles the Tatmadaw have ever fielded. (See above.)

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