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Tajikistan Maintains A Large Soviet Arsenal

December 8, 2021
T-62 tanks at a military parade. Via Tajikistan media.

This year saw the poorest Central Asian republic advertise its military strength at an unexpected scale. Over a period of four months Tajikistan’s armed forces took part in multinational exercises and war games as President Emomali Rahmon toured bases to set an important agenda; the situation in Afghanistan had turned against Kabul and the prospect of a victorious Taliban scared Dushanbe. This possibility, which came to pass in mid-August, no doubt motivated Rahmon to keep exhorting his troops and observe solemn parades with marching infantry squares and tank columns.

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The Chinese Scorpion UCAV Is Instant Air Power

December 6, 2021
Via Chinese state media.

Air Show China 2021 will be remembered as a huge advertisement for the country’s status as a “pacing threat” to the US’ status as a superpower. The usage of the term “pacing threat” was chosen by the US military to better characterize the nature of its “great power competition” with China. A “pacing threat” endures for years, if not decades, and unlike Iran or Russia, won’t subside after its economy sputters. The US military is correct in framing China this way because, going by its unmanned aircraft alone, it has surpassed all expectations.

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Chinese Artillery Makes Weak Armies Strong

December 6, 2021
Via Chinese state media.

Two arms shows this year served as gigantic marketing events for what qualifies as the world’s largest selection of exportable conventional weapons. There was Russia’s annual Army 2021 in August and then Air Show China in Guangdong occupying the last week of September. Between them were more different types of weapon systems than could fit in any normal exhibition held elsewhere. But Air Show China, which skipped a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, eclipses its Russian counterpart for sheer volume. Just one of the exhibitors at this event–the conglomerate Norinco–had more products on display for every imaginable domain than its competitors in, for example, North America or Western Europe. Of course, Norinco didn’t forget the artillery.

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Iran Has Four New Air Defense Weapons

December 5, 2021
The Joshan medium-range SAM that participated in “Defenders of the Velayat Skies 1400.” Via Iranian media.

The Islamic Republic has surpassed its neighbors when it comes to developing anti-aircraft missiles. When compared to Israel’s formidable military-industrial sector Iran’s state-owned manufacturers have produced more SAMs than what a normal army can reasonably maintain. This was evident during the “Defenders of the Velayat Skies 1400” exercise that took place in mid-October. The three or four-day event was supposed to test the interoperability of the military’s various air defense branches but also served as an advertisement for its new weapons.

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Pakistan Got The Best Chinese Tanks For Its Army

December 4, 2021
Via ISPR.

It’s now confirmed that new Chinese-made battle tanks are in service with Pakistan’s ground forces. A large batch of Norinco MBT 3000’s, also known as the “VT4,” participated in what the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) described as a “corps level” exercise in the Punjab region last month. MBT 3000 deliveries were confirmed in the summer of 2020 and they appeared in this year’s Armed Forces Day parade leading the older Al Khalid tanks. The army now operates four models of Chinese-made tanks–the Type 59M, the Type 69-IIMP, the Type 85-II, and the MBT 3000–alongside a growing fleet of Al Zarrars (heavily upgraded Type 59’s) and Al Khalid/I that are based on the short-lived Norinco Type 90.

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Making India Great – Dr. Pande Measures Her Own Country

November 30, 2021

Although 2020 will always be remembered as the dreadful pandemic year there were so many wonderful books that came out to occupy the tedium of home confinement. Aparna Pande‘s Making India Great: The Promise of a Reluctant Global Power is one of them. Written and completed just before COVID-19 swept the planet and released in January 2021, it captures and measures its subject with an unflinching eye. A political scientist and veteran think tanker, Pande has no use for inflated assessments of India and gives Hindutva a solid beat down. “Getting carried away by emotions about other people’s beliefs or views on history often comes in the way of determining a course of action in the present moment,” she writes in her introduction.

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Iran Is Continuously Weaponizing The Aras 2

November 29, 2021
Via Iranian media.

A large-scale military exercise in mid-October became a showcase for the new generation of Iranian-made air defense systems. “Defenders of the Velayat Skies 1400” involved the IRGC and at least three branches of the regular armed forces–the air force, the air defense force, and the ground force–coordinating their activities with various equipment, including road mobile radars. The exercises also took place in the tense weeks after a sudden diplomatic rift with Azerbaijan started when Iranian drivers were detained while hauling merchandise to Armenia. Baku and Tehran eventually normalized their relationship the following month but the Velayat Skies exercise in October was memorable for the weaponry it brought to the world’s attention.

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The Drone Index: Baykar Bayraktar Akinci

November 23, 2021
A model of the Akinci on display at the SAHA Expo 2021. Via Baykar.

The idea of Turkish “air power” has reached an unexpected inflection point. While its air force is languishing for want of new fighters–the F-35A is now beyond reach–efforts to assemble a fifth-generation multirole fighter are equally in limbo. Meanwhile, the country’s aerospace manufacturers are enjoying their heyday for the positive media coverage given Turkish drones flown in different localized wars. Baykar gets the lion’s share of attention for the success of its TB2 UCAV but its latest high altitude long endurance (HALE) attack drone surpasses all expectations.

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Chinese Trucks Help Protect Tajikistan

November 18, 2021
Chinese-made pickup trucks used by police commandos. Via Tajikistan state media.

Still holding back on formal recognition of the Taliban and worried about its vulnerable border the Central Asian state ruled by Pres. Emomali Rahmon is constantly advertising its military strength. Whether these are well-orchestrated mobilizations or live fire exercises with the Russian military the whole point is the government shows it has everything under control. This was driven home once more when Rahmon attended a small parade on November 10 marking an anniversary of the police forces. Footage from the event was helpful in identifying the other types of Chinese equipment delivered to Tajikistan’s domestic security apparatus.

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The VN-22 Is The Ultimate Wheeled APC

November 18, 2021
Via Chinese state media.

Aside form supplying the PLA and other branches of the military China’s state-owned companies are rolling out so many new weapons each year that global demand can’t keep up with the oversupply. This doesn’t seem to bother Norinco, the manufacturer best known for their tanks and artillery (they make drones too), whose participation at Air Show China 2021 involved the usual mud-splattered obstacle course for its combat vehicles. Whether indoors or outdoors, Norinco’s products were unmissable, including a new wheeled APC that looks like it can do whatever. The VN-22 is an amphibious 6×6 vehicle encased in add-on armor with a roof spacious enough for a lot of different weapons.

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China Is A Supermarket Of Air Defense Weaponry

November 17, 2021
Via Chinese state media.

With a military-industrial sector geared for overproduction the efforts by China’s government to promote its military technology has reached absurd heights. For the duration of Air Show China 2021, also known as the Zhuhai Air Show, a spacious indoor venue was crowded with armaments Beijing wanted to sell abroad. More than unimaginable quantities of cheap assault rifles the higher end of lethality seen at the exhibition received the most glowing coverage from Chinese media. A certified star at Zhuhai was an updated mobile air defense vehicle that appeared in previous installments yet consistently failed to win over buyers. The FK-2000 (pictured above) still looks impressive though.

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China Is Ahead In Building Battle Robots

November 16, 2021
Via Chinese state media.

In the six days occupied by Air Show China 2021 (September 28 – October 3) more lethal technology was displayed under one roof than at any comparable event in Europe or North America. Although the main attraction were the aerobatics demos by locally manufactured aircraft a spacious indoor venue was reserved for exportable weapon systems and equipment. In fact, this year’s emphasis on the military products of state-owned manufacturers was too strong. Gone was any pretense of a thriving civil aerospace sector; China on its own is a gargantuan weapons factory.

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