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The Jordanian Army Is Reinventing Its Firepower

November 22, 2019

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Before year’s end the Kingdom of Jordan will boast having the Middle East’s most powerful reconnaissance vehicles for its army. In August the Spanish company Star Defense Logistics & Engineering (SDLE) completed tests for its “third-generation thermal cameras.” According to SDLE the cameras track targets up to 11 kilometers away and is adaptable to different vehicles. SDLE’s thermal camera even has self-diagnosis software and functions in extreme temperatures.

The first batch of SDLE’s thermal cameras are now scheduled to reach the Royal Jordanian Army for the upgrades on the latter’s Centauro CRV fleet. SDLE won a contract in 2018 to upgrade 80 of the Centauros acquired by Jordan from Italy.

The Centauro is one of the most distinctive combat vehicles ever fielded by NATO. It’s the sum of an 8×8 infantry transport and a small turret with a 105 mm gun. In a combat reconnaissance role the Centauro is unmatched for its speed and firepower; two qualities that earned it the label of “tank destroyer.” Weighing far less than a main battle tank the Centauro can be delivered ashore along with marines and flown to a mission area for rapid deployments in a conflict area. It’s not surprising Centauros earned long and storied careers with the Italian and Spanish armies.

The RJA’s Centauros gives them potent reconnaissance and scouting vehicles for territorial defense missions against external enemies and terrorists, which are the likeliest scenarios for near-term threats given the unresolved Syrian civil war. It’s been reported a total of 141 Centauros were delivered to Jordan in total and the numbers suggest these vehicles were meant as partial replacements for the retired Challenger 1 tanks. Operating Centauros are also useful when familiarizing troops with 8×8 vehicles. Jordan’s state-owned KADDB is ahead of its regional peers for developing a mine-resistant 8×8 personnel carrier. If this program is going to evolve in the coming years the lessons learned from operating the Centauro will prove useful. KADDB’s production output may not have grown beyond armored trucks at present it does have a strong track record for maintaining and modernizing different tanks and APCs.

Despite a meager budget that trails the annual military spending of its neighbors Jordan manages to preserve its stability and even cultivate a thriving military-industrial sector. (Saudi Arabia spent $82.9 billion on its military in 2018 while Jordan only managed $1.63 billion.) Under the umbrella of KADDB are several companies that have established small niches in the regional commerce for military equipment. Protected vehicles and their accessories are a specific bright spot as KADDB has surpassed its larger neighbors Egypt and Saudi Arabia in securing visible exports. Small arms and soldier equipment are another potential success story. In September KADDB announced it was partnering with Turkey’s MKEK, another state-owned enterprise, for expanding output for ammunition to “30 million rounds annually.” This is significant since Gulf States represent a huge market for 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm ammunition and stronger prospects await in Africa and Central Asia.

A crucial advantage of KADDB is its attractiveness to foreign partners. Unburdened by sanctions and kept afloat by government funding, the companies under KADDB are able to localize manufacturing for specific technologies without much difficulty. In 2018, for example, Jadara showed off a new portable anti-tank missile developed with the help of Ukrainian expertise. This portends the advent of precision weapons manufactured in Jordan. Whatever the outcome, the army and its local suppliers manage to do much with the little they have.

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