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The UAE Is Collecting Battlefield Rockets

February 17, 2020

The Jobaria MCRL, highlighted in purple, can be armed with 122mm and 300mm rockets. Via UAE media.

On February 9 the rulers of the Emirates attended a military parade to mark the years since it joined a regional coalition against the Houthis in 2015. The actual war in Yemen remains a stalemate with an uncertain outcome but Abu Dhabi maximized its opportunities when it cultivated local allies and honed its logistical muscle. During this recent occasion, however, the focus was on the enlisted men who served in the campaign. The blatant advertising of the military’s current arsenal was obvious too. A crucial reveal at the event was the Emirati ground forces’ battlefield rocket systems.

In a viral photo shared on social media a vast formation of several thousand troops along with their equipment–a single US-made C-17 transport loomed in the background–showed how far the UAE has gone since the days it was reliant on outdated British and French kit. But caught on the edges of the photo were two remarkable rocket artillery weapons. In 2013 the UAE partnered with Turkey’s Roketsan for the Jobaria, best described as a trailer truck hauling an entire battery of rockets, that was designated a “Multiple Cradle Rocket Launcher.” At the time the Jobaria boasted four Grad launchers with 60 tubes, each loaded with the ubiquitous 122mm rockets. Seen in the photo above is another Jobaria with a different armament type.

As a manufacturer specializing in large caliber munitions Roketsan does have a portfolio of exportable rocket artillery. The means of producing these were transferred by China in the 1990s but the selection has grown since. Joining the 70mm, 107mm, 122mm, and 300mm rockets and an MTCR compliant ballistic missile in its catalog is the “TRG-230″or 230mm medium-range rocket. Roketsan now offers choices of guided or unguided rockets to foreign customers; the former is upgraded with satellite navigation and canards or winglets to adjust the missile’s trajectory. The TRG-230, whether precision guided or not, is carried by its vehicle on rectangular containers.

The Jobaria highlighted in the photo above is carrying launchers designed to hold quartets of an undetermined rocket caliber. The large caliber rockets exported by Roketsan are either 230mm or 300mm. Its ally Azerbaijan paid for T-300 launchers to complement its Russian-made Smerch rocket artillery, giving it extra striking power besides its Belarusian and Israeli SRBMs. But the T-300 has cylindrical launch tubes rather than rectangular ones. Looking into the Jobaria’s development reveals bespoke launchers were fashioned for its chosen munitions, these being 122mm and 300mm. It turns out the 300mm caliber on the Jobaria has the cylindrical launch tubes installed in rectangular containers. A single Jobaria carries four launchers each armed with a quartet of guided rockets–for 16 rockets total–controlled by a large auxiliary power unit. This represents a massive concentration of firepower.

If the Jobaria armed with 300mm rockets is the precision variant, which features the TRGK-300 guidance kit installed on the rocket’s airframe, then the Emirates now maintains a second stockpile of short-range ballistic missiles. A precision TRG-300 Block I rocket has a maximum range of 120 kilometers; the heavier Block II reaches 90 km. The rocket types acquired by Abu Dhabi for its super-sized artillery system joins a diverse arsenal representing the best surface-to-surface munitions money can buy. For example, the estimated 32 HIMARS bought from the US since 2009 cost up to $1.6 billion and covers a hundred ATACMS ballistic missiles. At the very least Abu Dabi’s status as a country with ballistic missiles should be acknowledged since this will inspire future purchases of long-range precision weapons.

Joining the UAE’s HIMARS are Norinco SR5‘s (they were parked near the fighter jets) whose launchers are designed to be loaded with varied missiles and rockets depending on the target. The SR5 is the world’s newest rocket artillery system and a potential bestseller with countries such as Algeria and Laos having made unconfirmed purchases. For the UAE’s ground force to emphasize a broad array of rocket artillery systems indicates its foresight. With conventional air power becoming extremely expensive and threatened by anti-access weapons, portable surface-to-surface missiles are the better investment. This is being proven in the very same conflict the UAE has gotten itself mired in, with the Houthis using their Iranian-supplied missiles to strike back at their foes over extreme distances.

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