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Turkey Is Creating A Better Somali Army

May 1, 2022
Via Somali media.

Decades of turmoil left Somalia at bottom place in most indicators for development. A formal economy is almost non-existent and the population is on the verge of famine due to climate risks. But a rare success is emerging within the feeble government thanks to the persistence of Turkey. Critical institutions needed for the survival of the state, such as the military and civil service, are now becoming stronger as Ankara lays a new foundation for a country whose location is vital to global trade. The results are most apparent in the Somali National Armed Forces (SNAF) whose soldiers now carry MPT-76 battle rifles.

On April 12 a military parade was held to commemorate the armed force’s founding anniversary. The event offered a useful glimpse how far the Somali National Army (SNA) is being reconstituted beyond the usual cheap small arms and pickup trucks. Since 2017 when it opened a training facility in Mogadishu called “TURKSOM” regular deliveries of equipment and small arms have been issue to its graduates. A training program for Somali law enforcement also includes complete armament and kit supplied by Turkey. At the April 12 parade the formations involved had at least three types of NATO small arms: the Turkish-made MPT-76 battle rifle; the H&K G3 battle rifle (probably the Turkish MKEK variant); the M2 Browning heavy machine gun. The last in particular were mounted on the Kirpi 4×4 MRAPs delivered to the SNA from 2020 until 2021.

The MPT-76 is the new standard rifle of the Turkish army with production shared between the state-owned manufacturer MKEK and other privately-owned enterprises. It’s an AR-pattern small arm chambered for 7.62x51mm ammunition and fed by a polymer box magazine. The original variant had a large carrying handle and rear sight mounted on the upper rail but the carrying handle has since been removed. The sights of the MPT-76 are now limited to an adjustable/detachable rear sight and a frontal flip sight. A curved foregrip can be positioned along the length of rail on the lower handguard that extends from the magazine well up to the barrel assembly. Hundreds of soldiers at the April 12 parade, including the elite “Red Berets,” were carrying MPT-76 rifles while another unit known as the Danab Brigade had older G3 rifles. Turkey did provide MG3 machine guns for the Somali police through its TURKSOM training program.

MKEK now offers two additional variants of the MPT-76. These are the MPT-76MH with improved ergonomics and a newly designed adjustable sliding stock and a marksman rifle called the KNT-76 with a longer high strength barrel and its own optics. A removable single shot grenade launcher chambered for 40mm rounds is available for both the MTP-76 and MPT-76MH. A separate AR-pattern carbine was developed by MKEK for special forces and law enforcement called the MPT-55K. The Turkish armed forces began switching from their older G3 rifles to the MPT-76 from 2015-2016 and it was soon advertised to potential end users abroad. If the SNA are indeed embracing Turkish-made small arms they have no shortage of choices to replace their outdated Soviet vintage and Chinese-made small arms.

Turkey is committed to a lasting presence in Somalia. One advantage of this policy, despite its considerable risks, is to build and cultivate another loyal client for its military products whose catalog has grown to an immense scale. There are fresh opportunities in handheld communications, protective apparel, and physical infrastructure even before advanced technology such as rocket artillery and UAVs are considered. Even cost-effective heavy weapons for the SNA are lacking, as these are limited to Chinese heavy machine guns and old recoilless rifles, and this is a specific niche Turkey is in a position to fill if the opportunity arises. Aside form basic infantry small arms Turkish armored vehicles have solid prospects in Somalia as long as these aren’t chocked off by deliveries from other countries such as China and the US.

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