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Ansar Allah Are Switching To The AK-103

September 30, 2022
Via Youtube.

The war that engulfed the country in 2015 may have finally reached an inconclusive end when a truce prevailed earlier this year. Although it put a stop to active combat Yemen is effectively partitioned between Ansar Allah, the military organization that holds the capital Sana’a and much of the north and northwest, and its rivals. In the south a separate government, who are bankrolled by Abu Dhabi, hold sway while the east of the country is under Riyadh’s de facto control.

It’s important to emphasize Saudi Arabia is leading a pan-Arab coalition against the “Houthis” who are supported by Iran. However, the extent of the Saudi-led coalition’s unity depends on the regions they are struggling to hold. With the April 2 ceasefire now entering its seventh month Ansar Allah is ratcheting up its own propaganda. From August until September it organized the largest public displays of its military strength to date and showed proof it fully controls the armed forces and its equipment. The latter is now bolstered by what looks like a vast inventory of precision-guided weapons supplied by Iran or assembled with Iranian help.

On a much smaller scale Ansar Allah appear to be upgrading its soldier’s equipment and there’s now evidence the AK-103 is replacing older assault rifles. (Pictured above are a naval unit in Hudaydah, a coastal city.) The ironic part is, since the current war is viewed as a struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for a strategic geography, both countries have imported large numbers of the Kalashnikov Group AK-103 for their own militaries and brought these to Yemen. Iran went farther and maintains an active production line for its “KL-133” assault rifles, which are copies of the AK-103. Previously, Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO) mass-produced Chinese Type 56S assault rifles but swapped its wooden furniture with a dark brown plastic material.

These DIO “KL” rifles have since been delivered to Iraq, Syria, and Yemen in bulk together with other small arms. However, a source based in the southern city of Aden–a location not under Ansar Allah’s control–shared how new AK-pattern assault rifles are manufactured with unique markings engraved near the fire selector switch. (The fire selector switch on a Kalashnikov is a flat lever attached behind the charging handle and has three modes: safety, single shot, fully automatic.) These rifles have non-standard polymer furniture as well that creates a resemblance to the original Russian AK-103.

An indoor exhibition from early 2021 to promote locally made weapons, including copies of the RPG-7 and–in the background–AK-103’s with their own optics. Via Youtube.

Most analysts agree that the spread of AK-103 assault rifles in Yemen is likely resulting from Saudi Arabia’s support for its own proxies. Saudi special forces deployed in Yemen do carry AK-103’s and shipments of these small arms arranged by the Saudis have been located and scrutinized on many occasions. Besides earlier stocks of AK-103’s and AK-104’s purchased for the army before the 2015 war there’s also the likelihood of other arms trafficking channels delivering these weapons into Yemen along with their competition: Chinese-made Type 56 assault rifles made to resemble AK-103’s with similar furniture and the distinct cylindrical flash hider/muzzle brake. (Chinese AK-103’s are commercially available in Europe under different brands such as “CS/LR11”.)

To tell apart a Russian-made AK-103 and its Chinese-made clone passed off as an “AK-103” it’s best to note the subtle differences in the shape of the flash hider/muzzle brake; the shape and size of the gas tube; the details of the polymer foregrip; the shape of the trunnion, charging handle, and fire selector switch; the rivets used on the lower receiver; the indentations on the sidefolding stock. Another important clue is the switch on the left side of the lower receiver for locking the folded stock–it’s bigger on the Chinese copy. Regardless of their differences these rifles can be loaded with polymer or steel magazines.

There’s strong evidence Ansar Allah’s ground forces have been acquainted with the AK-103 or its local derivative for a while now. In early 2021 the defense ministry organized an indoor exhibition to promote the armaments sector that had grown since the war began in 2015. It revealed a substantial inventory of ballistic missiles and accurized large caliber rockets together with various combat drones. But the same venue had a section dedicated to small arms and featured a display of AK-103 assault rifles mounting optics. (See picture above.)

The military-industrial sector organized by Ansar Allah is far from a low tech enterprise and now includes small arms like sniper rifles and portable anti-tank rockets–copies of the RPG-7 are made locally. The simple manufacturing know-how, the tools and process to go with it, that’s required for producing an assault rifle is in place and the existence of a Yemeni plant dedicated to rolling out AK-103’s isn’t far-fetched.

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