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China Is Exporting Its Newest Military Rifle

March 2, 2023
From left to right: Type 56-2, AR 191, two handguns, Type 56, SAR 191. Via Chinese state media.

Having fully recovered from the pandemic-era downswing arms shows have returned in massive scale across Asia. IDEX 2023 lived up to its hype as the Arab world’s best known “defense” industry gathering and Chinese exhibitors built a sizable indoor presence. An unexpected appearance was CJAIE or China Jing An Import & Export Corporation the legal arms dealer that oversees deliveries for Norinco’s arsenal. (Along with products of other Chinese manufacturers.) Thanks to the familiar zealous media coverage by Chinese broadcasters interesting details were gleaned from CJAIE’s participation: the brand new QBZ-series of modular assault rifles are now offered to end users outside China as the “Automatic Rifle/Short Automatic Rifle 191.”

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Iran Makes So Many Kinds Of Grad Launchers

March 1, 2023
IRGC Grad launchers on locally made L series trucks. Via Iranian media.

It’s no secret the Islamic Republic’s various ground forces–whether they are inside the country or not–field significant quantities of artillery. The most common are launchers for small and large caliber unguided rockets and the vehicle fleet needed for transporting them keeps growing. Evidence of this trend is overabundant and found in three countries: Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. The same condition prevails at home. Since the regular army and the Revolutionary Guard participate in at least a handful of exercises each year the resulting media coverage exposes the inventory each branch maintains. What’s noticeable at this point is every single land warfare formation in Iran’s military institutions have rocket artillery and their preferred type is the Soviet vintage Grad.

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Iranian Combat Drones Are Extremely Destructive

February 28, 2023
Photos released on February 22 shows two Israeli MPs inspecting the parts taken from downed Iranian-made drones like the Shahed-131 and Mohajer-6. The large cylinder is the warhead of a Shahed. Via Ukrainian media.

In late February the independent monitoring group Conflict Armament Research released another field dispatch for its ongoing investigation of Iranian Shahed-series munitions in Ukraine. The publication presented evidence gathered in January from the wreckage of Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 “single use UAVs.” Although the term “kamikaze drone” and “loitering munition” have been applied to these weapons that the Russians introduced as early as August 2022–physical evidence wasn’t reported until September–their role has inspired other labels such as “one way attack-UAV” (OWA-UAV) according to British military intelligence.

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Russia Bet On The Wrong Loitering Munitions

February 27, 2023

The wreckage of a Geran-2’s wing section scrawled with graffiti. The fragment was collected after a wave of attacks on new year’s eve. Via social media.

While the Russian military have employed combat drones throughout the invasion of Ukraine their success has been dubious. Like other aspects of Moscow’s war machine the disappointing course of the war has upended many ideas that underpinned the ground and air force’s advanced weapons fielded in the 2010s. The KUB and Lancet munitions, for example, have either too little range or aren’t available in significant numbers. The ironic part is it took Iranian assistance with the low-cost Geran-series of propeller-driven missiles (classifying them as “loitering munitions” has fallen out of fashion) to further Moscow’s air campaign.

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Bangladesh Bought The Newest Chinese Tanks

February 25, 2023

A Norinco VT5 tank at the December 16 parade. Via BTV.

The last Victory Day parade in Dhaka, the capital of the densely populated South Asian state, had few surprises but did offer more proof Chinese armor has a loyal clientele. Seen at the December 16 event at the National Parade Ground were a formation of VT5 tanks accompanying their older siblings the VT1 or MBT 2000. The VT5’s are best described as Norinco’s most up-to-date light or medium tanks–the distinction is arguable–and separate variants of these are in service with the PLA ground force as the Type 15. Although its neighbor India was responsible for securing its independence from Pakistan in 1971 the country’s armed forces have embraced China as its main supplier.

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Myanmar Makes All Of Its Rocket Artillery

February 14, 2023
Via Myanmar state media.

Southeast Asia’s most troubled country is still in the grip of a junta obsessed with national prestige. The widespread indifference towards the ongoing civil war has also served the Tatmadaw’s ends: fresh evidence reveals it has continued a program to build up long-range precision ordnance and, eventually, strategic weapons. At a parade on January 4 to mark the country’s formal independence in 1948 the armed forces showed off its achievements, whether historical or recent. The addition of six mobile rocket artillery systems never seen before is an important milestone as these are armed with the biggest missiles the Tatmadaw have ever fielded. (See above.)

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The Indian Army Have A New Tank Killer

February 5, 2023
The NAMICA at the Republic Day parade on January 26. Via Indian media.

Asian militaries are deploying new weaponry at a rapid clip. The Indian armed forces are no exception and for their annual military parade at the Rajpath in New Delhi the ongoing theme remained “Atmanirbhar Bharat” with an obvious emphasis on locally made vehicles and equipment. (Of course, India’s sprawling military-industrial sector is still reliant on licensed foreign models.) A welcome appearance was made by a lone Namica or NAMICA tracked vehicle whose role is to field and launch six NAG fire-and-forget NLOS missiles. The NAG is broadly comparable to the MBDA Brimstone and the Rafale Spike ER2 and when added to a pivoting launcher on a protected transporter the resulting system packs a remarkable punch.

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China Is Making New Fighter Jet Engines

February 1, 2023
Via Chinese state media.

With the popular Zhuhai air show now a yearly event the scope of its exhibition has grown to unimaginable size. For two years running the largest state-owned enterprises have gathered in the venue and gone all out to advertise their latest products and inventions. A highlight from the 2022 event that didn’t garner enough buzz despite the glowing media coverage is Aero Engine Corporation of China (AECC) whose pavilion was crowded with, no surprises here, engines. AECC is responsible for the country’s civil and military aerospace supply chain and much more. At Zhuhai it displayed a “family” of its Taihang engines for the PLAAF’s fixed wing combat aircraft. The real eye-catcher among them was an unnamed “2D thrust vector” model (pictured above) that was once considered impossible to develop in China, much less by a local aerospace manufacturer.

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The T-90M Is Stuck In A Hard War

January 21, 2023
A smouldering T-90M filmed using a drone in mid-January. Via social media.

Perceptions of Russian military technology have nosedived since Moscow launched its ruinous invasion of Ukraine last year. But the struggle to change and shape these same perceptions is constant. With the war set to grind on for the rest of 2023 the belligerents are busy deconstructing the mythology around each other’s equipment: the Russian-made T-90M Proryv, sometimes referred to as Proryv-3, has taken a particular beating on and off the battlefield. Although it’s the best protected main battle tank in service with the Russian Army a growing digital trail of “open source” footage has tarnished its reputation.

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North Korea Built The Largest Rocket Artillery Ever

January 13, 2023

Via North Korean media.

As 2022 drew to a close Kim Jong Un visited a state-owned factory to hail its production of a massive tracked launcher for short-range ballistic missiles. Although some may split hairs over the differences between large diameter rocket artillery and SRBMs the munitions shown at this event from December 31 are clearly missiles: they have dimensions and external characteristics for long distance flight paths guided by precision targeting. A tarpaulin above the podium where Kim delivered his prepared speech provided another important detail. This weapon system carries missiles with a 600mm caliber or each missile’s airframe is 600mm’s wide. For perspective many Cold War vintage SRBMs on either side of the Iron Curtain–the MGM-52 Lance and the Tochka come to mind–had nearly the same caliber but this North Korean missile stretches longer and is loaded in multiples rather than singles.

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2022: The Year In War

January 5, 2023
Via Wikimedia Commons.

As a new year commences it’s high time for a retrospective look at how warfare unraveled in the past 12 months. The current record is an ugly one. Readers are no doubt aware Europe is now in the grip of its largest conflict since 1939 and new ones are simmering at the edges of the EU. A decade since the last feeble stretch of American global supremacy the world is now suffering from the ill-effects caused by “Great Power Competition” as imagined by Washington, DC’s foreign policy blob. The United States prefers to envision a generational struggle against four pacing threats–China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea–but this just ignores the unresolved conflicts that have dragged on since the mid-20th century.

As sobering as 2022 turned out there are very encouraging signs amid the troubles. Serious diplomacy as conducted by affected neighbors made some progress and even worked to suspend wars in Ethiopia and Yemen. There are less than successful examples, however, such as in the Caucasus where Azerbaijan is trying to enlarge its territory and the aimless struggle for the Western Sahara. Hope springs in South America as new conflicts no longer erupt and a thaw in the bitter relationship between Washington, DC and Caracas portends good things. But Central America is a different story as criminal violence is on the uptick again and destabilizes whole countries.

But other worrisome trends keep running: authoritarian systems are becoming entrenched to a frightening degree. If Afghanistan is a reflection of bankrupt Western-led nation building the carnage in Myanmar that began in 2021 reflects Western cynicism. Rather than protect the aspirations of Myanmar’s pro-democracy rebellion they are left to their own devices as China and Russia help shore up Naypyidaw’s ruling junta. Across the Indian Ocean there’s an uninterrupted belt of Central African states that have slid back into dictatorships.

Below are the countries struggling with internal and external conflict in the past year. Each will be given short descriptions over the weekend.

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Vietnam Is Assembling Air Defense Radars

January 4, 2023
Via Vietnamese state media.

A low-key arms show in Hanoi called “VietnamDefence 2022” turned some attention to the country’s budding military-industrial sector. The longstanding view that Vietnam’s military is burdened with outdated equipment of Cold War vintage is now incorrect as there’s ample evidence state-owned enterprises are advancing their technological prowess by leaps and bounds. The telecommunications conglomerate Viettel in particular enjoyed a lot of exposure at the event held from December 8 to 10. An impressive variety of products were displayed at its indoor pavilion including ruggedized portable radios and different battlefield radars. One of Viettel’s tabletop models (pictured above) at the event deserves some scrutiny. Judging by its appearance it looks like a long-range 3D surveillance radar for an integrated air defense network.

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