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North Korea Cobbled Together Some Weird Tanks

December 26, 2021
Via North Korean media.

A nighttime parade in October 2020 served as the most brazen display of martial strength since Kim Jong Un ascended to leadership in 2011. In the span of a decade the once anachronistic People’s Army updated its arsenal with an emphasis on strategic weapons. This program is ongoing and the results are inarguable. Yet there are some efforts that defy even the most rigorous observation. At the same October 2020 parade and its follow up in January 2021 columns of never before seen tanks appeared and they have eluded classification ever since.

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The Norinco HJ-12 Has Found A Home

December 26, 2021
tags: ,
Via Chinese state media.

The shoulder-fired missile launcher everybody compares to Raytheon’s FGM-148 Javelin is now in service with a specific branch of China’s armed forces. In late November footage of PLA Airborne exercises showed soldiers training with the Hong Jian 12 or HJ-12 ATGM. This comes several years after the weapon system became known to the world. Apparently, Norinco was keen on exporting it before it was delivered to the PLA. This fits a pattern where the output of China’s state-owned conglomerates exceeds the armed forces’ own plans for either augmenting or replacing their current equipment.

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The Drone Index: Luch Sokyl-300

December 24, 2021

Via Ukrainian media.

Years of simmering conflict with Russia forced Ukraine’s military-industrial sector to shake off its doldrums and support the national cause. This was apparent at Arms & Security 2021 that took place from June 15 until 18 in Kyiv. The exhibition was a showcase for local military products and expectations were surpassed with static displays of two UCAVs: the Sokyl-300 and the jet-powered ACE One stealth drone. The rapid development for either model is a ringing endorsement of Ukraine’s status as a center for aerospace manufacturing. What follows is a profile of the Sokyl-300 based on details published by its manufacturer the Luch Design Bureau.

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North Korea Maximized Its Best Rocket Artillery

December 20, 2021
Via North Korean media.

With its strategic missile arsenal having matured in just five short years the impoverished dictatorship poured additional resources to upgrade the rest of its military. The results came to light in Pyongyang on October 10, 2020, during an immense military parade and another similar event in January this year. All the available evidence suggests North Korea’s military-industrial sector is thriving despite the country’s economic hardship. (The same applies to China, Iran, and Russia.) Yet a particular class of weapons have grown in importance and size for the People’s Army–battlefield rockets.

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China Has The Best Truck Howitzers For Export

December 19, 2021
The PCL-171 at Air Show China. Via Chinese state media.

One of the more exciting corners in the global “land warfare” market are the artillery pieces adapted for wheeled transports. These so-called truck howitzers have gained enough popularity to inspire different models. But the demand for these are still modest–Israel, France, and Serbia compete with each other–and some countries prefer assembling their own. China’s state-owned conglomerates have crashed the trend and to nobody’s surprise offer the largest catalog of self-propelled artillery in the world. In the whole of Europe, for example, there are just 10 current wheeled and tracked self-propelled howitzers in the 155mm caliber for export. On the other hand, China’s Norinco boasts as many as 15 models of wheeled and tracked self-propelled howitzers in whatever caliber is required.

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Azerbaijan Has A Massive Drone Arsenal

December 16, 2021
Via President.az

Nearly a year since it pummeled its neighbor until a tenuous ceasefire brokered by Russia ended hostilities the oil-rich Caucasian republic found itself in another jam. A diplomatic rift with Iran erupted in late September when trucks bound for Europe were halted by Azeri soldiers. The action was justified as an enforcement of border controls. But the effect was unprecedented; relations between Baku and Tehran soured overnight and the latter sent its military on large-scale exercises as a warning. The Iranian saber rattling extended to a massive air defense drill showing off brand new weapons. Refusing to be intimidated, President Ilham Aliyev and his spouse, Vice President Aliyeva, visited a garrison of the “State Border Service” in late October in what was clearly a signal to Iran.

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Iranian Air Defense Technology Is Extremely Advanced

December 11, 2021
The new vertical launch-based mobile SAM at Defenders of the Velayat Skies 1400. Via Iranian media.

In the course of a decade the Islamic Republic assembled multiple air defense systems and introduced them to its various military branches at a remarkable pace. Although the adoption and reverse engineering of foreign technology was critical the apparent trend is Iran has become almost fully self-sufficient in mass-producing anti-aircraft weapons and their related equipment. This was the focal point for the Defenders of the Velayat Skies 1400 exercises in mid-October when the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), the air defense branch, along with the army and the air force got to use their SAMs in continuous live fire demonstrations.

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Tajikistan Maintains A Large Soviet Arsenal

December 8, 2021
T-62 tanks at a military parade. Via Tajikistan media.

This year saw the poorest Central Asian republic advertise its military strength at an unexpected scale. Over a period of four months Tajikistan’s armed forces took part in multinational exercises and war games as President Emomali Rahmon toured bases to set an important agenda; the situation in Afghanistan had turned against Kabul and the prospect of a victorious Taliban scared Dushanbe. This possibility, which came to pass in mid-August, no doubt motivated Rahmon to keep exhorting his troops and observe solemn parades with marching infantry squares and tank columns.

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The Chinese Scorpion UCAV Is Instant Air Power

December 6, 2021
Via Chinese state media.

Air Show China 2021 will be remembered as a huge advertisement for the country’s status as a “pacing threat” to the US’ status as a superpower. The usage of the term “pacing threat” was chosen by the US military to better characterize the nature of its “great power competition” with China. A “pacing threat” endures for years, if not decades, and unlike Iran or Russia, won’t subside after its economy sputters. The US military is correct in framing China this way because, going by its unmanned aircraft alone, it has surpassed all expectations.

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Chinese Artillery Makes Weak Armies Strong

December 6, 2021
Via Chinese state media.

Two arms shows this year served as gigantic marketing events for what qualifies as the world’s largest selection of exportable conventional weapons. There was Russia’s annual Army 2021 in August and then Air Show China in Guangdong occupying the last week of September. Between them were more different types of weapon systems than could fit in any normal exhibition held elsewhere. But Air Show China, which skipped a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, eclipses its Russian counterpart for sheer volume. Just one of the exhibitors at this event–the conglomerate Norinco–had more products on display for every imaginable domain than its competitors in, for example, North America or Western Europe. Of course, Norinco didn’t forget the artillery.

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Iran Has Four New Air Defense Weapons

December 5, 2021
The Joshan medium-range SAM that participated in “Defenders of the Velayat Skies 1400.” Via Iranian media.

The Islamic Republic has surpassed its neighbors when it comes to developing anti-aircraft missiles. When compared to Israel’s formidable military-industrial sector Iran’s state-owned manufacturers have produced more SAMs than what a normal army can reasonably maintain. This was evident during the “Defenders of the Velayat Skies 1400” exercise that took place in mid-October. The three or four-day event was supposed to test the interoperability of the military’s various air defense branches but also served as an advertisement for its new weapons.

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Pakistan Got The Best Chinese Tanks For Its Army

December 4, 2021
Via ISPR.

It’s now confirmed that new Chinese-made battle tanks are in service with Pakistan’s ground forces. A large batch of Norinco MBT 3000’s, also known as the “VT4,” participated in what the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) described as a “corps level” exercise in the Punjab region last month. MBT 3000 deliveries were confirmed in the summer of 2020 and they appeared in this year’s Armed Forces Day parade leading the older Al Khalid tanks. The army now operates four models of Chinese-made tanks–the Type 59M, the Type 69-IIMP, the Type 85-II, and the MBT 3000–alongside a growing fleet of Al Zarrars (heavily upgraded Type 59’s) and Al Khalid/I that are based on the short-lived Norinco Type 90.

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