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Turkmenistan Is Obsessed With Protecting Its Afghan Border

January 25, 2018

New information has emerged that offers glimpses into Turkmenistan’s fortifications along its border with Afghanistan. In the beginning of the year President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow convened with his security council and discussed their goals for 2018. The meeting was followed by a personal trip to a “frontier outpost.”

Since then a video clip released by dissident news website Chronicles of Turkmenistan showed Berdimuhamedow at a demonstration by border guard troops. This corroborates reports by state media portraying their leader as a hands on figurehead who is equally adept at dishing out commands as he is with extracurricular activities.

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Kazakhstan And France Are Working On Military Cooperation

January 19, 2018

Even with its economy still recovering from the collapse of oil prices in 2014 Kazakhstan is laying the groundwork for a self-sufficient domestic arms industry that may soon export its wares. In December 2017 the defense minister met with the French ambassador, Philippe Martinet, to sign a “military cooperation agreement.”

There’s nothing out of the ordinary with this latest covenant. Kazakhstan is France’s biggest trade partner in Central Asia and Paris has played a key role helping Astana diversify its economy. When it comes to the armed forces, however, Kazakhstan remains a serious customer of Russian conventional weapons but is slowly building a military-industrial sector with help from several partner countries.

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Uzbekistan Plans To Rebuild Its Military

January 17, 2018

Another Central Asian republic–the most populous among the former Soviet -stans–is undergoing a remarkable transformation. The death of Uzbekistan’s career dictator Islam Karimov in 2016 brought about a smooth handover to a dependable replacement, the Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev. As President, one of Mirziyoyev’s most important projects in 2017 was to restore his country’s armed forces.

The foundations of this effort involve consolidating Uzbekistan’s almost defunct military-industrial sector and buying new stuff from abroad. Another is diplomacy. Short of permanent alliances, Mirziyoyev is making friends with his neighbors and trying to improve relations with China and Russia, the two world powers who can sell him the right weapons. Being able to afford these is another problem. It’s not really surprising Tashkent allocated an astronomical 4% of nominal GDP for the military’s budget this year.

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Armored Cars: Volat Defense MZKT V-1

January 12, 2018

Via Volat Defense.

The MZKT V-1 is a new multirole 4×4 from Belarus. It was unveiled in 2016 and entered service with the Belarusian armed forces the following year. The truck is manufactured by Volat Defense, whose catalog spans various wheeled transports for military use, whether it’s hauling supplies or ballistic missiles.

Background and technical information about the MZKT V-1, alternately known as the MZKT-490100, remains outside the public domain. Like many “tactical” 4×4’s in its niche the MZKT V-1 uses commercial parts but its armor is probably strong enough to survive shrapnel fragments and small arms fire.

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Turkmenistan Is Doubling Down On Domestic Security

January 11, 2018

The most secretive country in Central Asia remains committed to defending itself from unnamed threats. This became clear after President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow met with the State Security Council that’s occupied by ministers responsible for the armed forces and police.

The course of the meeting, as reported by the propaganda site Turkmenistan Today, glossed over the activities undertaken by each department–military, internal affairs, border guards, judicial, customs, and intelligence–in 2017. It appears everyone is doing their job as they should, but how it’s being done is unclear.

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PLAN Warships Are Stalking The South China Sea

January 9, 2018

Via China Military Online.

Last week the Chinese military’s official news outlet released photos of a warship testing its weapons on unspecified targets. The “live-fire training” reportedly took place somewhere in the South China Sea and involved the Luzhou, a guided missile frigate. The warship’s precise location was never revealed but it could have been sailing near the Paracel Islands, which are under Beijing’s control.

The PLAN’s latest deployment in the disputed region took place in “late December” and fits a pattern of continuous patrolling over the South China Sea. The available imagery from the exercise is limited to three pictures and never show the Luzhou’s escorts–if there were any–or the crew.

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2017: The Year In War

January 5, 2018

Via US Department of Defense.

In the grand tradition of all those other websites posting best lists, here is 21st Century Asian Arms Race’s own The Year In War. Seen below are the violent struggles that deepened the world’s insecurity in 2017.

The value of this annual report is for those who appreciate hindsight and the role war plays in shaping societies. It’s better if the lessons imparted by recent experience don’t go to waste when the very structure of global order causes barely contained mayhem. So an informed perspective is needed to avoid the worst that history can throw at us.

After the stress and tumult of 2016 the past twelve months have been a revelation. The world’s largest terrorist army was finally defeated while its attempts at local revivals in North Africa and Southeast Asia are stymied. No major wars broke out, but the risk of destructive conflict remains–North Korea’s possession of a nuclear missile arsenal is one example. In the wake of ISIS, supercharged trans-national terrorism does pose a threat to peace everywhere.

A bitter confrontation between the Russian Federation and the US hangs over Europe. Another pitting Saudi Arabia and Iran is casting a shadow across the Middle East, where the Syrian maelstrom still burns. A grand alliance is forming across the “Indo-Pacific” to deter China’s expansion. Meanwhile, the relative peace of Africa and Latin America can barely mask the risks faced by unstable countries in these continents.

All these theaters have the potential of erupting, but they haven’t. Maybe the world today is best described as a troubled landscape rather than a patchwork of conflict, because mass violence isn’t that great a threat to humanity anymore. But its terrible specter remains and many wars, albeit small ones, are still being fought in dark places.

The countries presented are arranged alphabetically.

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Taiwan Is Preparing Its Own Arms Buildup

January 1, 2018

Via Wikimedia Commons.

As 2017 drew to a close the current leadership in Taipei quashed any hopes it would soon reconcile with Beijing. A new white paper released by the defense ministry on December 26 examined options for successfully defending the country from a full-scale assault. The document came out just days before President Tsai Ing-wen warned of the threat posed to regional peace by a more aggressive China. The pro-independence head of state also announced she is raising the defense budget.

But President Tsai’s prepared remarks didn’t reveal the scale of China’s frequent and unannounced incursions around Taiwan. The previous year had multiple instances when PLA combat aircraft either skirted or entered the island’s air defense identification zone or ADIZ.

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To Deter North Korea, Japan Is Seriously Rebuilding Its Military Power

December 31, 2017

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Next year will see a marked increase of Japan’s defense budget to prepare itself for a potential attack from its belligerent neighbor across the sea. Since Pyongyang’s rapidly growing missile arsenal that includes the No-Dong, Musudan, and Hwasong-class have ranges in the thousands of kilometers, the resulting crisis has served to strengthen the Asia-Pacific’s most impressive alliance–the one between Tokyo and Washington, DC.

The defense budget for 2018 is expected to reach somewhere between $46 and $47.6 billion. Although the bulk of it covers the usual expenditures to maintain the Self Defense Forces, specific amounts are earmarked for imported equipment and precision weapons. The most impressive are air-launched cruise missiles that’s the clearest proof yet Japan is strengthening its offensive firepower.

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Armored Cars: DCD Mountain Lion

December 27, 2017

It’s an established fact that South African manufacturers pioneered the mine-resistant vehicle to survive ambush tactics in the country’s border regions. Almost a quarter century since the end of Apartheid and the same truck makers are still thriving. The Mountain Lion is one of the newer MRAP models being groomed for a hungry global market. First unveiled in 2011, when its appearance resembled the Oshkosh M-ATV, the truck went through a couple of iterations to achieve its current form.

The 13 ton Mountain Lion is the heaviest entry in DCD’s limited selection of troop carriers, which includes its older sibling the Springbuck. The Mountain Lion is recognizable for its towering ground clearance and enormous engine compartment affixed with a square grille.

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The IISS Released An Extremely Detailed Report On The Iranian Military

December 25, 2017

Via Wikimedia Commons.

A new report on a major US geopolitical opponent reveals how disruptive technology can shift the balance of power in the Middle East. This comes from one of the UK’s leading think tanks, the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), and their latest publication titled Gulf Security After 2020, which is available as a free download. Inside its 48 pages are several essays discussing aspects of Iran’s armed strength and the threat this poses to the region. Its contents were authored by subject matter experts who offer both context and insight on how Tehran’s hard power is changing.

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The Chinese Army Is Still Training With Very Old Tanks

December 23, 2017

Via China Military Online.

As lethal technology extends to loitering munitions and hypersonic cruise missiles, some very dated modern weapon systems are still in service with the world’s largest army. Earlier this month, the PLA’s news portal released photos of a “long-distance maneuver drill” held on December 6 involving the Xinjiang Military Command.

Troops from an unspecified mechanized unit took their half century old Type 59 tanks and Type 63 APCs out for practice in the snowy slopes of Tianshan Mountain. The exercise is the latest proof the Chinese army keeps a lot of its obsolescent hardware in working condition.

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