Wednesday 31 May 2017

Exotic Armour: An Inside Look At Sudan’s Armour Repair Facility

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Sudan is arguably one of the most interesting countries when it comes to the variation of military equipment in use with its military, owing to its diverse range of suppliers ever since the country's independence from Great Britain in 1956. Originally trained and equipped by Egyptians and the British, Sudan then began receiving large shipments of Soviet military equipment, followed by Chinese deliveries of arms. In recent years, Sudan has bought large numbers of weaponry from nations such as Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, which along with the Chinese and Iranians are now the lead suppliers of weaponry in Sudan.

In addition to the countries already listed, Sudan has also received weaponry from nations such as Germany, Libya, Czechoslovakia, France, US, Saudi Arabia, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Europe, and of course, North Korea. Operating such a diverse fleet of armoured fighting vehicles is nothing short of a logistical nightmare, and specialists from several of these countries are present in Sudan at any given time to help maintain these vehicles. To help ease this process Sudan established an armour repair workshop and the Elshaheed Ibrahim Shams el Deen Complex, the latter of which is also involved in the production of several types of armoured fighting vehicles.
The armour repair workshop solely focusses on the repair of main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) however, and falls under the command to the Sudanese Army. This opposed to the Elshaheed Ibrahim Shams el Deen Complex, which is part of the Military Industry Corporation (MIC). The armour repair workshop is located in the heart of the capital Khartoum, which is certainly an interesting location to set up such a facility.

Walking through the many armoured fighting vehicles littering the complex, some in various states of decay, are not only Sudanese personnel but also several Eastern Europeans aiding with the maintenance and overhaul of Soviet-era AFVs. Most of the images in this article are from one of such advisors, many of which photograph their work during their stay in Sudan. This particular individual has previously served in Uganda and Yemen, also aiding with the training of personnel here.

A badly damaged T-72AV, also known as the al-Zubair-1 in Sudan, awaiting repair of its destroyed 125mm 2A46 cannon or alternatively to be used as a source of spare parts. Sudan bought one of the last remaining batches of T-72AVs from Ukraine, which previously supplied these tanks to several other nations worldwide, many of which in Africa. The Sudanese purchase of T-72AVs is noteworthy as its adversary South Sudan had previously bought a large number of T-72AVs just a few years earlier. This deal was arranged via Kenya, and became the subject of international debate due to the hijacking of the MV Faina cargo ship, which carried 33 of the T-72AVs ordered on their way to South Sudan.

While Ukrainian instructors became responsible for training South Sudanese soldiers on operating the T-72AV, it appears the country had no problem selling the rest of its T-72AVs to Sudan, which quickly deployed them in Southern Sudan against the SPLA-N. This deal led to a peculiar situation where during the plausible event of renewed hostilities both the Sudanese Army and the South Sudanese Army would deploy their T-72AVs with identical camouflage against each other, which will almost certainly lead to confusion and possibly friendly-fire incidents on the battlefield.

The venerable Alvis Saladin armoured car, still in pristine condition awaiting repainting outside one of the facility's maintenance halls. Despite the Saladin's age, several countries continue to operate the vehicle, with even Indonesia looking to upgrade its remaining examples. It is unknown if the Sudanese Army continues to operate the vehicle or intends to display its remaining Saladins as gate guards like the examples below.

The same Alvis Saladin after receiving an interesting camouflage pattern, which one could argue has somewhat diminished the original looks of the vehicle. At least two vehicles have received the new paintjob, although the second vehicle suffers from serious damage to the front, further enhancing the perception of poor looks.

The Ferret armoured car is another British staple that has seen service in Sudan, and is one of the first armoured fighting vehicles to have served in the ranks of the Sudanese Army. This vehicle too has been repainted, and is missing its M1919 Browning machine gun. One of the front tires of the repainted vehicle has deep cuts, making it likely this vehicle is no longer intended for combat use. A row of seemingly decommissioned Chinese Type-62 light tanks can be seen in the first image, a number of which remain in active service with the Sudanese Army.

A BMP-1 upgraded with a 30mm 2A42 Cobra one-man turret, replacing the ubiquitous 73mm 2A28 Grom armed turret normally installed on the BMP-1. A joint development between Belarus and Slovakia, Sudan also operates several BTR-70s upgraded with the Cobra turret. The coaxial 7.62mm PKT is missing on this example. One of Sudan's few BMP-2s can be seen in the background, which operate alongside a similarly small number of Iranian-designed Boragh Armored Infantry Combat Vehicles (AICV), itself a copy of the BMP-2.

A French Panhard M3 VTT (Véhicule de Transport de Troupes) APC among a hodgepode of other vehicles in the background, including a Soviet BMP-2, a Chinese WZ-551, a Chinese Type-59D and two Iranian Safir-74, Type 72z, T-72Z or ''Shabdiz''. This Panhard M3 was deprived of its 20mm autocannon, and is unlikely to ever see service again. Similarly, the fleet of French AML-90s is believed to have suffered the same fate.

Sudan operates an extremely diverse fleet of BTR variants, including the BTR-70, Belarusian upgraded BTR-70s, Ukrainian upgraded BTR-70s, BTR-80s, BTR-80As and BTR-3s amongst others. In addition, the Sudanese Army also has a large inventory of Chinese WZ-551s and WZ-523s APCs and what remains of the Czechoslovakian OT-64A fleet delivered in the early seventies. The turret of a BTR-80 can be seen being installed in the second image.

A Soviet BRDM-2, which the Military Industry Corporation markets as the Amir-2 reconnaissance vehicle, still in mint condition. Although the design of the BRDM-2 dates from the early sixties, the Sudanese Army is believed to have continued receiving more examples from Belarus in the 2000s, which joined the already existing fleet of BRDM-2s in service with the Sudanese Army.
The Amir-2 was recently also showcased at IDEX 2017 in the United Arab Emirates, which led some to believe MIC was offering newly-build BRDM-2s for the international market. Despite MIC's confusing marketing strategies, the Amir-2 is actually an upgrade for the BRDM-2 for nations that continue to operate the vehicle. This upgrade sees the replacement of the BRDM-2's original 140hp GAZ-41 engine with the 210 hp Isuzu 6HH1 engine, which offers increased mobility and fuel-efficiency. Although several African nations continue to operate the aging BRDM-2, it is unlikely that any of these countries would be interested in upgrading these.

Three Chinese WZ-551s in one of the armour facility's maintenance halls. The WZ-551 was previously offered by the Military Industry Corporation as the Shareef-2. Although it is unknown what the MIC actually was offering by simply listing the WZ-551 among their products, it is likely that this referred to the overhaul of the WZ-551s in Sudan. Adding to the confusion, the WZ-523, another Chinese product to have reached Sudan, is currently offered as the Shareef-2. This apparent lack of understanding what MIC actually offers is reflected among many of their products, but likely means the MIC is capable of overhauling both the WZ-551 and WZ-523 in this particular case.

Although primarily acquiring second-hand armoured fighting vehicles from Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian stocks, the Sudanese Army also possesses Russian BTR-80As in addition to a limited number of Ukrainian BTR-3s, one of which can be seen below. A BRDM-2 (or Amir-2), a BMP-1 and a T-72AV can also be seen in the background. More interestingly however is the row of decommissioned M60 MBTs, only a few of which are still believed to be in operational use with the Sudanese Army.

An instruction room filled with the weapon systems of various Russian APCs and IFVs in service with the Sudanese Army. Two 14.5mm KPVs with a coaxial 7.62mm PKT for the BRDM-2, BTR-70 and BTR-80 can be seen on the left while two 30mm 2A42/2A72s cannons for the BTR-80A and BMP-2s can be seen on the right. Also note the complete BTR-80A module for the training of BTR-80A gunners seen in the back. The Russian flag leaves no doubt on the Russian influence on the training of Sudanese crews.

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