Monday, 2 August 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Turkey is currently battling a series of deadly forest fires that are raging through the southern part of the country. With high temperatures and strong winds plaguing the region, the wildfires have so far proven difficult to put under control, with new fires quickly spreading to other provinces. The relentless fires also put several tourist areas along the Mediterranean Sea under threat, leaving behind a path of destruction as the flames slowly crawled closer to the coast. The wildfires have so far resulted in the death of eight people with hundreds more evacuated as houses go up in flames and precious lifestock is lost to smoke and heat. [1]

Friday, 30 July 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Certainly no branch of Armenia's military suffered as severe materiel losses during the 2020 Nagorno-Karbakh War as its artillery and rocket forces. With the air defence umbrella that was supposed to protect them proving incapable of neutralising the drone threat overhead, howitzers and multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) situated in open revetments were left to the mercy of Bayraktar TB2s flying overhead, resulting in the visually confirmed destruction of 152 artillery pieces and 71 MRLs. [1] Combined with the loss of a further 105 artillery pieces that were left behind by Armenian forces and subsequently captured by Azerbaijan, Armenia lost most of its artillery assets during the conflict, amounting to roughly two-thirds of its inventory of MRLs alone. [1]

Thursday, 29 July 2021

,

 
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

North Korea's State Railway regularly flaunts its modernisation efforts by the unveiling of modernised rolling stock and revitalised train lines. In reality, billions (of dollars) will be needed to fix North Korea's crumbling rail system after decades of underinvestment and neglect. Today, most lines have speed limits that force trains to drive at just 30km/h on battered stretches of tracks and frequent power outrages bring services to a grinding halt. The situation is little better when it comes to the state of the DPRK's rolling stock, with dilapidated trains from the 1960s having become the norm rather than the exception. Perhaps most stunning is the fact that even in the 21st century, a number of 1930s-era Japanese railcars still see regular passenger service in North Korea.

The Keha class railcars are a group of diesel-powered railcars that were produced for the Chosen Government Railway (Sentetsu) from 1930 to 1942. After Japan's rule over Korea came to an end in 1945, the railcars were inherited by the Korean State Railway in North Korea and by the Korean National Railroad (nowadays known as Korea Railroad Corporation; KORAIL) in South Korea. In South Korea the Keha railcars were retired between 1957 and 1963 and subsequently scrapped. [1] Due to North Korea's reluctance to retire anything before it is properly irreparable, the North Korean railcars ironically were only at the beginning of their service lives at the time the examples in South Korea were scrapped.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 

The Bayraktar Akıncı is set to introduce a number of novel capabilities to the field of unmanned aerial warfare when it enters service with the Turkish Air Force later this year. These include several features not seen on any other type of UAV in the world before, most notably the ability to launch 250+km-ranged high-precision cruise missiles and beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs) at targets as far as 100 kilometres away. These capabilities in practice turn the Akıncı into the first production multi-role unmanned combat aircraft in the world, and set the stage for increasingly effective replication of legacy aerial assets by unmanned counterparts.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans in collaboration with COIN and Jakub Janovsky
 
The United States' controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan has left it teetering at the edge of an abyss as the country is facing a nationwide Taliban resurgence. Amidst an increasingly deteriorating security situation throughout large parts of the country, fears that Taliban forces could soon overrun the entirety of Afghanistan have become all too real, possibly reverting the situation on the ground back to that before the 2001 U.S. invasion in the long term. While the withdrawal of U.S. troops and their NATO allies has been praised by some and heavily criticised by others, there is one thing seemingly everyone can agree on: the 20-year U.S.-led mission to defeat the Taliban has been an utter failure.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Baykar Savunma recently drew attention after a Latvian delegation headed by Minister of Defence Artis Pabriks paid an official visit to the producer of the Bayraktar TB2 and Akıncı UCAVs. With Latvia and the two other Baltic states of Estonia and Lithuania continuing to build up a deterrent capacity and viable wartime capabilities against possible future Russian (military) interference in the Baltic region of Europe, interest in a low-cost unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) capability spurred on by the huge successes obtained by the TB2 over Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh is perhaps little surprising.

Monday, 14 June 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Ukrainian-delivered armament is prevalent in the inventories of numerous militaries across the world, and the country remains a go-to source for nations that seek to revitalise their militaries on a budget. Having inherited vast numbers of surplus armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), aircraft and naval vessels, and equally important, a military industry to support this equipment with overhauls and upgrades, Ukrainian weaponry has proved especially popular with nations in Africa and Asia. For these reasons, the Ukrainian military-industrial complex has concentrated much of its efforts on catering specifically to this export market.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

,
 
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Turkey is emerging as an increasingly important actor in world politics, taking on an assertive international role and with it a growing political weight. Accompanying the country's rise as an emerging power has been a vast expansion of its fleet of VIP aircraft for use by government officials. These often majestic-looking aircraft are a symbol of status that is meant to signify Turkish power and prestige home and abroad. Undoubtedly the most imposing aircraft is the single Boeing 747-8I Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) that has been in service with the Turkish Presidential Fleet since September 2018.

Monday, 7 June 2021

,

 
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 
 
Relegated to the annals of history by the most of the world since roughly 1918, the YPG on the other hand remains an active user of so-called Sturmpanzers: uparmoured infantry support platforms that hearken back to their Second World War namesakes. Bulky and monstrous in appearance, these vehicles have begun to symbolise the YPG's resistance against Islamic State and Free Syrian Army forces that sought to dislodge the YPG from the territory it holds in Northern Syria on numerous occasions. While the presence of these DIY monstrosities in the ranks of the YPG is well-acknowledged, little attempts have been made at inventorising the types of Sturmpanzers in servicec. Thus, this article is long overdue.

Friday, 28 May 2021

,


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 

The casual reader may be forgiven for thinking that Armenia's armed forces operate solely Soviet-legacy weaponry inherited from the USSR, or armament received from Russia in recent years. In reality, operating alongside familiar types such as the T-72 MBT, BM-21 MRL and 9K33 Osa SAM are several types of equipment acquired from more surprising sources. This includes Sako TRG-42 sniper rifles bought from Finland, Swathi artillery-locating radars acquired from India and also 273mm WM-80 multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) sourced from China.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Cuba is widely known for its former leader Fidel Castro, a surprisingly enduring devotion to communism and its world-renowned cigars, exporting the latter two to numerous countries across the globe. By contrast, its role as an exporter of arms remains much more obscure. While Cuba has begun converting and manufacturing a wide range of arms-related equipment in recent times, this industry has so far mostly been serving the needs of Cuba's own Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (FAR). The presence of Cuban 'David' infantry mobility vehicles (IMVs) in service with the Forças Armadas Angolanas is thus highly notable.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
As Ukraine continues to build up its military forces to face the ever present threat of Russian interference in its Eastern regions, it has gradually managed to rejuvenate its battered inventories thanks to much increased funding. This has resulted in acquisitions such as those of Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs and Ada-class corvettes from Turkey, but also in the introduction of numerous indigenous weapon systems and upgrades for equipment already in active service. Together, these introductions have enabled Ukraine to restore the combat readiness of its embattled military to a point where capability gaps with Russia are swiftly decreasing, and actually allow it to outperform its foe in some areas.
,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Bayraktar TB2 has gained a formidable reputation for its role in deciding the fate of nations and enemy offensives from the skies of Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and Syria. The TB2's consistent successes are unmatched by any other type of unmanned aerial combat vehicle (UCAV) in the world, attracting considerable attention and the interest of several countries across the globe. While the acquisition of significant numbers of TB2s by Ukraine and Azerbaijan has meanwhile become widely known, it is nearly not as well-established that half a dozen examples are also operated by Qatar, which is in fact the first foreign country to have purchased the type.
,


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Benden bu millet için bir șey istiyorsanız, en mükemmelini istemelisiniz. Madem ki bir millet tayyaresiz yaşayamaz, öyleyse bu yaşama vasıtasını başkalarının lütfundan beklememeliyiz. Ben bu uçakların fabrikasını yapmaya talibim. - If you want something from me for this nation, you should ask for the most splendid. Seeing that a nation cannot live without a plane, we shouldn't expect this means of living from the grace of others. I aspire to build the factory for these planes. (By Nuri Demirağ)
 
Turkey's ascension as a global aviation giant has in modern history been unrivalled in the scale, scope and speed of its achievements. This accomplishment is in no small part due to the country's determined endeavours towards attaining near self-sufficiency in the defence sector, in turn becoming less dependent on foreign suppliers and countries that have sanctioned Turkey on more than one occasion. Although the fruits of this policy are already in active service in most sections of the Turkish Armed Forces, arguably the most ambitious attempts at achieving self-sufficiency are the development of the Hürjet advanced jet trainer and the TF-X stealth air superiority fighter, both of which are slated to make their first test flights this decade.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

,

By Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer
 
On the 6th of May 2021, protests erupted in Jerusalem over a decision to evict Palestinian residents in favour of Israeli settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood of East Jerusalem that under international law is a part of Palestine. Israeli authorities violently cracked down on the protests, injuring scores of Palestinians and bringing both camps closer to the brink of armed confrontation. As protests continued with many more wounded, Hamas issued an ultimatum under which Israel was required to pull back its forces from Jerusalem's religiously sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque by the 10th of May. Following Israel's failure to adhere to the ultimatum, Hamas then commenced rocket fire at Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip, which has been the scene of many comparable clashes in the past decades.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

,


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 
 
The turn of the 21st century marked the start of a period of decay for Ukraine's military, with masses of military hardware facing early retirement while replacements for its surviving inventory were nowhere in sight. The 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and the war in Donbas brought about a dramatatic reversal of this policy, and factory yards previously filled with surplus tanks began to be emptied to reinforce the ranks of the battered Ukrainian military. This has so far resulted in the reactivation of hundreds of T-64, T-72 and T-80 main battle tanks (MBTs) and BMP infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs).

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

,

 
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
For everyone that ever landed at Istanbul Atatürk International Airport while sitting on the right hand side of the plane, the aircraft featured in header image should be an all too familar sight. Three blue and white Airbus A300s standing in a remote corner of the airport, seemingly waiting for their inevitable scrapping in the near future. Ever since landing at Atatürk Airport for the first time, I've taken an interest in the three aircraft. Why were they parked there? How long did they operate in this livery before eventually being retired?

Monday, 10 May 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Ever since the takeover of Crimea by Russia and the outbreak of armed conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine has launched an ambitious re-equipment programme to make up for the decades of neglect of its armed forces. In addition to pulling older equipment out of storage to overhaul and upgrade them, it has also begun to introduce entirely novel capabilities to its armed forces. Notable examples include the indigenous Neptune anti-ship missile (AShM) the Hrim-2 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) and the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial combat vehicle (UCAV).

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Saudi Arabia is well known for operating some of the most advanced military equipment currently on offer, including the M1A2S main battle tank (MBT) and the F-15SA multirole strike fighter acquired from the U.S. But as with many a military worldwide, aging and sometimes unexpected armament operates in the second line of defence and on fronts deemed less volatile. For the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this not only includes an assortment of older equipment such as the M60 Patton MBT and the M113 APC, but also a number of peculiar-looking BTR-3 APCs acquired from Ukraine for use as emergency rescue vehicles.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Some 8 years years after its official retreat from Turkey, the PKK continues to wage guerrilla warfare and conduct infiltrations into Turkey from their mountainous fortresses in Northern Iraq. Dead set on eliminating this threat, the Turkish Armed Forces frequently launch offensives into PKK-controlled areas to neutralise hideouts and weapons caches. In an effort to counter these heliborne incursions and the threat of attack helicopters, the PKK uses a variety of locally improved heavy machine guns and cannons to target helicopters and the personnel disembarking from them.

Friday, 30 April 2021

,


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans in collaboration with COIN_V2 
 
In a renewed effort to flush out PKK fighters from their mountain hideouts close to the border with Turkey in Northern Iraq, the Turkish Armed Forces launched Operation Claw-Lightning and Claw-Thunderbolt on Friday the 23rd of April 2021 with the ultimate goal of clearing three designated areas of the presence of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Conducted under difficult operational conditions in mountainous terrain riddled with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the operations have so far resulted in the reported deaths of 116 PKK fighters along with the destruction of several cave systems and the capture of enemy weaponry. [1]

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
If any lessons can be drawn from the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, they are bound to revolve around the stunning effiency of cheap but highly effective unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) and the failure of a wide array of air defence systems, both modern and old, to stop the onslaught brought about by them. For Armenia, the failure to acknowledge its impending defeat led it to fight a costly 44-day war of attrition, suffering severe losses that included some 250 tanks and more tragically, some 5.000 soldiers and reservists, many of which still in their late teens and early twenties. [1]

Nevertheless, the Armenian military could only be expected to be acutely aware of its shortcomings in an era of drone-powered warfare, and it certainly attempted to remedy them with the limited funds it had available. This mainly manifested itself in the acquisition of Russian electronic warfare (EW) systems meant to disrupt the operations of UAVs in one way or another, Tor-M2KM SAM systems that could operate as hunter-killer systems, and 35 9K33 Osa-AKs acquired from Jordan that despite their old age enabled the Armenian military to cover large swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh. As Armenia found out the hard way however, the aforementioned systems could do little but wait in agony as Bayraktar TB2s and loitering munitions began picking them off one by one.
 
Another method utilised by Armenia entailed the placing of decoy SAM systems nearby real SAM systems in order to lure attacking drones into targeting the decoys, thus saving the real systems from certain destruction. Although this act of 'maskirovka' was highly effective during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the numbers deployed by Armenia during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh were far too sparse to distract Azerbaijani forces from targeting operational SAM systems and thus have any actual impact on the course of the war. Still, the examples utilised stood out for their realistic depiction of the SAM system they were meant to replicate, even donning detailed camouflage patterns.
 
 
As the 9K33 Osa (NATO designation: SA-8 Gecko) was the most numerous SAM system within the Armenian Armed Forces (and by extension the Artsakh Defence Force, itself a de-facto part of the Armenian Army), it should come as no surprise that most of Armenia's decoys were based on this system. The 9K33 decoys are also the only decoy types confirmed to have successfully tricked Azerbaijani drone operators into striking them, which happened on the 30th of September 2020 at a 9K33 garrison near the small village of Papravənd (known as Nor Karmiravan by Armenia), in what was then still Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh. [2]

Being almost indiscernible from real 9K33s, two decoys parked in revetments (to mimic the deployment of an operational system) were struck by Israeli IAI Harop loitering munitions, resulting in their complete destruction. Unfortunately for Armenia, the operational systems located throughout the vicinity of the base fared little better, and together with the associated 9T217 transloaders were quickly annihilated by a combination of Bayraktar TB2s and IAI Harops. In total, Armenia lost at least 18 9K33 systems (16 destroyed, 2 captured) in addition to three 9T217 transloaders (two destroyed, one captured) during the course of the war. [1]

 
Interestingly, in the case of the few Tor-M2KM decoys known to have been produced, the eleborate camouflage pattern was actually indicative of their nature as decoys, as Armenian Tor SAM systems never received any kind of camouflage pattern after their arrival to the country in 2019. Furthermore, the decoys merely comprised the container-based launch system rather than also including the truck supposed to be carrying it. That said, it is unknown to what degree Azerbaijani drone operators were made familiar with the size and shapes of the SAM systems they were meant to track down and neutralise, and an overzealous drone operator could easily have mistaken a Tor-M2KM decoy for a real system. Only a single Tor-M2KM is confirmed to have been destroyed during the 44-day war, although this was likely because of the small numbers deployed by Armenia rather than the decoys that were meant to protect them. [1]

Left: An Armenian Tor-M2KM SAM system as it operated during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Right: An elaborate Tor-M2KM decoy featuring the standard camouflage pattern applied by Armenia on its military vehicles

Rather than placing the decoys throughout strategic locations in Nagorno-Karabakh, each posing as an operational 9K33 or Tor-M2KM system, the few decoys deployed by Armenia were positioned inside existing SAM garrisons. While this might ultimately have helped to prolong the career of a few other real 9K33 Osas by several minutes, it is almost certain that Armenia would have been better off by deploying the fake systems as standalone decoys throughout the entirety of occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Azerbaijan to spend valuable time and resources tracking and hunting those systems down while flying in the engagement envelope of a real SAM system nearby.
 
Of course, did not help that Bayraktar TB2s could fly circles above 9K33 garrisons (or any other Armenian SAM site for that matter), each containing some seven to eight launch vehicles with their radars turned on, all the while remaining unnoticed to the SAM systems below. This meant that the operators of the TB2s could keep hitting the SAM systems (and the decoys) until all systems were destroyed with no threat of being shot down, once more making painfully clear the obsolescence of the 9K33 in an era of drone-powered warfare.


Armenia's decoys may have been deployed in far too small numbers to affect the course of the war, both sides will surely study their effectiveness and use the lessons learned in potential future wars. Modern optics may have changed the way (aerial) warfare is conducted, decoys have and will continue to change alongside, and a renewed conflict could well see greater numbers deployed, equipped for instance with features such infrared heat signatures to make them even harder to discern from operational systems. Now made aware of the presence of decoys, Azerbaijan will look for ways to identify them beforehand, for example by studying satellite imagery of SAM garrisons and by training its drone operators to discern decoy systems from the real ones.

That said, with the price of MAM-L munitions for the Bayraktar TB2 being comparatively low, the question arises whether the deployment of large numbers of decoys can really have a significant impact on a future conflict. UCAVs like the Bayraktar Akinci and TAI Aksungur can carry 24 and 12 MAM-Ls each, which is sufficient to destroy several SAM sites together with their radars and any decoys. So long as Armenia, or any other nation in the world that faces a comparable threat, lacks the means to successfully counter drones like the TB2, mass deployment of decoys would yield little results but to force the opposing side to stock up on munitions. To a country like Azerbaijan, there is little to disincentivise from doing precisely so, and taking the cost of effective decoys in account and the disparity in assets available to the two parties any decoy destroyed may end up being a net positive. Of course, if they evaded destruction they would have failed their mission regardless; such is the life of a decoy.

Monday, 26 April 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

From the barren deserts of Oman to the dense jungles of Malaysia: in this day and age Turkish wheeled armoured personnel carriers (APCs) operate in all corners of the world. In addition to seeing active service in these countries and Bahrain, other nations are currently in the process of selecting new 6x6 and 8x8 APCs for acquisition, with the Turkish Otokar Arma and the FNSS Pars often being serious contenders. Still, the story of Turkey's first truly successful wheeled APC project remains unknown to many. This despite the fact that the resulting vehicle was exported to Georgia, the first ever customer of a Turkish wheeled APC. Meet the Nurol Ejder 6x6.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Most of the Gulf countries are generally reticent when it comes to showing off their defence capabilities and recent acquisitions of military hardware. Although a high degree of secrecy surrounding the acquisition of ballistic missile systems from North Korea and China by the UAE and Saudi Arabia is to be expected, in the Gulf region this secrecy often also applies to conventional weaponry such as artillery and even small arms. For Qatar, the situation is slightly different: while it does showcase most of its weaponry during its annual National Day parades, surprisingly little equipment gets shown during military exercises and other events. 
 
In similar vein, Qatar's acquisition of the Russian AK-12 assault rifle remains largely unreported, and imagery indicating their presence outside military parades so far appears to be nonexistent. Its relative elusiveness set aside, the delivery of the AK-12 is a testament to the increasing flow of Russian-made weaponry reaching countries in the Gulf region, which almost exclusively relied on arms sourced from Western countries in the past. Qatar is the first confirmed export customer of the new assault rifle, which only entered serial production in 2017.
 
Qatar's interest in Russian-made weaponry first came to light in 2016 and 2017, when it signed a series of agreements with Russia on military-technical cooperation during bilateral visits to Doha and Moscow. [1] [2] [3] Although what exactly these agreements entailed was at the time still unknown, the first sighting of Russian weaponry in Qatar already came a year later in December 2018, when hundreds of AK-12 rifles were seen in the hands of Qatari soldiers marching through Doha Corniche during that year's National Day parade.
 
Months before, in July 2018, the Russian envoy to Qatar confirmed reports that Qatar and Russia had signed an arms deal for small arms and anti-tank missiles. [4] Included in the deal were large numbers of AK-12s, 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and even 9K338 Igla-S (NATO designation: SA-24) MANPADS. Another type of Russian weapon system Doha showed interest in was the S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, although an actual acquisition of the S-400 by Qatar is highly unlikely due to the threat of sanctions by the U.S. [4]
 
 
Forging new friendships
 
Traditionally a customer of arms and equipment from France and later the US, the Qatar diplomatic crisis that lasted from 2017 to 2021 saw Qatar diversifying its procurement efforts to now also include Russia as a supplier of weaponry. This was a notable change in relations from the early 2010s, when fundamental differences over the course of the Syrian Civil War significantly strained Doha's relations with Moscow. Qatar's warming ties with Russia can in this respect be seen to be underlined by the acquisition of weaponry. Today Qatar and Russia are working together in a joint attempt to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Syria, showing just how swiftly relations can shift in this diplomatically competitive corner of the globe.
 
 
Familiar shapes, novel features
 
The 5.45×39mm AK-12 is the latest in the series of highly popular assault rifles designed and produced by the Kalashnikov Concern (formerly known as Izhmash). Entering production some 70 years after the inception of the original AK-47, the shape and design philosophy of the first AK can still be readily appreciated in the new design. Nonetheless, the AK-12 represents an improvement in almost every aspect versus the AK-74M it replaces. Most notably, the AK-12 has a free-floating barrel (allowing for increased accuracy), a modular design with picatinny rails and improved ergonomics compared to past iterations in the AK series.
 
Some might still know the AK-12 for its prototype design, which suffered from a number of defects and was later abandoned in favour of the more basic AK-400 design, which ultimately became the finalised model of the AK-12. As it was the prototype design that almost exclusively featured in video games, to many a casual observer the AK-12 designation will still belong to this progenitor. In addition to Qatar, Armenia has also been speculated to be a possible customer of the AK-12, potentially even setting up a production line for the type. [5] At the same time, since it is currently in the process of reequipping its military with license-produced AK-103s any large scale acquisition of AK-12s as well as the latter theory appears unlikely.
While the actual number of rifles bought by Qatar remains unknown, it is almost certain that the AK-12 isn't destined to become the new service rifle of its armed forces. This has as much to do with the fact that Qatar doesn't have a main service rifle, with units making use of the FN FNC, M4 and M16, as with a 2018 agreement with Italy for the local production of ARX160 and ARX200 assault rifles. [6] The ARX160 has enjoyed significant success in the Gulf region, with neighbouring Bahrain even adopting it as its main service rifle. In addition to the ARX-160 and AK-12, several more types of modern assault rifles are fielded by Qatar's Armed Forces, mostly with its special forces units.
 
 
Based on the parade footage alone, it appears that most of the AK-12s were distributed to the Qatar Special Operations Command (Q-SOC) and possibly the Qatar Amiri Guard as well. It is possible that the AK-12 will see limited usage by special forces units only, by which its robustness and reliability in water, sand and dusty environments should be especially treasured.
 

Though the acquisition of AK-12s from Russia is notable, it doesn't necessarily signify the start of a wholesale shift in its allegiance as an arms customer. Instead, Qatar is likely to continue to diversify its procurement efforts in the future, which could entail more arms purchases from other sources, with NATO weapons operating alongside an arrangement of weapons sourced from Russia and China as a result. As Qatar looks to expand its indigenous defence industry most notably through Barzan Holdings  – at least a portion of such weaponry will likely be produced or assembled in Qatar as well, as is the case with the ARX160 and ARX200. To Qatar, such projects will be attractive as a means to increase its independence as much as to increase its military prowess – to which end the AK-12 will certainly not be the last means.


[2] Qatar looking for defence cooperation with Russia https://www.qatar-tribune.com/news-details/id/82421
[3] Qatar, Russia sign agreements on air defense, supplies https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-qatar-military-idUSKBN1CV11E
[4] Russia and Qatar discuss S-400 missile systems deal TASS https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-qatar-arms-idUSKBN1KB0F0
[5] Armenia will be the first country to purchase AK-12 assault rifles https://arminfo.info/full_news.php?id=54485&lang=3
 

Recommended Articles:

 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

,
 
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Starting in June 2014, Coalition airstrikes conducted on positions, vehicles and high-ranking members of the Islamic State have taken a heavy toll on the group. These airstrikes combined with increased bombardements conducted by the Russian Air Force (RuAF) ultimately proved to be decisive in determining the outcome of many of the offensives conducted by and against the Islamic State. The Battle for Kobanî, where Coalition airpower played a decisive role in the defence of the city, first made painfully clear the vulnerability of Islamic State forces to aircraft armed with precision-guided munitions.

Monday, 5 April 2021

,

 
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 
 
Turkish Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world, flying to more destinations than any other carrier in the world. It operates a fleet of more than 350 Airbus and Boeing aircraft that serve some 300 destinations domestically and internationally today, a huge leap from its humble beginning of four domestic destinations in 1933, and just 103 destinations in 2003. Over the past century, Turkish Airlines has operated a wide variety of aircraft that haven't always been in the spotlight as much as their more modern brethrens. One of these aircraft is the German Ju 52, which has long remained elusive in imagery and footage during its years of service in Turkey.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Saturday, the 6th of November 2004. Two Su-25UBs of the Force Aérienne de la Côte d'Ivoire (FACI) strafe a French peacekeeper camp in Bouaké. As sudden as the unprovoked attack had commenced its tragic results would become palpable: the deaths of nine French soldiers and another 31 wounded. This grave provocation would ultimately lead to the destruction of the FACI and have drastic repercussions for Côte d'Ivoire for years to come. Just hours after the attack, all that remained of its fledging air arm was a smoldering heap of junk.
 
The events leading up to this tragedy began to unfold on the 19th of September 2002, when the government of Laurent Gbagbo found itself in a precarious situation after the rebel umbrella organisation Mouvement Patriotique de Côte d'Ivoire (MPCI) took control over much of the northern part of the country, effectively splitting Ivory Coast into two. Also captured was Bouaké airbase, which was home to six inoperational Alpha Jet light attack aircraft. Its confidence bolstered significantly by the capture of the jets, the MPCI boldly threatened to reactivate the Alpha Jets to use them against their former owners which having no combat aircraft of its own could offer little to counter this threat. [1]

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

,

 
By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

A comprehensive catalogue of weaponry and equipment supplied to the LNA can be found further down in this article.
 
Since the renewal of a civil war in Libya in 2014 a slow-burning yet at times surprisingly intense conflict has left its future in doubt, with multiple parties vying for control and their international backers not shying away from investing large sums of money to see a favourable result come about. Although a UN-imposed arms embargo (in place since February 2011) is meant to stop both sides from obtaining weapons and equipment, it has since been blatantly and consistently ignored by their foreign backers. A recently released UN panel of experts report aimed to document transgressions of this embargo since its instatement, primarily focusing on analysis of international shipments of arms and equipment by means of air transport. [1] The resulting body of work although painstakingly detailed in some aspects is a testament to shortcomings of this method, and is wholely lacking in competent imagery analysis, failing to note the delivery of a myriad of weapons systems and munitions, while misidentifying others. Its conclusions therefore are far off the mark essentially throwing Turkey as a foreign power in the region under the bus, while categorically ignoring serial offenders such as the UAE, Russia, Jordan and Egypt. This article aims to function as a counterpoint to UNSC's report not by refuting its contents (though a concise rebuffal can be found here), but by providing an actually comprehensive overview of arms transfers by the aforementioned parties to Libya's LNA since 2014.

Monday, 22 March 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Turkmenistan almost certainly isn't the first nation that comes to your mind when you consider the naval balance in the Caspian Sea. Nonetheless, a continued naval build-up has meanwhile transformed the nation into the strongest naval power in the region, even surpassing Russia in this regard. This is in no small part due to Turkey's Dearsan Shipyard, which has supplied the Turkmen Naval Forces with almost the entirety of its modern inventory of vessels.

Monday, 15 March 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans in collaboration with MENA_Conflict and COIN_TR

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally-recognised government (GNA) captured the city of Tarhuna on the 5th of June 2020, marking the official end of the Libyan National Army's (LNA) 14-month long offensive that aimed to capture the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Tarhuna, located some sixty kilometers south-west from Tripoli's city centre, was the last stronghold of Haftar in northwestern Libya, and by the virtue of its role as a giant supply depot for the LNA also the most important one. 
 
Already shortly after Tarhuna's capture by the GNA it became evident what years of occupation had meant for the city's residents. Under the control of the Kaniyat militia since April 2015, which pledged allegiance to Khalifa Haftar's LNA in April 2019, its men imposed a regime of terror on the local population. Since the Kaniyat militia first took over the city in 2015, local residents reported a total of 338 missing persons cases, the vast majority of which in the period between April 2019 to June 2020. [1] [2] The fate of many of these persons was elucidated after the discovery of some 30 mass graves in and around Tarhuna, including several with the remains of women and children in them. [1] Tragically, new mass graves continue to be found to this day. [3]

Friday, 12 March 2021

,


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans  
 
Amidst a conflict that has by now outlived the comforts of its international participants, Yemen's Houthi rebels claim to have developed new missiles and drones to use on the Saudi-led Arab Coalition supporting the government. Much of the weaponry in question appears to be 'Made in Iran' and have been utilised before in combat in the previous months and years, and there is an obvious propaganda aspect to the exhibition for the purpose of which various types of weaponry now no longer in use have been held back. Nevertheless, the threat posed by the Houthi's ballistic missiles and UAVs is evidently escalating, at a time when the intervention seems to be essentially at a standstill.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Qatar surprised friends and foes alike by parading Chinese BP-12A short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) during its national day parade on the 15th of December 2017. Making their public debut in the parade, the BP-12A is the first weapons system of its kind in Qatari service. Nevertheless, Qatar is only the last country in the region to come into possession of ballistic missiles. While some think-tank analysts have come out in force to denounce this ''highly aggressive move on behalf of Doha'', its introduction by Qatar is actually a more nuanced matter. [1]

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Armenia's small population and limited economic means force the country to come up with creative solutions to address the obsolescence of its military hardware and to introduce entirely new capabilties to its armed forces. Through the years this has led to a highly active R&D industry that has received little media attention outside of its own borders. While most of its projects never progressed beyond prototype status due to a lack of funding, those with a more limited scope (thus requiring less financial commitment) usually had more success. 

Thursday, 18 February 2021

,

By Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer 
 
When the Cold War ended, and the Iron Curtain was lifted, an era commenced of which the unprecedented spread of information is perhaps its most defining characteristic. The proliferation of media (primarily through the advent of the global internet), increased transparency of nations across the world, and what amounts to the commercialisation of the arms trade have all caused a wealth of knowledge to become accessible even to those with limited resources. This has caused the area of open-source intelligence (OSINT) to bloom like never before, with a vast variety of high quality works on pretty much every imaginable topic suddenly becoming available.

Friday, 12 February 2021

,

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Al-Watiya. An airbase few had ever heard of until it became a symbol in the fight of the internationally-recognised government of Libya (GNA) against Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) that seeks to overthrow it. While its capture on the 18th of May 2020 temporarily managed to put the spotlight on the severely underreported Libyan conflict, not the least because of the destruction and capture of two Russian Pantsir-S1 missile systems supplied by the UAE, the full implications of the capture of al-Watiya have gone mostly unnoticed.

More than just a local success story for the Government of National Accord, al-Watiya was a major stronghold in the LNA's offensive line around Tripoli. Tasked with protecting and supporting the Western flank of the LNA's military thrust into Tripoli, what was left of Haftar's prospects of capturing Libya's capital crumbled with the loss of this key airbase. The freeing up of GNA forces as a result of the capture and the subsequent increase in pressure on other fronts around Tripoli made the LNA's and Wagner PMC's position in this part of the country untenable, leading to a chaotic retreat from Western Libya and ending Haftar's long-held dream of capturing Tripoli and installing himself as self-proclaimed president of Libya.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

,


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The Republic of Armenia isn't particularly well known for its military industry, and its arms exports have hitherto remained undocumented. Despite being the host of a promising arms R&D scene throughout much of the 1990s, a lack of funding and orders halted further development before it ever had the chance to really take off. Although offshoots of its designs would later become popular in Chechnya and with criminals throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), this is where the exploits of Armenia's small arms industry were thought to have ended.