Friday, 22 October 2021

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By Thomas Nachtrab in collaboration with Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The goal of this list is to comprehensively catalogue Mali's current and past inventory of (armoured fighting) vehicles and heavy weaponry. Historically a major recipient of Soviet military aid, frequent arms deliveries in the 1970s and 1980s turned Mali into one of the strongest militaries in western Africa, operating advanced equipment such as dedicated tank destroyers, S-125 SAM systems and MiG-21bis jet fighters. The 1990s and 2000s saw the Malian Army retiring much of this equipment amid a changed security situation and resulting decrease in its defence expenditure.
 
Like most other African militaries, the Malian Army's combat effectiveness in the late 2000s and early 2010s was extremely low, a fact that prevented it from dealing with the 2012 Tuareg insurgency and the subsequent rise of Al-Qaeda, ultimately forcing France to intervene to prevent a hostile takeover of Mali and throwing the rest of the region into turmoil. In the years since, the Malian military has been rebuild with the help of the European Union (EU), with Soviet heavy weaponry making place for modern MRAPs and infantry mobility vehicles. 

Nonetheless, Mali continues to operate equipment like the T-54 and PT-76, albeit in much small numbers than before. Interestingly, the Malian Army appears to have returned several other Soviet-era AFVs back to operational condition in recent years, although these appear to spend most of their time collecting dust in barracks with little training being undertaken as they are of little use in fighting the ongoing insurgency. Nonetheless, the ultimate result is an exotic inventory of equipment that could surprise many seasoned analyst for its sheer diversity.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
In an effort to turn the tide in the ongoing Tigray War, Ethiopia has invested heavily in the acquisition of unmanned (combat) aerial vehicles from a number of countries around the world. After years of disregard of modern developments worldwide, the Ethiopian Air Force found itself caught in a conflict with no aircraft that could deploy precision-guided munitions (save for one Su-25TK), allowing Tigray forces to freely roam the battlefield and operate the large quantities of heavy weaponry it managed to capture from government forces. [1]
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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
''Listen son – you're all great and well-educated kids, but accept the fact that foreign producers are at a level unreachable.'' (Address to Selçuk and Haluk Bayraktar by a bureaucrat at the Presidency of Defense Industries, mid-2000s) [1]

Whenever the future of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is discussed, the ability to engage and shoot down other aircraft is frequently mentioned as a development that could one day make conventional fighter aircraft obsolete. Nonetheless, actual progress towards achieving such a future has been painstakingly slow. In popular discourse, capabilities of combat UAVs are frequently thought to be way ahead of their real-world abilities, with even a global armament powerhouse such as Russia still struggling to produce its own fleet of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), let alone turning these systems into agile unmanned dogfighters in the near future.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Tensions have increased between Iran and Azerbaijan over road tax imposed on Iranian truck drivers that want to enter Armenia through Azerbaijan, over Azerbaijani ties to Israel and plans for a corridor linking Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan exclave with mainland Azerbaijan. The latter's occurence could see Tehran lose its connection to Armenia altogether, hindering its access to the regional market. While current tensions between Tehran and Baku have so far been confined to diplomatic tensions and military exercises along their respective borders, some fear that mounting tensions between the two countries could one day escalate into an all-out regional conflict.

Saturday, 16 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
On display alongside a host of well-known UAV designs at Teknofest 2021 there was a UAV that looks as intriguing as it does unconventional. The object that combined these two feats is the Alpkuş, a small UAV that was designed by Turkish engineer Alper Sarısan. The Alpkuş originally started its life as a simple copy of the Colomban Cri-Cri homebuilt recreational aircraft, which has the curious distinction of being the smallest twin-engined manned aircraft in the world. Somewhere during the past several years, Alper Sarısan converted his Cri-Cri for unmanned operations, adding it to a growing list of UAV designs to come from the country.

Friday, 15 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Ethiopia's last acquisition of (unmanned) aircraft before the commencement of the Tigray War in November 2020 are not the Wing Loong IIs UCAVs the country is so often reported to have deployed during the early stages of the conflict. Instead, the last (unmanned) aircraft it acquired was a single German Trinity F9 eVTOL UAV received as a gift from the German government in October 2020. [1] Although supposed to be the first of three drones that were to be donated to Ethiopia's Ministry of Agriculture to help it in areas of natural resources protection, only one F9 was delivered before the German Development Cooperation was halted from supplying the other two drones after the the Tigray War broke out in November 2020 [2]
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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 

Morocco's use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has been a subject shrouded in secrecy since the country first acquired drones in the late 1980s. Although this secrecy surrounds nearly all of its defence acquisitions, Morocco has taken extra care to reveal as little as possible with regards to what UAV types it purchased and where they're being deployed. But in a time when most people own camera phones and satellite imagery is readily available, an increasing amount of information about Morroco's drone operations is slowly becoming available.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Haykırdı ak tolgalı beylerbeyi "İlerle!" - When the white clad bannerlord roared ''Forth cavalcade!'' (Akıncılar, by Yahya Kemal Beyatlı)
 
It has been surprisingly long since the introduction of a new type of unmanned aerial combat vehicle (UCAV) heralded the inception of entirely new capabilities in the field of drone warfare. While some types of UCAVs have introduced an increased payload capacity, an improved sensor suite or an increased endurance over their predecessors, there has been little innovation in armament types cleared for use by UCAVs in recent years. This all changed with the introduction of the Bayraktar Akıncı, which boasts a number of features not seen on any other type of UCAV produced anywhere before.

Monday, 11 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 
 
After the acquisition of Iranian and Emirati unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) by Ethiopia, there now is strong reason to suggest that a third type of UCAV has joined the conflict: The Chinese-made Wing Loong I. Information received by the authors' combined with a suspicious cargo flight to Harar Meda air base in Ethiopia from Chengdu, China, where the Wing Loong I is manufactured, point towards the delivery of at least three of such systems to Ethiopia in September 2021. The news comes a week after the confirmed use of UAE-supplied UCAVs with the Ethiopian military in the contested Tigray Region. [1]

Friday, 8 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans based on data gathered by Gerjon 
 
Amidst an increasingly deterorating security situation throughout large parts of northern Ethiopia, the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) has embarked on an international shopping spree in an effort to acquire new weapon systems that could help it to halt the seemingly unstoppable advances of Tigray forces. As part of its efforts, Ethiopia has sought to acquire arms from countries like the UAE and Iran. Recent data collected by aircraft tracker Gerjon reveals the scale of the air bridge maintained by these countries to keep the ENDF supplied with all the weaponry and equipment it needs. [1]

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Having entered service with at least seven countries worldwide, several more nations are currently thought to be negotiating with Turkey for the acquisition of Bayraktar TB2s. [1] One of these nations is reported to be Pakistan, which currently operates a fleet of Chinese unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) backed up by a locally-produced drone known as the Burraq. [2] In addition to these types, Pakistan is currently also developing several more indigenous UCAVs. At least one of these aims to incorporate Turkish technology through a cooperation with Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI), the designer of the TAI Anka U(C)AV. [3]

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The deployment of Emirati unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) on behalf of the Ethiopian government has been speculated on ever since the beginning of hostilities with the rebellious Tigray Region in November 2020. The oft-repeated claims that several Chinese-made Wing Loong UCAVs operate out of Assab air base in Eritrea to undertake combat missions over Tigray have never been supported by evidence that points towards such a deployment either in 2020 or now. However, almost one year into the conflict evidence that shows UAE-combat drones have indeed been delivered to Ethiopia to help it in its fight against the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) has now finally emerged. [1]

Monday, 4 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The continued delivery of arms and equipment to the war-thorn country of Ethiopia remains largely unreported on, and its impact on the situation on the ground is at the moment largely unknown. What is known however is that the constant attrition of Ethiopia's military arsenal has led the country to scrounge the planet for anyone willing to supply it with additional weaponry, which has even included Mohajer-6 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) from Iran. These UCAVs now operate alongside Israeli and Chinese designs, showing just how complicated the modern day network of foreign arms suppliers has become.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
A military parade was held in Ashgabat on September 27, 2021 in celebration of Turkmenistan's 30th anniversary of independence. Rows of Western, Russian and Chinese weapon systems were paraded, once again highlighting the serious investments the country has made into its military over the past decade. Nonetheless, it was relatively conservative in terms of the display of major new systems except for the debut of the newly-acquired Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) and Israeli Sky Striker loitering munition. Also showcased during the naval section of the parade was the Deniz Han, the Turkmenistan Navy's new corvette and currently the most powerful warship in the Caspian Sea. The parade can be watched in its entirety here.
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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Syrian Arab Army's Armoured Divisions are well known for operating several types of tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles upgraded with additional armour. Having performed these armour upgrades on a range of armoured fighting and support vehicles, one of the Armoured Divisions (1st AD) expanded its arsenal once more in 2016 by introducing a new type of multiple rocket launcher (MRL), popularly known as 'Shams', meaning Sun in Arabic. It's thought its nickname was derived from that of the aesthetically similar Russian TOS-1A 'Solntsepyok, which has been referred to as 'Sun' during its deployment by the Russian military in Syria.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Amidst the smoldering wreckages of destroyed surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems littering the battlefields of Nagorno-Karabakh there was one notable absentee that appeared to have escaped certain destruction at the hands of drones during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War: The Buk-M1-2. Indeed, although it constitutes one of the most modern and capable SAM systems in the inventory of the Armenian Armed Forces, the Buk-M1-2 (NATO designation: SA-11 'Gadfly') SAM system appears to have played no role during the fierce 44-day conflict whatsoever.