Sunday 3 October 2021

Turkmenistan’s Parade Analysis: What’s New?

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.

A newcomer from Serbia is the Lazar 3 armoured personnel carrier (APC). Interestingly, Turkmenistan's examples are fitted with a Russian 30mm MB2 turret normally installed on BTR-80A and BTR-82A infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). When equipped with this turret, the Lazar 3 essentially becomes an IFV rather than an APC. Instead of joining the ranks of the Turkmenistan Army, the Lazar 3 entered service with the Ministry for National Security as indicated by the vehicles' camouflage pattern.

Another vehicle type newly-acquired for the Ministry for National Security is the Israeli Plasan StormRider infantry mobility vehicle (IMV). The StormRider is a further evolution of the SandCat IMV that has meanwhile entered widespread service with Azerbaijan's Armed Forces. The StormRider boasts several improvements over the design of its predecessor, including a monocoque hull with independent suspensions and an increased fuel capacity. Furthermore, Turkmenistan's examples are fitted with a remote weapon station (RWS) for a 7.62mm light machine gun.

Paraded in front of the StormRiders was a single Iveco LMV (Light Multirole Vehicle) IMV that similarly joined the ranks of the Ministry for National Security. Having acquired significant quantities of arms and equipment from Italy over the past decade (most notably Turkmenistan's service rifle the ARX-160), the Iveco LMV is nonetheless the first Italian armoured vehicle to enter service with the Central Asian country.

A dozen Kia Light Tactical Vehicle (KLTV) from South Korea also made their first appearance during the parade. These were paraded in three configurations, including one variant with a 12.7mm RWS installed on its roof. The KLTVs likely arrived to Turkmenistan this year before entering service with the State Border Service of Turkmenistan. There currently exists no country that operates more IMV types than Turkmenistan, and the KLTVs will serve alongside some fifteen other IMV types also acquired in the past decade.

Another surprising addition to Turkmenistan's vehicle park was the Russian KamAZ-63968 Typhoon mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP). The Turkmen Ground Forces is the first export customer of the type, which recently made its combat debut with Russian forces deployed to Syria. Contrary to most other MRAP designs worldwide, the Typhoon does not feature any armament. Although historically a big client of Russian arms and equipment, Turkmenistan has shifted much of its defence acquisitions away from Russia to now include a large number of other arms-producing countries.

The vehicle part of the parade also included a number of new INKAS Titan-DS IMVs from the UAE. The Titan-DS is the second UAE vehicle design after the Nimr to enter service with Turkmenistan's Armed Forces. In addition to being adopted by the Turkmen Ground Forces, the Ministry of Internal Affairs also became a recipient of the vehicle type. Both branches operate their vehicles in slightly different configurations, although both variants are armed with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun (HMG) situated in an open cupola.
Little new was shown in types of air defence equipment despite the rumoured acquisition of T38 Stilet SAM systems from Belarus. An exception to this was the DWL-002 passive detection system acquired from China. The DWL-002 has a claimed detection range of 400 kilometers for aerial targets the size of a fighter aircraft and reportedly can track stealth aircraft. [1] Aside from the DWL-002, Chinese YLC-2V long-range surveillance radars and Kolchuga passive sensors already known to be in service were also paraded.

Paraded alongside the DWL-002s were new electronic warfare (EW) systems installed on a German MAN chassis. The EW systems themselves were sourced from the German Rohde & Schwarz company. These highly-advanced systems can be used to intercept and disrupt enemy communications in the HF/VHF/UHF range. The truck-based system features a combined wideband detector and exciter, which enables it to jam both normal and state-of-the-art frequency-hopping radiocommunications systems at high hop rates. [2]

Making up the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) part of the parade were three Italian Selex ES Falco XN and two Israeli Orbiter 2B reconnaissance UAVs acquired some ten years ago. A more recent addition were three Turkish Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs equipped with two MAM-C and two MAM-L munitions under its wings. Rather than being fitted with a Canadian MX-15D or Turkish Aselsan CATS FLIR turret, Turkmenistan's TB2s come equipped with a German ARGOS-II HDT EO/IR FLIR system from Hensoldt.

Making its debut in Turkmenistan is the Israeli SkyStriker loitering munition. These systems were used with great effect by Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War and are likely considerably less costly in their acquisition price than the IAI Harop also from Israel. The purchase of SkyStrikers allows Turkmenistan to significantly expand on its already existing unmanned strike capabilities.

Despite the fact that most equipment showcased this year was previously known to be available to Turkmenistan's armed forces, the overall diversity of weapons systems driven past the viewing stands was impressive. Considering the numerous acquisitions of equipment made by Turkmenistan on a yearly basis, we already look forward to the surprises that will surely await us in next year's parade.

Special thanks to Farooq Bhai and Sonny Butterworth.