Monday 28 August 2023


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
''Those who don't love me don't deserve to live.'' (By Muammar Gaddafi)

During a period that spanned four decades the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi became world renowned for his cult of personality, his proposal to partition Switzerland during a G8 summit, invading four out of Libya's six neighbours, his attempt to persuade an Egyptian(!) submarine to sink the British Queen Elizabeth 2 ocean liner and for orchestrating the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Nonetheless, many myths still shape contemporary thinking on Gaddafi, such as the provision of free electricity, free healthcare and free money to 'his people' while living a modest life largely devoid of any luxury himself. Gaddafi spared no effort to promote this image during his tenure, preferring to sleep in tents rather than in expensive hotels on state visits abroad. In reality, Gaddafi salted away billions during his 42-year long reign and travelled the world on a private $120 million Airbus A340 that even came with its own jacuzzi.

Sunday 27 August 2023

By Stijn Mitzer and Kemal
The 2000s witnessed a widespread decrease in European defence spending, and the Netherlands was certainly not exempt from this trend. Within a span of less than a decade, the Dutch Armed Forces had to bid farewell to a multitude of weapons systems. This included all of its tanks, self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, multiple rocket launchers and maritime patrol aircraft. In addition, significant reductions were made in the inventory of frigates, fighter jets and AFVs. Compounding the situation was a shortage of spare parts and ammunition, along with a decline in morale, resulting in a significant loss of personnel as soldiers pursued better opportunities outside of the military.

Monday 21 August 2023


By Thomas Nachtrab, Stijn Mitzer, Buschlaid and Jan Kerdijk
Kazakhstan found itself in a fortunate position when it came to inheriting military equipment from the USSR. The outcome was somewhat akin to a stroke of luck. If not for the drawdown of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany in the late 1980s, Kazakhstan could have been left with a substantial number of nuclear-capable Tu-95 bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but sorely lacking in terms of conventional military equipment. However, with a significant number of troops formerly deployed to Europe being relocated to the Kazakhstan SSR, the country ended up inheriting a vast arsenal of military equipment far surpassing the needs of the newly-established republic.

Saturday 19 August 2023


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

It might come as a surprise to many that Switzerland continues to operate a significant number of armored fighting vehicles (AFVs), even in the aftermath of the Cold War and the seemingly remote possibility of facing an invasion from any (neighboring) nation. In spite of the decommissioning of most bunker systems and a considerable reduction in its air force, the Swiss Armed Forces are engaged in a continual process of modernising their capabilities. This involves both the acquisition of new equipment and the enhancing of existing AFVs through (limited) upgrade programmes.

Tuesday 15 August 2023


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
Dear everyone,
I had always imagined 'penning' this farewell someday. You see, the journey of Oryx took a different path than its intended purpose. What Oryx was meant to be initially was a remedy for my teenage boredom at the age of 17. Back then, I was still in high school, and the manageable workload along with my recent departure from playing football left me with an abundance of spare time. An interest in the Arab Spring, in particular the Libyan and Syrian Revolutions, led me to spend more and more time scouring the internet for updates. As the Syrian Revolution evolved into protracted civil war, I decided to create a Twitter account to more closely monitor the unfolding events.

One of the accounts I followed was that of Eliot Higgins, who began reporting on the Syrian Civil War on his Brown Moses Blog. After asking him one day if he was going to report on the use of Italian-upgraded T-72 tanks in the war, I remember telling myself that if a ''high-school dropout who knew no more about weapons than the average Xbox owner'' was able to write these articles, so would I probably. That evening, I created a blog, picked a name (Oryx for the majestic animal, and Spioenkop, Afrikaans for 'spy hill', as a place from where one can watch events unfold around the world) and published my first article on Syria's T-72 MBTs.

It was the 16th of February 2013, and little did I realise that the next decade would transform Oryx from a remedy for boredom into a project that would consume the majority of my time and energy. In the months following my inaugural article, I continued to write about Syria, a country that held my focus until 2017. However, a desire towards greater challenges was always present. My motivation thrives on challenges. Offer me the most difficult subject to analyse. Upon mastering the subject's intricacies, I seek out the next challenge.
I ultimately discovered my greatest challenge in the analysis of North Korea. Back in the early 2010s, the scarcity of photographs and videos emerging from the country, in stark contrast to the flood of visual content available now, intrigued me. The limited information available, coupled with the abundance of misinformation, arguably made it the most challenging country to analyse. Through a series of articles and our eventual book(s), Joost and I attempted to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Korean People's Army. Finishing the final pages of the book left me feeling satisfied with North Korea – we had done what we aimed for. We unearthed the answers to our questions. With this challenge resolved, I started looking for another subject that would keep me curious and motivated.

Finding a challenge this time around proved much harder than before. However, the Nagorno-Karabakh War, Türkiye('s defence industry) and the Tigray War eventually emerged as subjects that provided me with both analytical satisfaction and the desired level of complexity. Their status as topics that Western analysts scarcely delved into rendered them all the more interesting to me. In contrast to mainstream media, we weren't confined by the need to generate popular articles and headlines. Instead, we saw this as an opportunity to illuminate underreported conflicts like the Tigray War, the Libyan War and the War in Yemen. Continuously delving into various countries and conflicts kept Oryx fresh for me, but it has also brought me to a place where I feel that I've largely covered the subjects I intended to explore. The journey has been a source of satisfaction, but it has now arrived at its final destination.

Since late 2021, the act of writing feels repetitive, almost as if I've written every sentence before. For me, this realisation serves as a clear sign that it's time to move on. In fact, I had already contemplated ending Oryx by the spring of 2022, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine infused me with renewed energy to keep going. But 1.5 years later, I have lost my spark. My interest in anything military is fading, and the constant pressure to keep up with everything is exhausting. I usually fall asleep with my phone in hand, only to wake up finding I've been sleeping on it. I'm tired of all the death and destruction. It's been a whole decade of watching videos of people's bodies having been torn apart by bombs or parents holding their lifeless newborns who died as a result of armed conflict – it really gets to you.
Still, I take great joy in the opportunities that Oryx has brought me. While I'm aware of options such as securing a position at a think tank or even transforming Oryx into a lucrative private intelligence agency, these career paths hold no appeal for me. To me, the act of donating our entire Patreon income to charities seemed like the only possible course of action. Amidst ongoing wars and natural disasters, it's difficult to justify to ourselves to hold onto money without considering the greater need. True wealth, for me, is found within family, health, and finding happiness in the little things in life. A forest stroll or spending time with friends makes me feel genuinely rich. Learning this lesson at a young age is priceless.

Over the years I've come to realise that, to me, genuine success and happiness are scarcely influenced by popularity, recognition, or even publishing a book. While these achievements hold their own significance, they haven't truly brought me a sense of pride. My most significant accomplishments involve making those dear to me proud and understanding the essence of happiness at a young age. Oryx has shown me that that true happiness cannot be attained through fame, career accomplishments, or wealth.
Reflecting on the last decade, I hope that Oryx has and will continue to motivate others to set out on their own journey of analysis and writing. Starting at the age of 17 without ever taking any education in the field of defence or international relations, Oryx can be seen as evidence that great opportunities await those who choose a similar path. What added to the excitement was the interaction with readers on Twitter, which I've thoroughly enjoyed over the years. At a certain point, the number of messages became overwhelming, so I want to apologise if you never received a response. I also want to express my sincere appreciation to all those who have offered their assistance in various capacities to Oryx over the years, with a special acknowledgment to Jakub. What began as a childhood interest ignited by buying Buck Danny and Biggles comic strips blossomed into a hobby that has far exceeded any reasonable limits. Although I once contemplated a position with an intelligence agency, an offer never came to fruition.

Lastly, I feel compelled to discuss the origin of the practice of list-making and its evolution over time. We began our venture into list-making in 2013 with the goal of aiding our internal analysis. The abundance and variations of North Korea's armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) posed a challenge, prompting us to catalog them before we could analyse them effectively. This initial list set the groundwork for subsequent lists, although it wasn't until the summer of 2014 that we embarked on compiling the 'losses lists,' intended to illustrate the staggering volume of armament and equipment captured by IS in the regions of Iraq and Syria. The rapid proliferation of these lists, owing to the relatively straightforward process of creating them, is probably what Oryx will primarily be remembered for. The lists gained such popularity that I found myself (somewhat jokingly) embracing the entire act of list-making on Oryx with a list of lists. However, I must confess, I have an aversion to planning ahead and never create lists in my everyday life. Sorry!


Sunday 13 August 2023


Bulgaria has emerged as a crucial lifeline for Ukraine, acting as an armsbasket amid the conflict with Russia. The country's defence companies have taken on an unprecedented role, operating around the clock to supply Ukraine with much-needed Soviet-type ammunition to support its resistance against Russia. Paradoxically, even as Bulgarian factories work tirelessly to aid Ukraine, the nation faces an internal contradiction. The pro-Russian President's attribution of blame to Kyiv for Russia's invasion and his vehement opposition to Bulgaria's indirect involvement in the war starkly contrasts with the pro-Ukrainian defence minister's aims of increasing his nation's assistance to Ukraine.

Friday 11 August 2023


The following list attempts to keep track of military equipment delivered or pledged to Ukraine by Greece during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The entries below are sorted by armament category (with a flag denoting the country of origin). Due to the confidential nature of some arms deliveries they can serve only as a lower bound to the total volume of weaponry delivered. This list will be updated as further military support is uncovered or declared.

Sunday 6 August 2023


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Over the past decade, Uganda has quietly embarked on a significant modernisation drive. This ambitious effort has seen the acquisition of Su-30MK2 multi-role fighter aircraft, Mi-28N attack helicopters and T-90S MBTs from Russia. Additionally, the country has invested in advanced weapons systems from Israel, such as 155mm ATMOS SPGs, 120mm SPEAR Mk.2 and CARDOM SPMs, as well as Hermes 900 UAVs. To further supplement its ground forces, Uganda has also obtained Type-85-IIM MBTs and VN2C APCs from China and 240mm 'M-1991 MRLs from North Korea.

Saturday 5 August 2023


The following list attempts to keep track of military equipment delivered or pledged to Ukraine by Romania during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The entries below are sorted by armament category (with a flag denoting the country of origin), and due to the confidential nature of some arms deliveries they can serve only as a lower bound to the total volume delivered. This list is updated as further military support is uncovered.