I am currently traveling on business, but have excerpted some comments from the US Department of State’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman, on the current status of US policy towards Iran. There were several interesting sections, but the discussion of US outreach targeting Iranian citizens I found particularly interesting.
Author Archives: N.R. Jenzen-Jones
Recently, both sides involved in the fighting in Syria have accused the other of chemical weapons (CW) use. Remnants of similar items were found in two alleged chemical attacks in Saraqeb, Idlib and Sheikh Maqsoud, Aleppo. Eliot Higgins has gone into a little more detail on the items in question. Whilst the munitions can not be conclusively identified, they do not appear to match any known CW delivery devices, including known smaller devices intended for special operations. Less than an hour ago, Jeffry Ruigendijk published a series of photos on his website, showing a fighter from the Al-Nusra Front (an Al Qaeda-associated rebel group in Syria) with what appears to be one of the grenades in question.
Following are two more safety sheets I produced for the RRMA, as part of a package provided to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) to support their ongoing efforts in Syria. The content of these is drawn largely from previous posts here. There are one-sheets for the ZAB-2.5 incendiary and Sakr Type B submunitions, as well as a general sheet (above) outlining the four different submunitions identified at the time of publication. We have since observed the presence of ShOAB-0.5 submunitions as well, which I will discuss briefly below.
This screenshot, a frame taken from the YouTube video seen below, shows a fighter of the Mouvement pour le Tawhîd et du Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) in Mali holding a 9K32 or 9K32M Man Portable Air Defence System (MANPADS). From the blurry video it is difficult to determine whether this is a 9K32 (NATO reproting name: SA-7a) or 9K32M (SA-7b) system, both produced in the former Soviet Union, or a foreign variant. It is clear, however, that both the gripstock and Battery Coolant Unit (BCU) are present. MUJAO are associated with Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine, and Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s brigade, and are listed on the United Nations Al-Qaida Sanctions List.
The rest of the video contains little of interest in terms of materiel, with MUJOA fighters seen armed with a typical assortment of AK-pattern assault rifles (including at least two Chinese Type 56-2 rifles), DShKM heavy machine guns, and so on. The video also shows MUJAO fighters using a handful of Soviet-era armoured vehicles, including a BRDM-2 and a BTR-60, both equipped with 14.5×114 KPVT heavy machine guns
My thanks to Aris Roussinos for spotting this video.
It’s that time of year again! Twitter Fight Club kicks off for 2013 and, as with last year’s tournament, I will be one of several judges trying to decipher and adjudicate the coming virtual fracas. For the uninitiated, all the information you need can be found here. My judging criteria will be the same as I used last year, as follows:
1. Quality of arguments – First and foremost, the quality of arguments will hold the highest priority, with an emphasis on original thought, clear logic, and the significance of what is tweeted.
2. Depth of knowledge – Provision of concise supporting material, addressing counter-arguments and alternative points of view, and demonstrating general depth and breadth of subject matter understanding.
3. Engagement – Interaction with followers, other #TFC12 competitors, judges, and - particularly - critics of your tweets/arguments. Audience participation encouraged!
4. Humour & style – Getting your message across in a way that captures attention and suits the medium. Points for snark, wit, fine prose, clever ‘hooks’, elegance/endearing brashness of style, or any combination therein.
I will not be taking into account the number of followers a competitor has. Whilst I appreciate the impact of followers on the ability to disseminate your arguments and opinions, the ‘public poll’ portion of TFC accounts for this. No doubt competitors will attempt flattery, bribery, and so on… I’m partial to peaty Scotch, fine cigars, and cartridge cases from conflict zones.
The hashtag for relevant tweets is ‘#TFC13′. I encourage competitors to use the same where required. You can find me on Twitter here.
Anza Mk-II Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) have been observed in Libya. A source working with an NGO in Libya, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent me the images featured in this piece. These images were taken in 2011 at arms depots wrested from government control by rebel forces. The Anza Mk-II, developed at the Dr A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta, is a derivative of the Chinese QW-1, first developed in the early 1990s. It was introduced to Pakistan’s armed forces in 1994, and features a slant range of approximately 5km, a maximum engagement altitude of around 4km, and a missile speed of approximately 600m/s. The Anza Mk-II missile features a solid-fuel booster and solid-fuel sustainer motor, weighs 10.68kg, and contains around 550g of High Explosive (HE).
The Anza Mk-II constitutes a greater threat than the SA-7b systems that make up the bulk of MANPADS identified in Libya. Nonetheless, it poses only a moderate danger to modern fighter aircraft. How these missiles ended up in Libya is not clear, with Malaysia being the only known export customer of the system. Anza Mk-I missiles have, however, been recovered by the Indian military from militants in Kashmir.
Anza Mk-II missile launch tubes are seen alongside 9K32M (SA-7b) and 9K338 (SA-24) tubes in a captured arms depot.
The Federation of American Scientists has some more information, here.
Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment troops, possibly based out of Honington or Wittering, have been deployed to Bamako as a force protection (FP) element for RAF operations in support of the French intervention in Mali. France’s Opération Serval is being supported by two RAF C-17ER transport planes, operated by No. 99 Squadron from RAF Brize Norton. These aircraft are to ferry French armoured vehicles from the Évreux-Fauville Air Base in France, to Bamako.
Whilst the British government has claimed there will be ‘no UK boots on the ground’, that is not strictly true. In this video, RAF Regiment FP elements can be seen at Bamako Airport with a range of field kit, small arms, and other equipment. The RAF tactical recognition flash and RAF Regiment ‘mudguard’ badges can be clearly seen (see examples below). French VAB (Véhicule de l’Avant Blindé) series armoured personnel carriers are unloaded from the C-17ER. RAF regiment gunners fought alongside US Marines during the insurgent attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, last September. The attack left two US Marines of Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) dead, 6 AV-8B Harrier II ground attack aircraft destroyed, and two more damaged. Members of No. 5 RAF Regiment Force Protection Wing and elements 2/10 Battalion US Marines then fought to regain control of the airfield, capturing one insurgent, and killing fourteen others.
Recently, Sakr 122mm cargo rockets and their submunitions have been observed within Syria. This family of 122mm rockets is designed for use with the Russian BM-21 multiple rocket launcher (the so-called ‘Grad’, or ‘hail’) and other 122mm systems such as the Chinese Type 81 SPRL and Egyptian RL-21 and RC-21 launch vehicles. These surface-to-surface multiple rocket launcher systems are not designed for precise fires, but instead target wide areas; this effect is, of course, even more pronounced when firing submunition-dispensing rockets from these systems. Despite multiple reports to the contrary, these munitions are not Iranian, but were produced in Egypt at the Sakr Factory for Development Industries, a subsidiary of the Egyptian Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI). The AOI logo can be seen very clearly on the rocket in the video below, and the full name along with ‘Sakr Factory’ can be seen printed on the rockets in Arabic in the images at the bottom of this article.
This piece is adapted from an article appearing in Volume 5, Number 1 of the Small Arms Defence Journal.
In September 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Lithgow (New South Wales, Australia) at the invitation of Thales Australia in order to conduct a Test and Evaluation (T&E) of their Enhanced F88 Assault Rifle. This weapon is being developed for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) under the Land 125 Phase 3C program. Pending the results of Department of Defence testing, this rifle will be in the early stages of manufacturing in 2014. A version of the EF88, with several minor differences, is being marketed globally by Thales as the F90, drawing directly on the Australian small arms experience. The EF88 is the latest iteration of the long-serving F88 Austeyr; this updated weapon has been designed and produced more than 20 years after the first F88 rifles entered service in Australia, and over 35 years since the Steyr AUG on which it is based was first designed in Austria. Fundamentally, the EF88 remains much the same as its predecessors: a bullpup-configuration selective fire weapon, chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge, short-stroke piston operated and firing from a closed bolt.
Despite core similarities, the EF88 features a number of improvements designed to make the weapon more user-friendly and more combat effective. Many of these changes were inspired by a combination of operational user input and Defence specifications, whilst others were entirely Thales Australia’s own concepts. In fact, Thales Australia made a corporate decision to exceed the specifications laid out by Defence in Land 125, and have upgraded their operations at Lithgow from ‘build-to-print’ manufacturing to encompass a true Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) capability.
A 9M79-1 missile being fired in Kazakhstan during exercise Combat Commonwealth 2011. Credit: Grigoriy Bedenko.
The 9K79 Tochka (Точка; ‘point’) tactical ballistic missile launcher has been identified in a recent video from Syria, seen below. Whilst the YouTube video misidentifies the system as a ‘Scud’, it is almost certainly a 9K79, also referred to as the OTR-21 (OTR: оперативно-тактический ракетный комплекс, or ‘Tactical-operational Missile Complex’), or by its NATO reporting name, the SS-21 Scarab. This Soviet-produced system has a maximum range of 70km, and a Circular Error Probable (CEP) of approximately 150m. An updated version, the 9K79-1 Tochka-U (Scarab-B), was introduced in the 1980s with a maximum range of 120km and a CEP of approximately 92m. Syria is thought to possess both iterations, having received its first deliveries of the earlier 9K79 (Scarab-A) systems from the USSR in 1983. Syria is suspected of supplying 9K79s to North Korea to be reverse-engineered for use in their domestic missile development program.
Two 9K79 or 9K79-1 tactical ballistic missile systems operating in Syria.