The Small Arms Survey has recently released my latest long form report, examining the variety of Small Arms Ammunition (SAA) observed in Libya during and immediately after the recent conflict. This is the first in a series of baseline assessments of arms and ammunition holdings in Africa and the Middle East that I intend to author. The next report in the series will focus on SAA identified in Syria.
An extract from the press release:
The assessment is based on photos of cartridge headstamps, cartridges, and ammunition packaging, as well as shipping documents pertaining to small arms ammunition transfers. Most of these records are from Tripoli and were gathered during the first five months of 2012, with additional photos from Ajdabiya, Benghazi, and Misrata. This baseline will serve as a valuable tool for governments, NGOs, and other actors involved in understanding and stemming the illicit flow of small arms ammunition in the region … The Headstamp Trail forms part of the Small Arms Survey’s Security Assessment in North Africa, a multi-year project to support those engaged in building a more secure environment in North Africa and the Sahel-Sahara region.
RAF Regiment gunners, aboard a RAF C-17ER, in front of a French VAB SAN (armoured ambulance variant). Credit: AFP.
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. Continue reading →
On October 2nd the armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (حركة الجهاد الإسلامي في فلسطين), the al-Quds Brigades, took to the streets of Fatah in Southern Gaza to mark the 17th anniversary of the assassination of Fathi al-Shaqaqi. Shaqaqi was assassinated in Malta by the Mossad in 1995. Each year, the al-Quds Brigades take to the streets for a military parade to mark the event, brandishing a variety of arms and carrying all manner of banners and flags. This year’s parade, however, was a little different, and held some interesting items for those of us following the spread of various small arms. Amongst the usual assortment of Russian AKMs & Eastern Bloc copies, Chinese Type 56 variants, PKMs, and RPG-7 variants and copies were two far less common weapons: the F2000 and AK-103 assault rifles.
An Indonesian Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Laut; TNI-AL) boarding party with Captain Mal Wise, Australian Commander Task Group after a simulated boarding exercise conducted on HMAS Perth(FFH 157), during Exercise KAKADU 2012. Interesting to note the integration of Indonesian Naval SOF, KOPASKA (Komando Pasukan Katak; Frogman Commando Team), operators with a regular Navy boarding party. Australian boarding parties often operate in a similar way, with members of a Clearance Diving Team attached.
KOPASKA was influenced by USN Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) and US Navy SEALs, and has roughly similar operational responsibilities, including maritime counter-terrorism. Their insignia features a winged frog and anchor device, and their motto is “Tan Hana Wighna Tan Sirna” (“there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome”).
Defence notes: “Exercise Kakadu 2012 is Australias largest maritime exercise and allows the RAN to develop operational capability and skills in a coalition environment. Exercise Kakadu will be conducted from 29 August to 14 September in the Northern Australian Exercise Area off the coast of Darwin. In 2012 there will be 15 ships, and over 2000 sailors and officers from 17 participating and observing nations taking part”
HNLMS Evertsen is one of four De Zeven Provinciën class air defence and command frigates in service with the Royal Netherlands Navy (Koninklijke Marine). Evertsen is the youngest of the four, having been completed in 2003 and commissioned in 2005. These ships superseded the two smaller Tromp class frigates, decommissioned in 1999 and 2001. Despite being classified by the Netherlands Navy as frigates, their displacement (6,050 tonnes), complement (202 + 30 aircrew), and role make them comparable to many destroyers. They are similar in these respects to the RAN’s planned Hobart-class Air Warfare Destroyers (AWD). The Netherlands Navy also intends to use the De Zeven Provinciën class in a limited Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) role, having recently awarded a contract for modification of the ships’ Thales SMART-L and APAR radars. According to an article in January’s Proceedings magazine, these modifications are expected to be complete by late 2017. It should be noted that the currently planned modifications only endow the class with the capability to detect and track ballistic missile threats, and do not provide for surface-to-air interceptor missiles.
Singapore’s Formidable class frigates are considered amongst the most advanced surface combatants in Southeast Asia. Built around a substantially modified version of the French La Fayetteclass, they feature an advanced stealth design incorporating a range of Radar Cross-Section (RCS) reduction features. The inclined planes of the hull and superstructures, concealment of typical ship’s equipment, low profile housings for armaments, and enclosed sensor mast are chief amongst these. The Formidable class armament includes: an Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid naval gun, 8x RGM-84C Harpoon SSMs, and 4x 8-cell Sylver A50 VLS containing a mixture of Aster 15 and Aster 30 SAMs. The ships are also capable of firing EuroTorp A224/S Mod 3 torpedoes, and carry a Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopter with ASW equipment (they formerly operated Eurocopter AS-332M Super Pumas).
Identifying weapons systems can sometimes be a tricky business. Often, practitioners are forced to make educated guesses, or give ‘best estimates’ to stakeholders. Nonetheless, it is important that any such assessments are characterised accurately any time they are repeated, and the requisite caveats included. One recent incident highlights this pertinently.
Some video footage from conflict in Syria featured remnants of massive 240mm mortar rounds – the largest calibre mortar currently in active service. These are fired from two weapons in active service, both of Soviet/Russian origin: the M-240 heavy mortar, and the 2S4 Tyulpan self-propelled heavy mortar (a mechanised mortar carrier). Bjørn Holst Jespersen appears to have been among the first to have identified the tail end of what is likely an 53-F-864 240mm HE round, publishing a brief piece on the find on his blog on the 16th of February. The source of the original video screen captures can be found here.
USS NICHOLAS (FFG-47) Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) team members train Kenyan naval personnel onproper apprehension techniques while in port Mombasa, Kenya during Africa Partnership Station – East 2010.
West Africa today is plagued by a variety of serious maritime security (MARSEC) concerns. Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, trafficking of persons, arms, and drugs, oil bunkering, illegal migration, and piracy have contributed to a maritime environment characterized by crime and corruption. The costs of these illegal activities are significant; the cost of illegal fishing alone is over $1 billion US Dollars annually, and an estimated 600,000 people are trafficked illegally each year. Pirate attacks targeting oil product vessels in West Africa are occurring with increasing regularity, and are becoming increasingly violent. Like much of the rest of Africa, the nations of West Africa have traditionally held a land-centric view of security. National navies, as well as other maritime entities such as coast guards and fisheries patrols, have never been in the vanguard of training or financial investment. Despite this, recent years have seen a renewed focus on maritime security in West Africa, driven by concerns of piracy, threats to oil production, and international programs of assistance. Many nations and organizations have strategic interests in building strong MARSEC partnerships with West African nations, most in the hopes of protecting or establishing maritime enterprise relationships. The United States Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Doctrine for 2012, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, discusses the importance of partnerships around the world, including those in Africa. This document sets forth a goal to “become the security partner of choice” in nations of interest, and advocates an “innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approach”, with an emphasis on exercises, rotational presence, and advisory capabilities.
Twitter Fight Club, that is. Team Security Scholar is heavily involved in this year’s TFC event, with Nat being a part of the steering committee and a competitor, and yours truly as one of the judges for the competition. You can read about my part in the event (and my judging criteria) at my personal blog, The Rogue Adventurer. For the uninitiated, check out this introductory post over at the official home of Twitter Fight Club.
This piece was written in October 2011. It first appeared in the Journal of International Peace Operations (JIPO) volume 7, number 4. You can find it here.
The sharp rise in piracy in West Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, has featured prominently in recent news. Piracy as a whole is costing global trade an estimated $12 billion (USD) a year, with the primary target being the oil industry – a key sector of the West African economy – which threatens the strategic interests of the United States, EU, and China.
There are other issues, along with piracy, that are prevalent in the Gulf of Guinea. Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the waters of West Africa has been referred to as the ‘worst in the world’, with London-based MRAG Limited estimating illegal catches to be 40% higher than reported legal catches. The smuggling of people, arms, and narcotics is also a significant issue in the West African maritime domain. On top of these issues, a plethora of local and transnational criminal and terrorist organisations are connected either directly or tangentially to piracy in West Africa. Chief amongstthem are Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).