Why has Security Scholar been so quiet lately?

You may well ask. Well, fear not, Nat and I are both very much alive.

As a few of you probably know by now, I’m in the process of undertaking a pretty big research project. I’m attempting to compile a ‘complete-as-possible’ database of small arms used in the recent Libyan conflict. To do this, I’ve been collecting OSINT photos and video stills from a number of media outlets, social networking sites, and so on. I’m also working with some NGOs and PSCs on the ground in Libya, as well as having developed a few local sources of my own.

I have a post up at my personal, more informal blog, The Rogue Adventurer.

I would love any input from readers, particularly detailed photos of weapon receivers (serial numbers, factory marks etc.) or weapon crates, or just photos of unusual small arms that have cropped up. I’m also keeping an eye out for different types of optics that have turned up, for a smaller side project.

 

Nat’s been pretty active as well. As many of you know she is travelling throughout Indonesia, conducting research on a few different topics and also brushing up her Indonesian language skills. You can follow her most recent adventures on her new blog, Notes From The Field.

Her last few posts have explored the fascinating Balinese ceremonial traditions, showcasing everything from blessings given to firearms to cremations!

As you can see, both of us are still working away. Nat continues to bring us fascinating updates from the field, and I’m up to my eyeballs in picture of unusual firearms that have cropped up in Libya. Business at Security Scholar is just as it has always been – unpredictable, unusual, and fascinating.

In the meantime, don’t forget you can keep track of us on Facebook as well! 

Run Through The Jungle: Colombia’s JUNGLA Commandos

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

In writing this article I consulted senior DEA Special Agents who have worked extensively with the Jungla commandos in Colombia. Their identities have been withheld by request.

This post originally appeared at Small Wars Journal, here

The Jungla Commandos, or Compañía Jungla Antinarcóticos (Counter-narcotics Jungle Company; JUNGLA), as they are properly known, are Colombia’s premier national counter-narcotics (CN) interdiction unit. Falling under the Dirección de Antinarcóticos (Directorate of Counter-narcotics; DIRAN) of the Policía Nacional de Colombia (National Police of Colombia; PNC), the Junglas were formed from 120 men in 1989, with the support of both the US and UK. The first course, in 1989, was conducted with training from the British Special Air Service (SAS), although the US Army’s 7th Special Forces Group (7th SFG(A)) provided some behind-the-scenes support and translators. The SAS continued to take the lead until 1991, when US Special Forces took over primary responsibility. In 1998, training responsibility was handed off to the JUNGLA cadre, with ongoing US support.

In recent years, training has been supported primarily by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and US Army Special Forces. DEA agents embed with the Junglas during High-Value Target (HVT) capture and interdiction missions, as well as providing specialised tactical and firearms training, and the US Army provides specialised land warfare training. Funding comes primarily from the US State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the Narcotic Affairs Section (NAS) at the US Embassy in Bogotá. The US Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and other US government entities have also been involved in training and providing support for the Junglas. According to sources I spoke with, the Junglas have very little crossover with the Colombian military; however they have conducted some joint operations with the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (Colombian Air Force; FAC). It is also believed that British MI6 agents (and possibly SAS and SBS personnel) continue to support interdiction efforts in Colombia.

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Update: KRISS SYSTEMS (K10, KARD, Sphinx SDP Compact)

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

Some of the information in this update was provided by a KRISS SYSTEMS spokesperson, in response to my queries.

The KRISS K10, discussed briefly in my earlier piece here, represents the evolution of the KRISS Vector SMG. The K10 will be designed as a multi-calibre platform, supporting .45 ACP, 9x19mm NATO and .40 S&W. These three calibres are the most popular handgun cartridges in Western military and law enforcement use. The lower receivers will be interchangeable, allowing operators to easily switch between calibres, should they desire. The new submachine gun will also feature a quad-Picatinny rail fore end, giving the firearm a lot more flexibility for mounting aftermarket accessories.

The K10 will, of course, be based around the KRISS Super V System (KSVS), making use of in-line design and asymmetrical recoil (the ‘vectored bolt’ technology) to greatly reduce felt recoil and muzzle climb. The K10 also features a much larger charging handle (that can be reconfigured to suit left or right handed shooters), a telescoping, five-position stock (unlike the Vector’s folding stock), an ambidextrous magazine release on the fore grip, and a muzzle designed to accept KRISS DEFIANCE series suppressors. A proprietary magazine is also being developed, and this will reportedly be interoperable with another KRISS weapon under development, the KARD. Limited information on the KARD can be found here, and here. I have been informed that the KARD is an ongoing project, and that no date has been set for its release as yet.

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Update II: AK-103 Exports to Libya

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

AK 103-2 in Libya

I stumbled across the sole post on this almost vacant WordPress site this morning. It features photos which show close-up detail of an AK-103, apparently from Libya. These are the first photographs I have seen that show sufficient detail of the receiver to conclusively establish the provenance of the weapons in question. These images, along with the evidence shown in the last update, lend more weight to one of my original speculations that these weapons were exported to Libya from Russia.

The receiver bears the designation ‘AK 103-2’, indicating that the weapon features a three-round burst function. More tellingly, to the left of the serial number, on the trunnion, can be seen the factory marking of the Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant, or IZHMASH (ИЖМАШ), an upright arrow inside a triangle. The serial number, beginning with the two digits ’07’, indicates that the rifle was manufactured in 2007.

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Update: Australian MultiCam Pattern (AMP)

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

Over the last few weeks I have been in correspondence with various officials from Defence, discussing the specifics and the impact of the upcoming Australian MultiCam Pattern (AMP). This new pattern is being developed by Crype Precision for the ADF – you can read more about this in an earlier Security Scholar article, here.

The following is a series of official responses from an ADF spokesperson to some of my questions:

Will the new AMP pattern follow the British MTP example and feature Crye’s MultiCam palette with a modified design, or are the colours being adjusted in any way?

Response: The prototype pattern has retained the Crye Multicam palette as it is these colours that have proven to be effective in Afghanistan. During the testing of the Australian Multicam Pattern Defence will confirm both the pattern and the palette meet the requirements for Afghanistan as well as examining what changes, if any, would improve its performance across the range of environments where Australian troops are operating.

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KRISS Vector SMG for the Australian Federal Police?

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

In writing this post I consulted a senior representative from KRISS USA, as well as a serving member of the AFP who is familiar with current TRT practices. Their identities have been withheld at their request. I also requested an official comment from the AFP, but only received the following from a spokesperson: “For operational reasons, it would not be appropriate for the AFP to provide this type of information about its accoutrements and their use”.

 

By now, most people interested in small arms have at least heard of the KRISS Vector; in fact, the KRISS Vector SMG caused quite a stir when it was showcased in early 2007. It is a selective fire submachine gun featuring single, two-round burst and fully automatic modes, and chambered (currently) for .45 ACP. It has a cyclic rate of 850-1100 rounds per minute, and fires from a closed bolt using a mechanically-delayed blowback system. Built around the KRISS Super V System (KSVS), the Vector utilises in-line design and asymmetrical recoil (the ‘vectored bolt’ technology) to greatly reduce felt recoil and muzzle climb. KRISS themselves claim that the KSVS can reduce felt recoil by up to 60%, and barrel elevation by 95%; the claimed muzzle rise is about 1.8 degrees.

I attended SHOT Show 2011 in January, and had the opportunity to examine and fire the Vector SMG for myself. Whilst there are many others who have spoken on the relative merits of the weapon, I was very impressed. The Vector SMG was comfortable, well balanced, and controllable during fully-automatic fire. What really impressed me, however, was the accuracy of the weapon when firing two-round bursts. The KRISS website shows the rather impressive outcome of one such burst here.  In certain scenarios, the practical applications of being able to put two .45 ACP rounds on target with lightning speed and precision are very significant indeed.

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Update: AK-103 exports to Libya

by N.R. Jenzen-Jones

As discussed in this earlier piece, Kalashnikov AK-103s have been sighted in the hands of both pro-Qadhafi forces, and the rebels/National Transitional Council in Libya recently. I had advanced a theory that the rifles had either been sent from Russia, as pre-production samples related to this arms deal, or been manufactured in Libya for the same reasons. Nicholas Marsh, from the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT) picked up the story and has since been keeping an eye on it.

As Marsh points out in a recent post, an August 31st photo in the New York Times (detail of which is above) shows AK-103s resting in a crate bearing some interesting shipping information. Most notable is the supplier, ‘Rosoboronexport’, the Russian state-owned arms exporter. The customer is listed as ‘Procurement Department, Tripoli, Libya’. The ports of origin and arrival are consistent with what would be expected. There appear to be ten rifles in the crate, the standard shipping number, and what appears to be wax paper can be seen at right.

The crate pictured is numbered as #6524 out of 11380. Working on 10 rifles per crate, that equates to 113,800 from this particular contract.

Of course, to be certain that these assault rifles were actually contained within the crate shown we would need some more information from someone on the ground. Ideally, we could match the contract number on the crate to the relevant paperwork, and see what the crates originally contained. Of course, this is a lot easier said than done. I have sent an email to Rosoboronexport seeking further details, but it is highly unlikely I will receive a response.

But, as Marsh rightly points out, for the purposes of providing a pointer to where further research is required, this photo is enough for us to assume the rifles were sent to Libya under an authorised export deal with Russia.

Security Scholar Synopsis: Afghanistan’s National Interdiction Unit (NIU)

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

NIU raid drug lab in Nimruz, AFG

Introducing our new Security Scholar Synopsis (S3) series! Each brief in the series focuses on a particular military or law enforcement unit, or emerging operation, and provides an overview supported by research and links to primary and other sources for further reading. The first in our series covers the National Interdiction Unit (NIU), the premier narcotics interdiction force for the Counter Narcotics Police – Afghanistan (CNP-A). An extended version of this brief will appear as a blog post in the near future.

You can download the document using the Scribd controls below.


An extended version of this post is now available at the Small Wars Journal.

Big Boys Do Crye: MultiCam for Australia

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

Please note: a number of serving Australian Army officers and soldiers were interviewed for this piece. Their names have been withheld at their request.


Last November the Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare, announced that Australian troops operating in Afghanistan would be issued with Crye Precision MultiCam uniforms, following a successful trial. Australian special operations units had been wearing the pattern for some time, and the decision to expand its use to all troops in the theatre was a direct result of the positive feedback received by SOTG members. In late May of this year Chief Executive of the Defence Material Organisation, Dr Stephen Gumley, announced that the DMO had reached “an arrangement with the Crye company for them to design an Australian version of their pattern in the various materials”.

There have, however, been concerns about the final design, colouration and testing of the pattern, and some concerns from local industry and politicians.

The rise of MultiCam

The current, US-issue MultiCam pattern is already in service with a number of militaries, law enforcement organisations and private companies. The US Special Operations Command have been using the pattern for years now, and MultiCam had previously featured in various iterations of the US Army’s futuristic Future Force Warrior/Land Warrior program (cancelled in 2007).

Some of the first ‘real world’ adoptions of the camouflage came from the private sector, however. Blackwater tested MultiCam with some of its teams early on and featured the pattern in its ‘Pro Shop’ also (leftover product). Private contractors I have spoken to and worked with have also recognised the utility of MultiCam in Afghanistan, despite the tendency to avoid camouflage patterns.

The pattern is also in use with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Response Teams and a number of other US law enforcement agencies, some units of the British military (whilst awaiting the roll-out of their very own licensed Crye pattern, MTP) and the Australian Federal Police.

The UK has also adopted a variation of MultiCam. The Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) investigated the effectiveness of ten different camouflage patterns under the PECOC (Personal Equipment Common Operating Clothing) program. The assigned team conducted a wide range of tests, used computer modelling, developed several experimental techniques and tested the pattern in the UK, Cyprus, Kenya and Afghanistan. MultiCam, already in use by UK special operations forces, was the stand out of the test group. Crye was then asked to develop an exclusive pattern for the UK MoD. As one Crye representative said: “MultiCam won all their trials so they wanted us to develop a pattern for them that performed like MultiCam but had a distinctly British identity. UK-MTP is the result”. The pattern itself, properly called Multi-Terrain Pattern, features the familiar MultiCam colour palette in a design featuring brush-like strokes reminiscent of its predecessor, British Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM).

MultiCam for the ADF

The new Australian pattern will be developed for the ADF by Crye at a cost of US$3.1 million. Additionally, Defence will be licensing the rights to manufacture uniforms in the existing pattern, for a sum of US$4.7 million. The Australian pattern will be known as ‘Australian MultiCam Pattern’ (AMP). At this stage it is unclear whether AMP will feature the current MultiCam palette in a distinctly Australian pattern, in a similar approach to the UK’s MTP, or will also feature a colour range modified for Australian terrain. It is also unclear how widely uniforms in the new pattern will be distributed, and whether they will be issued for use in Australian terrain. Previous proposals, however, have not fared so well.

Around late March and early May of last year, a number of sources began reporting on the Australian Army’s field testing of a new ‘mid-point’ camouflage uniform, designed to “better meet the range of environments deployed troops are encountering”. Disruptive Pattern Midpoint Uniform (DPMU), or ‘vomit cams’ as two of the serving soldiers I interviewed referred to it, was a DSTO (Defence Science and Technology Organisation) project to develop an ‘Australian’ pattern camouflage in a colourway optimised for semi-arid regions. There were allegations made during the testing of this pattern that it had essentially been pre-selected for distribution, regardless of the outcome of the field testing. It was also stated that other patterns (the “US and UK solutions”) were undergoing testing at the same time as DPMU, however the AMP pattern was not mentioned at this stage.

Australian troops I spoke to have mixed feelings about the idea of introducing a new ‘Australian MultiCam’ to replace the DPCU pattern. The utility of the current-issue MultiCam pattern for overseas deployments – referred to in Australian service as Crye Precision Camouflage Uniform (CPCU) – has been widely acknowledged by Australian troops. As one serving Australian Army officer put it: “The MultiCam pattern is excellent for Afghanistan because of the relatively small distance between desert areas and green zones there, and the fact that we often have to operate in both of those areas as part of one operation”. However, the same officer went on to say that whilst the utility of the pattern for work in Afghanistan was widely acknowledged, there was an uncertainty as to how well the current colour palette would suit the Australian bush. DPCU, based on aerial photographs of Australian terrain and designed specifically for the country’s bushlands, is held in high regard by many of our troops. A serving digger interviewed stressed that DPCU is ideally suited for use in Australia and that, in his opinion, MultiCam (as it stands) should be reserved for troops deploying overseas. While it is unlikely, due to issues of cost, that two sets of uniforms (and spares) will be issued to all Australian-based ADF personnel, it may be that MultiCam is issued in anticipation of overseas deployment. It will be interesting to see how the balance will be struck.

The Crye uniforms currently being issued have gained a lot of their popularity with troops not just from the MultiCam pattern, but from the design of the uniforms themselves. Of course, there have been a few hiccups, notably in sizing. Nonetheless, several serving troops and officers I spoke with pointed out a number of design features that were very popular. The rip-stop fabric, location of pockets, knee and elbow padding, and cooler fabric designed for use under body armour were the stand-out features. It should be noted that these features are not exclusive to Crye’s range of products, and could be incorporated into uniforms produced in Australia using a licensed Crye pattern, or any other camouflage design.

Australian industry concerns

There has been some outcry (see comments section here) about the non-competitive adoption of a foreign camouflage pattern. The Shadow Defence Minister, David Johnston, has also asked for comment on the matter. Unfortunately for Australian designers and producers, MultiCam has a noted track record and enjoys a high-level of support from the troops. Of course, if the new AMP pattern turns out to be very similar to DPCU but featuring Crye’s colour palette (in the same vein as the UK’s MTP), one could reasonably ask why such a relatively minor change couldn’t have been conducted by an Australian company. Additionally, a shift towards Crye patterns by the US, UK, private sector companies and now Australia has the added effect of diminishing differences in appearance between various Western militaries.

One thing is for sure though, Crye Precision continues to represent what Western militaries believe is the vanguard of camouflage design, and will no doubt continue to be financially successful as a result. For the new AMP pattern to be successful it will require proper theoretical and operational testing in the environments it is expected to serve. If we decide to issue such a pattern to troops stationed in Australia, then it is my sincere hope appropriate tests are conducted in Australian terrain. Wise doctrinal guidance outlining the scope of deployment for the new pattern will also be necessary, and it will be interesting to see whether we arrive at a pattern designed to replace DPCU, or a pattern designed specifically for expeditionary use.

Addendum: We may well see an announcement of further details at Defence and Industry 2011, in Adelaide next week (28th – 30th June).

This piece has also appeared at KitUp!

Jumping The Gun: what does the AK-100 series really mean for Libya’s rebels?

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones
This post originally appeared on the Lowy Institute’s blog The Interpreter.

Libyan Rebel with AK-103 (March 5th 2011)

Stephanie Koorey’s piece on Libyan weapon supplies falls short of investigating properly the origin of many of the small arms seen in Libyan rebels’ arsenals. The star of Koorey’s piece – an ‘AK-100 series’ rifle shown in this  Al Jazeera video clip – leads her to reasonably ask, ‘where are these from?’ Eastern Europe? South and Central Asia? Perhaps even South America? However, there exist possibilities closer to the conflict, and more to the story.

The gun in question is certainly an AK-103; the muzzle brake design and barrel length are different on the AK-102, AK-104, and AK-105, and the AK-101 and AK-74M are chambered for 5.56x45mm and 5.45x39mm, respectively, and feature correspondingly straighter magazines. The state-controlled Gafat Armament Engineering Complex in Ethiopia has been producing AK-103s for some time now as the ET-97/1 Automatic Rifle. Arms movement between the two countries has been well documented, though it is not extensive.

Another distinct possibility is that the rifles may well have come from within Libya itself.

We know the Libyan government planned to manufacture AK-103s under license, and it is likely that samples were sent over from Russia for assessment purposes. It is even possible that a pre-production run was manufactured within Libya. We’ve certainly seen pro-Qadhafi forces using the AK-103, which lends weight to this theory.

Koorey’s assertion that this “makes the Libyan rebels the first known non-state combatants to have AK-100s” is also untrue. There have been confirmed reports of non-state combatants using AK-100 series weapons in Chechnya (and probably Ingushetia), in Colombia (by FARC rebels, and likely by the ELN and cartels as well) and in other conflict zones. Private security contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan have made use of Bulgarian 100 series clones. I’d be very surprised if a few examples hadn’t made it into the hands of militants in these or other parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, or in the Caucasus, India or the Balkans.

I have also heard personal accounts of AK-100 series rifles being sighted in the hands of Hezbollah fighters, which may well be connected to Iranian military use of AK-103s. Also, given that certain units in the Yemen Army use AK-104s, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine a few examples turning up in the hands of Houthi militants or other groups in the region. Bearing in mind production first began in the 1990s, it is not surprising these weapons have been sighted around the world. The fact that countries like Venezuela and India have moved to produce these rifles under license relatively recently only serves to heighten the distribution of the AK-100 series.

So how will the presence of AK-103s affect the conflict in Libya? Almost unnoticeably; at this stage we have seen very limited stocks of the weapon. Even should the numbers of 100 series rifles increase, their acknowledged advantages over older AK-family weapons will have very little strategic impact, given the relatively low level of marksmanship training of the combatants involved. Unless the rebel forces can obtain significant numbers of them – and sufficient stockpiles of 7.62x39mm ammunition – we are not going to see this weapons system providing much of an advantage at all.

Image courtesy of The New York Times. Libyan Rebel with AK-103 (March 5th 2011).

Update 21/06/2011: Stephanie Koorey has a reply to this piece up here.  I think she may have missed a few of my points, but I intend to get in touch with her and compare thoughts on the small arms situation in Libya.

Update 16/09/2011: It appears the rifles were from Russia, after all. Details here

Update 31/10/2011: Close-up images of the receiver of one of the rifles shows Russian factory markings. Here