Procurement: The Greatest Gift For Libyan Soldiers

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May 11, 2016: The UAE (United Arab Emirates) recently delivered several dozen armored trucks to government forces in Libya. These were Egyptian built Panthera T-6 4x4 vehicles which carry eight people and are protected from small arms fire and bomb fragments. This shipment also included an even larger number of unarmored pickup trucks (Toyota Land Cruisers). The Libyan Army previously received 32 Panthera T-6s in 2014.

Although there is a UN arms embargo on all factions in Libya the UAE has always backed the more secular Libyan rebels and recognizes (along with Egypt and the UN) the government there. Despite an internationally recognized government the embargo remains but the UN does not make a lot of noise about the UAE shipments (usually via Egypt) because the vehicles (and sometimes weapons and ammo) go to what is left of the Libyan Army, which is now led by a former Libyan general who turned against the Libyan dictatorship (and went into exile) before the 2011 rebellion. But what the Libyans appreciate the most are the vehicles, especially the pickup trucks.

Japanese, and now Chinese, pickup trucks are popular throughout the Arab world as well as Africa. The Japanese vehicles are more reliable but the Chinese offer lower prices, delivery to anyone, anywhere who can pay and unique factory options. For example Chinese pickups from ZXAuto got a lot of favorable publicity during the 2011 Libyan rebellion and in 2013 the manufacturer began offering some of its light trucks with machine-gun mounts in the cargo compartment. ZXAuto publicized the wide use of its pick-up trucks by rebels during the 2011 fighting. This occurred because ZXAuto had managed to sell thousands of its pickup trucks to Libya over the previous decade and the rebels did what rebels, and some soldiers, have been doing since the 1940s, by welding machine-gun mounts into the backs of light trucks and jeeps. ZXAuto sales literature now shows models of some of its trucks with machine-gun mounts installed as factory options.

Armed trucks like this are particularly popular in Africa, where they are called "technicals". The heavy machine-guns are used mainly against ground targets. But not always. In Iraq the terrorist groups developed an innovative variant that involved hiding the machine-gun under a tarp until it had an opportunity to fire at a passing helicopter. The Iraqis came up with this concept because, in the past, when heavy machine-guns were used against aircraft, U.S. aircraft and ground troops were usually all over the area before the 14.5mm heavy machine-gun could be moved or hidden. These machine-guns weigh over two hundred kg (440 pounds), and even when disassembled, the lightest component weighs 80 kg (176 pounds). After four years of trial and error the Iraqis realized that heavy machine-guns would only work against the American helicopters if the weapons were mobile and not easily identified. But once the Iraqis used the technique a few times the Americans knew what to look for, and the word got out in Sunni Arab areas (where the Iraqi "technicals" operated, to reduce the chances of an informer turning them in) that there was a reward for anyone providing information on “technical” in their neighborhood.

While not a success in Iraq, and an invitation to a smart bomb or missile attack when used by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the technicals are still popular in Africa and the Middle East or any other places where warlords are able to recruit and equip their own private armies. These are the kinds of markets Chinese weapons and auto makers go after. If you got the cash, the Chinese trader has what you want, no questions asked. For the Chinese this is even sweeter because Japanese pick-ups dominated this market for decades, but the Japanese never thought to provide the gun mounts as a factory option or to sell to anyone.

 


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