Burkina Faso receives huge batch of Chinese military equipment

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Burkina Faso’s military has taken delivery of some 100 new armoured vehicles from China as it continues to expand its armed forces in the face of relentless terror attacks.

President Captain Ibrahim Traoré officially took delivery of at least 40 Norinco VP11 and 50 Norinco CS/VP14 armoured vehicles and 17 Caterpillar excavators on 6 June.

Burkina Faso’s Presidency said the new equipment will be used to combat terrorism, and was acquired for continuous reinforcement of the operational capabilities of the fighting forces on the ground.

“Remember that we are in a world of predation and to have peace, we must wage war. So, wage war,” Traore told Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs, Brigadier General Kassoum Coulibaly during the handover.

VP14 vehicles acquired by Burkina Faso along with excavators.

Coulibaly said the new equipment is just one of four batches that will be delivered to support the military.

The VP11 is based on Norinco’s 8M, which was developed just over a decade ago by South African company EWI2 and China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco). The 8M mine resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle was unveiled in June 2012. This 8 ton vehicle is powered by a 5.9 litre Cummins QSB diesel giving a top speed of 120 km/h. The 8M has seating for eight people or a payload of 2 500 kg. It can withstand a 7 kg mine blast under the hull and a 10 kg mine blast on any wheel.

By 2015, Norinco had made some changes to the 8M and rebranded it as the VP11, with seating for eight and ability to have a 12.7 mm machinegun mounted on the roof. New windows with circular gun ports were also added. The VP11 has a combat weight of 10 tonnes and offers all-round STANAG Level 1 protection, which can be increased to Level 2 using add-on armour. A V-shaped hull is designed to mitigate mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In Africa, the VP11 is in service with Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, and Mali.

A VP14 armoured vehicle.

The 4×4 VP14 is a relatively new vehicle, able to carry ten soldiers and two crew members. It is STANAG 4569 level 3b certified, which means it can withstand a blast of up to 8 kg of TNT under the hull and 16 kg of TNT under each wheel. It can also protect crews from 7.62 mm armour piercing ammunition. The VP14 is apparently powered by a six cylinder Deutz engine with 331 horsepower, giving a top speed of over 105 km/h.

The VP14 was in mass production in late 2023, according to Chinese media. It is also in service with the Kenya Army.

Continued buildup

Burkina Faso continues to build up its military amid ongoing terror attacks, and this year alone has taken into service armoured vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other equipment. In April, for example, Coulibaly received at least two Egyptian-built Temsah 6×6 armoured vehicles, seven Fahd armoured ambulances, and 20 GAZ 3308 Sadco 4×4 trucks. A number of KrAZ-6322 6×6 trucks were also seen. According to local media reports, a total of 75 vehicles were handed over and these included 20 KrAZ fuel tanker trucks, 20 “M53” vehicles, and several armoured cars.

In March, Coulibaly received from China more than 80 vehicles offered to the military. These included over a dozen Maxus double cab pickups; and a number of cargo trucks, tanker trucks, and crane trucks, apparently manufactured by Dongfeng.

In January, Traore inspected six WMA301 fire support vehicles acquired from China. The 105 mm WMA301 is manufactured by Norinco. Also in January, Burkina Faso received at least eight Norinco 81 mm CS/SM1 self-propelled mortars mounted on Dongfeng EQ2050 light tactical vehicles. Traore was also seen inspecting a series of shipping containers that were filled with weapons and ammunition that included a 60 mm WW90 mortar, mortar rounds, and rounds for recoilless guns.

On 8 April Traore officially delivered a dozen combat UAVs to the country’s armed forces. At least two Bayraktar Akinci UAVs were seen at a new UAV base south of Ougadougou. Three Bayraktar TB2s were also observed – the type has already been seen in Burkinabe service, with five aircraft delivered from April 2022.

Shortly after delivery, Burkina Faso appeared to begin using its Akinci UAVs in combat, with video published on 29 April purportedly showing Akinci and TB2 strikes against terrorist targets. The country has used UAVs extensively to combat Islamist fighters, but unfortunately dozens of civilians have also been killed in these strikes. Various Turkish weapons have been acquired for Burkina Faso’s UAVs, including MAM-L and MAM-T munitions and bomb guidance kits.

Since 2015, the country has been grappling with armed terrorist groups, which have caused 10 000 casualties and the displacement of some two million people, and this instability has been a factor behind the two coups that occurred in 2022. Last year, Burkina Faso surpassed Afghanistan as the country most impacted by terrorism, with nearly 2 000 deaths.

Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) continues to be the most prominent terrorist group in Burkina Faso, being responsible for 134 deaths in 2022 and 616 in 2023. Islamic State also increased its activity in Burkina Faso, claiming responsibility for seven attacks in 2023 compared to two in the previous year. Eighty-five percent of attacks and 59% of deaths in the country were attributed to unknown jihadist groups. This puts Burkina Faso amongst the countries with the highest rate of unclaimed terrorist attacks and deaths globally, according to the IEP’s Global Terrorism Index.