Mali’s armed forces (FAMA) have commissioned into service dozens of military vehicles, including Chinese armoured and all-terrain vehicles, as the country continues to build up its military in the face of terrorist threats.
The induction ceremony took place on 27 April in Kati, northwest of the capital Bamako, and was presided over by Mali’s transitional leader Colonel Assimi Goita. Amongst the vehicles handed over were Norinco VP11 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and Lynx CS/VP11 all-terrain vehicles, fitted with 12.7 mm machinegun turrets; IAG Guardian 4×4 armoured personnel carriers, KIA and Toyota utility vehicles, and modernised BRDM-2, BTR-60 and BTR-70 armoured vehicles.
Last month a convoy of at least eight VP-11 and 25 Lynx CS/VP11 vehicles was seen in Mali following delivery. Defence minister Sadio Camara said the equipment received from the People’s Republic of China consists of VP-11 and Lynx CS/VP11 armoured vehicles equipped with 12.7 mm machine guns, logistics trucks (water tankers, fuel tankers, light trucks), ambulances and small arms and larger weapons. He thanked China for the quality of its equipment and for providing instructors to train Malian personnel.
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. 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. 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).
At the beginning of this year, China deployed its own VP11s to Mali for peacekeeping operations. Chinese peacekeepers are undertaking United Nations-led peacekeeping operations in South Sudan, Mali and Lebanon.
The Lynx CS/VP11 is a lightweight 4×4 all-terrain vehicle that can be carried internally by a medium lift helicopter. The open-top vehicle is powered by a diesel engine that drives all four wheels. Gross weight is estimated to be around 1.2 tonnes.
In addition to the Chinese vehicles, Camara said an anonymous citizen donated three 55-seat buses, two workshop trucks and a tanker truck to the FAMA.
Camara said that “Mali, for more than a decade, like certain countries in the Sahelo-Saharan strip, has been hard hit by terrorism, organized crime, insecurity and banditry. Added to this is an unfair and hypocritical policy of certain countries, aimed at isolating Mali, keeping it in a state of vulnerability, weakness and dependence.” This was in reference to the withdrawal of French security forces last year.
Mali has subsequently shifted to Russia, Turkey and China as partners, with new military equipment have been acquired thanks to these partnerships.
In March, Mali commissioned Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Turkey and L-39 trainer and light attack jets from Russia. The UAVs have been in service for some time, with two being displayed at Air Base 200 at Mopti-Sevare airport in December 2022. Registration numbers indicate six have been acquired.
Four L-39 jets were also seen on 16 March – in January, Mali commissioned into service five L-39s along with two Mi-8 helicopters, and a single Su-25 strike aircraft. The latter replaced a Su-25 that crashed in October 2022, killing the Russian pilot.
The 27 April handover of military vehicles is the biggest since December 2021 when Mali commissioned at least six Norinco VN2C infantry fighting vehicles, 50 Kia KM450 military trucks, Dongfeng EQ2050 multi-purpose wheeled vehicles, half a dozen BRDM-2 amphibious scout cars, at least a couple of BTR-70 8×8 amphibious armoured personnel carriers, and six Puma M36 APCs.