Malian military commissions new armoured vehicles


Mali’s military has taken into service dozens of new armoured vehicles, including Norinco VN2C 6×6 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) from China.

The vehicles were handed over to the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) during a ceremony on 3 December at the Kati military camp.

At least six Norinco VN2C IFVs were seen along with around 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.

The VN2C was unveiled by Norinco in 2016, as an improved variant of the VN2, itself a derivative of the widely used WZ551 armoured personnel carrier (APC). The VN2C features increased protection against improvised explosive devices (IEDs). According to Norinco, the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight of 19 tonnes, a 402 hp diesel engine giving a top speed of 100 km/h, and armour that provides STANAG 4569 Level 3a/3b protection.

Janes reports that the FAMa vehicles appeared to be fitted with a low-profile turret armed with an autocannon, although this is difficult to confirm.

The VN2Cs appear to be new, but Mali is known to have been operating the EQ2050 Mengshi vehicles for reconnaissance and troop transport since at least January 2020. They were seen in a military parade then along with Streit Typhoons and Paramount Marauders, although the Marauders were first seen in September 2019 during another parade. It is believed around 19 of the latter were acquired, and 35 Typhoons delivered from the United Arab Emirates. The UAE also recently donated 30 Streit Cougar APCs to combat Islamist militants in the Sahel.

These joined 13 Aarqus Bastions handed over to Mali in January 2020 for its contribution to the Sahel G5 Joint Force. They were transferred by the European Union Training Mission Mali.

Around 30 Puma M36 vehicles are believed to have been supplied to Mali via South Africa’s OTT Technologies and apparently funded by Germany. The M36 is an evolutionary development of the proven M26 and weights between 11 and 14 tons depending on the level of protection. Puma M36s have been supplied to Somalia and Burkina Faso, amongst others.

Mali’s military said the handover ceremony was attended by Mali’s interim President Assimi Goita, Prime Minister Choguel Kokala Maiga, President of the National Transition Council Colonel Malick Diaw, and other high-level dignitaries.

“This batch of rolling stock and military equipment is equivalent to the endowment of 16 companies, or four combined arms battle groups,” the FAMa stated. “The lot includes tactical combat vehicles, armoured vehicles, logistics trucks, [and] ambulances, among others.”

The equipment will help restore peace and stability across the region, interim defence minister Sadio Camara said, and strengthens the capabilities of the FAMa.

Mali now operates a wide and diverse array of armoured vehicles, with many donated by foreign countries to help Mali combat terrorism in the region. The European Union, for example, has supplied other vehicles to Mali, notably 29 refurbished Casspirs, which were handed over in mid-July 2019 by Germany’s ambassador. They were acquired second hand under a German Ministry of Defence project.

In December 2018, Mali took delivery of 24 Storm APCs from Qatar. The vehicles, made by Qatar’s Stark Motors, are based on the Toyota Land Cruiser 79 series chassis and were to be used by Mali as well as the other four countries of the G5 Sahel group, which are Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger.

Mali is the second known export customer for the VN2C after Uganda was seen operating the type. On 20 November, two VN2Cs were seen in a video that President Yoweri Museveni released on 20 November showing him visiting the Kalama Armoured Warfare Training School during a passing out parade of armoured trainee crew.

Uganda has been acquiring a number of new armoured vehicles in recent times, including Plasan Spear 120 self-propelled mortar carriers and Katmerciler Hizir APCs. It is also building the Twiga Nyati locally as the Chui (Leopard), while Streit is building an armoured vehicle factory in the country.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms Transfers Database, over the last five years Uganda has received 45 Mamba/Nyoka APCs, and 31 Bastion, 10 RG-33 and 15 Cougar APCs for use in Somalia.