The Algerian military appears to have acquired self-propelled artillery from China and is evaluating Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as it continues to vastly expand its military forces.
Earlier this month photos appeared online showing what appear to be PLZ 45 self-propelled howitzers on a road outside the capital Algiers. The convoy of around 50 vehicles may have been headed to the Central Logistic Base in Blida, to which much of the country’s new military equipment often goes, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.
It appears the self-propelled howitzers are 155 mm Norinco PLZ 45s, developed for the export market in the 1990s and sold to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The weapon has a rate of five of two rounds per minute (sustained) or five rounds per minute (maximum) and a range of 24 to 39 km depending on ammunition. The gun is supported by a dedicated armoured ammunition carrier/support vehicle.
Meanwhile, Algeria has reportedly been in discussions with China over the purchase of Xianglong unmanned aerial vehicles. Echorouk quotes an unnamed Algerian defence ministry colonel as saying that the UAV was successfully tested in Tamanrasset, southern Algeria, last year.
The Xianglong (Soar Dragon) is a jet-powered High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) aircraft designed by the Guizhou Aircraft Corporation of China, initially for use by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. The Xianglong has a length of 14 metres, a height of 5 metres and a wingspan of 25 metres. It has a top speed of 750 km/h, endurance of up to 10 hours, and a maximum range of 7 000 km.
Tactical Weekly last week reported that the Algerian Defence Ministry is said to have decided to go ahead with a programme to buy 90 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including attack UAVs.
Last year, Algeria expressed interest in the Adcom Systems Yabhon United 40 Block 5 UAV from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to meet its Medium-Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) requirement. According to Algerian daily El Watan, Algeria is negotiating with Russia to purchase 30 E95 unmanned aerial vehicles/target drones from Russia.
Algeria is looking for aerial reconnaissance platforms to track down various Maghreb-based terrorist groups, drug and arms traffickers and militants who have taken advantage of post-war chaos in Mali and Libya to destabilise the Sahel-Maghreb region.
Algeria currently flies Denel Seeker UAVs but has previously expressed interest in General Atomics Predator/Reaper UAVs. It also has six King Air 350ER surveillance aircraft fitted with Gabbiano T-200 radars, Wescam Mx15i infrared cameras and other features for maritime and ground surveillance.
Since war clouds started gathering over northern Mali in November 2012, the Algerian army has deployed more than 12 000 personnel to secure the borders with Mali, Libya and Niger.
Algeria has increased its defence budget for 2014 and is actively seeking new tankers, transports, helicopters and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. Last year Algeria evaluated the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport and Airbus A330 MRTT tanker with an eye to replacing ageing Il-78 Midas tankers and acquiring a new transport aircraft. Algeria asked the two respective companies to conduct demonstrations, indicating the seriousness of these potential contracts.
Algeria is growing its defence spending by 6% through 2017, according to some estimates, as it modernises and re-equips to meet the challenge of insecurity and terrorism in the region.
On the maritime side, earlier this month Italian shipyard Fincantieri launched the Algerian Navy’s Kalaat Beni-Abbes landing helicopter dock ship, which will be delivered to Algeria later this year.