Burkina Faso operating Chinese self-propelled guns and mortars

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Burkina Faso’s military has acquired Norinco WMA301 fire support vehicles fitted with 105 mm guns from China, as well as Norinco 81 mm CS/SM1 self-propelled mortars.

President Ibrahim Traore took delivery of the vehicles at a 12 January handover ceremony. Six WMA301s with a WZ551 command vehicle were observed, as well as eight CS/SM1 (also called CS/SS4) mortars using a Dongfeng EQ2050 light tactical vehicle chassis.

The 105 mm WMA301 is used by several countries including China, Senegal, Chad, Cameroon, and Djibouti. The Dongfeng-based self-propelled mortars are not believed to be in service with any other African nation.

Video footage showed Traore inspecting shipping containers fitted with weapons and ammunition, including RPG-7 type rounds and 60 mm WW90 mortars and mortar rounds, Janes reported.

Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Kassoum Coulibaly, said this was the first of five consignments that are expected to arrive over the coming months under the strategic equipment plan announced by Traore on 31 December 2023.

Burkinabe Norinco CS/SM1 self-propelled mortars.

Burkina Faso has been building up its military in recent years, notably taking delivery of Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Turkey in early 2022 and these have been used to carry out air strikes against terrorists in the country.

In March last year Coulibaly and Chief of General Staff David Kabre officially presented the TB2s to the country’s military, saying recently acquired transport and attack helicopters as well as unmanned aerial vehicles have considerably reinforced the military’s capabilities in both surveillance and firepower.

Since 2016, rival Islamist terror groups affiliated with the Islamic State group and with al-Qaida have spilled into the country from the north, resulting in clashes with Burkina Faso’s military and armed volunteers. Insurgents in the north and east have mined roads, besieged towns, wrecked water facilities and undermined efforts to deliver food and supplies to trapped civilians. Over 10 000 civilians, troops and police have been killed since 2016, according to one non-governmental organisation estimate, and at least two million people displaced. This violence contributed to two coups in 2022.

To deal with the growing terrorist threat, at the beginning of March 2023, the government granted a guarantee of more than 250 billion FCFA ($400 million) to a local bank, to acquire military equipment as part of the fight against jihadist groups.

Since 2018 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Arms Transfers database data shows the country has received six Bastion armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from France, 40 Cobra APCs from Turkey, 24 Storm APCs from Qatar, 24 Puma M26 APCs (financed by aid) from the USA, a single C295W transport aircraft and five second hand AS350/AS550 Fennec helicopters from Spain, as well as 24 Ejder Yalcin APCs from Turkey. A single AW139 helicopter was delivered in 2016 and the country in 2017 received two UH-1H Huey helicopters from Taiwan. Three second hand Mi-24Ds were delivered from Bulgaria in 2018-2021 and two Mi-171Sh armed transports received from Russia in 2018.