The South Sudanese army has taken delivery of a consignment of new infantry weapons including anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), grenades, assault rifles and machineguns, which are expected to boost the army in its fight against armed rebels led by former deputy president Riek Machar.
According to Bloomberg, the consignment supplied by Chinese arms manufacturer China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco) includes 100 HJ-73D anti-tank missile launchers, nine simulators, 200 batteries, 1 200 missiles and spares parts worth $14.5 million.
The HJ-73D is a Chinese clone of the Russian AT-3 Sagger, but features a tandem warhead for defeating explosive reactive armour (ERA), and semi-automatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) guidance. The new anti-tank weapons may have been bought in response to Sudan’s acceptance of 110 T-72M1 tanks between 2010 and 2012.
The rest of the $38 million shipment includes small arms, notably 9 574 Type 56 assault rifles (based on the AK-47/AKM) with 20 million rounds of 7.62×39 mm ammunition; 2 394 40 mm grenade launchers with 20 000 BGL2 anti-personnel grenades; 319 Type 80 machineguns (based on the PKM) with 2 million rounds of 7.62×54 mm ammunition; 319 Type 69-1 rocket propelled grenade launchers (RPG-7 copy) with 40 000 high explosive anti-tank rounds; and 660 NP-42 pistols (export version of the QSZ-92) with two million rounds of 9×19 mm ammunition. It is believed the grenade launchers are designed to be fitted under the barrels of the assault rifles.
The shipment left the Chinese port of Xinjiang in Guangdong province on 16 May aboard the Feng Huang Song and arrived in the Kenyan port of Mombasa on 7 June.
South Sudanese defence minister General Kuol Manyang Juuk confirmed the delivery of the Chinese arms saying they were ordered well before the outbreak of the ongoing civil war in December last year. “My role is to defend the nation. That means I have to arm my army. The army has to be equipped,” Juuk told Bloomberg.
China has good relations with South Sudan and currently buys most of its oil output. Chinese-made weapons have been used widely in the series of low-level rebellions which have taken place in the country since its independence from Khartoum a few year ago. Conflict monitoring groups have reported the use of Chinese-made weapons which include mortars, B10 recoilless rifles, Type 56-1 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft guns and landmines.
Due to the current conflicts in both Sudan and South Sudan, in which at least ten thousand civilians have died recently, the European Union maintains an arms embargo on both countries.