Identification and analysis of small arms ammunition in Libya

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The Small Arms Survey has recently released my latest long form report, examining the variety of Small Arms Ammunition (SAA) observed in Libya during and immediately after the recent conflict. This is the first in a series of baseline assessments of arms and ammunition holdings in Africa and the Middle East that I intend to author. The next report in the series will focus on SAA identified in Syria.

An extract from the press release:

The assessment is based on photos of cartridge headstamps, cartridges, and ammunition packaging, as well as shipping documents pertaining to small arms ammunition transfers. Most of these records are from Tripoli and were gathered during the first five months of 2012, with additional photos from Ajdabiya, Benghazi, and Misrata. This baseline will serve as a valuable tool for governments, NGOs, and other actors involved in understanding and stemming the illicit flow of small arms ammunition in the region … The Headstamp Trail forms part of the Small Arms Survey’s Security Assessment in North Africa, a multi-year project to support those engaged in building a more secure environment in North Africa and the Sahel-Sahara region.

The report can be downloaded and viewed here.

Image copyright: Damien Spleeters

AK-103 and F2000 assault rifles in Gaza

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

This post originally appeared at The Rogue Adventurer.

On October 2nd the armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (حركة الجهاد الإسلامي في فلسطين‎), the al-Quds Brigades, took to the streets of Fatah in Southern Gaza to mark the 17th anniversary of the assassination of Fathi al-Shaqaqi. Shaqaqi was assassinated in Malta by the Mossad in 1995. Each year, the al-Quds Brigades take to the streets for a military parade to mark the event, brandishing a variety of arms and carrying all manner of banners and flags. This year’s parade, however, was a little different, and held some interesting items for those of us following the spread of various small arms. Amongst the usual assortment of Russian AKMs & Eastern Bloc copies, Chinese Type 56 variants, PKMs, and RPG-7 variants and copies were two far less common weapons: the F2000 and AK-103 assault rifles.

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In Brief: The Netherlands’ De Zeven Provinciën class frigates

N.R. Jenzen-Jones

HNLMS Evertsen on patrol off the Horn of Africa, as part of  NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield.

HNLMS Evertsen is one of four De Zeven Provinciën class air defence and command frigates in service with the Royal Netherlands Navy (Koninklijke Marine). Evertsen is the youngest of the four, having been completed in 2003 and commissioned in 2005. These ships superseded the two smaller Tromp class frigates, decommissioned in 1999 and 2001. Despite being classified by the Netherlands Navy as frigates, their displacement (6,050 tonnes), complement (202 + 30 aircrew), and role make them comparable to many destroyers. They are similar in these respects to the RAN’s planned Hobart-class Air Warfare Destroyers (AWD).  The Netherlands Navy also intends to use the De Zeven Provinciën class in a limited Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) role, having recently awarded a contract for modification of the ships’ Thales SMART-L and APAR radars. According to an article in January’s Proceedings magazine, these modifications are expected to be complete by late 2017. It should be noted that the currently planned modifications only endow the class with the capability to detect and track ballistic missile threats, and do not provide for surface-to-air interceptor missiles.

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In Brief: Singapore’s Formidable class frigates

N.R. Jenzen-Jones
The Republic of Singapore frigate RSS Formidable (68) during a formation exercise for RIMPAC 2012.

Singapore’s Formidable class frigates are considered amongst the most advanced surface combatants in Southeast Asia. Built around a substantially modified version of the French La Fayette class, they feature an advanced stealth design incorporating a range of Radar Cross-Section (RCS) reduction features. The inclined planes of the hull and superstructures, concealment of typical ship’s equipment, low profile housings for armaments, and enclosed sensor mast are chief amongst these. The Formidable class armament includes: an Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid naval gun, 8x RGM-84C Harpoon SSMs, and 4x 8-cell Sylver A50 VLS containing a mixture of Aster 15 and Aster 30 SAMs. The ships are also capable of firing EuroTorp A224/S Mod 3 torpedoes, and carry a Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopter with ASW equipment (they formerly operated Eurocopter AS-332M Super Pumas).

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240mm Heavy Mortars in Syria – a closer examination

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

This post originally appeared at The Rogue Adventurer.

Identifying weapons systems can sometimes be a tricky business. Often, practitioners are forced to make educated guesses, or give ‘best estimates’ to stakeholders. Nonetheless, it is important that any such assessments are characterised accurately any time they are repeated, and the requisite caveats included. One recent incident highlights this pertinently.

Some video footage from conflict in Syria featured remnants of massive 240mm mortar rounds – the largest calibre mortar currently in active service. These are fired from two weapons in active service, both of Soviet/Russian origin: the M-240 heavy mortar, and the 2S4 Tyulpan self-propelled heavy mortar (a mechanised mortar carrier). Bjørn Holst Jespersen appears to have been among the first to have identified the tail end of what is likely an 53-F-864 240mm HE round, publishing a brief piece on the find on his blog on the 16th of February. The source of the original video screen captures can be found here.

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Why has Security Scholar been so quiet lately?

You may well ask. Well, fear not, Nat and I are both very much alive.

As a few of you probably know by now, I’m in the process of undertaking a pretty big research project. I’m attempting to compile a ‘complete-as-possible’ database of small arms used in the recent Libyan conflict. To do this, I’ve been collecting OSINT photos and video stills from a number of media outlets, social networking sites, and so on. I’m also working with some NGOs and PSCs on the ground in Libya, as well as having developed a few local sources of my own.

I have a post up at my personal, more informal blog, The Rogue Adventurer.

I would love any input from readers, particularly detailed photos of weapon receivers (serial numbers, factory marks etc.) or weapon crates, or just photos of unusual small arms that have cropped up. I’m also keeping an eye out for different types of optics that have turned up, for a smaller side project.

 

Nat’s been pretty active as well. As many of you know she is travelling throughout Indonesia, conducting research on a few different topics and also brushing up her Indonesian language skills. You can follow her most recent adventures on her new blog, Notes From The Field.

Her last few posts have explored the fascinating Balinese ceremonial traditions, showcasing everything from blessings given to firearms to cremations!

As you can see, both of us are still working away. Nat continues to bring us fascinating updates from the field, and I’m up to my eyeballs in picture of unusual firearms that have cropped up in Libya. Business at Security Scholar is just as it has always been – unpredictable, unusual, and fascinating.

In the meantime, don’t forget you can keep track of us on Facebook as well! 

Update: KRISS SYSTEMS (K10, KARD, Sphinx SDP Compact)

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

Some of the information in this update was provided by a KRISS SYSTEMS spokesperson, in response to my queries.

The KRISS K10, discussed briefly in my earlier piece here, represents the evolution of the KRISS Vector SMG. The K10 will be designed as a multi-calibre platform, supporting .45 ACP, 9x19mm NATO and .40 S&W. These three calibres are the most popular handgun cartridges in Western military and law enforcement use. The lower receivers will be interchangeable, allowing operators to easily switch between calibres, should they desire. The new submachine gun will also feature a quad-Picatinny rail fore end, giving the firearm a lot more flexibility for mounting aftermarket accessories.

The K10 will, of course, be based around the KRISS Super V System (KSVS), making use of in-line design and asymmetrical recoil (the ‘vectored bolt’ technology) to greatly reduce felt recoil and muzzle climb. The K10 also features a much larger charging handle (that can be reconfigured to suit left or right handed shooters), a telescoping, five-position stock (unlike the Vector’s folding stock), an ambidextrous magazine release on the fore grip, and a muzzle designed to accept KRISS DEFIANCE series suppressors. A proprietary magazine is also being developed, and this will reportedly be interoperable with another KRISS weapon under development, the KARD. Limited information on the KARD can be found here, and here. I have been informed that the KARD is an ongoing project, and that no date has been set for its release as yet.

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Update II: AK-103 Exports to Libya

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

AK 103-2 in Libya

I stumbled across the sole post on this almost vacant WordPress site this morning. It features photos which show close-up detail of an AK-103, apparently from Libya. These are the first photographs I have seen that show sufficient detail of the receiver to conclusively establish the provenance of the weapons in question. These images, along with the evidence shown in the last update, lend more weight to one of my original speculations that these weapons were exported to Libya from Russia.

The receiver bears the designation ‘AK 103-2′, indicating that the weapon features a three-round burst function. More tellingly, to the left of the serial number, on the trunnion, can be seen the factory marking of the Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant, or IZHMASH (ИЖМАШ), an upright arrow inside a triangle. The serial number, beginning with the two digits ’07′, indicates that the rifle was manufactured in 2007.

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KRISS Vector SMG for the Australian Federal Police?

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

In writing this post I consulted a senior representative from KRISS USA, as well as a serving member of the AFP who is familiar with current TRT practices. Their identities have been withheld at their request. I also requested an official comment from the AFP, but only received the following from a spokesperson: “For operational reasons, it would not be appropriate for the AFP to provide this type of information about its accoutrements and their use”.

 

By now, most people interested in small arms have at least heard of the KRISS Vector; in fact, the KRISS Vector SMG caused quite a stir when it was showcased in early 2007. It is a selective fire submachine gun featuring single, two-round burst and fully automatic modes, and chambered (currently) for .45 ACP. It has a cyclic rate of 850-1100 rounds per minute, and fires from a closed bolt using a mechanically-delayed blowback system. Built around the KRISS Super V System (KSVS), the Vector utilises in-line design and asymmetrical recoil (the ‘vectored bolt’ technology) to greatly reduce felt recoil and muzzle climb. KRISS themselves claim that the KSVS can reduce felt recoil by up to 60%, and barrel elevation by 95%; the claimed muzzle rise is about 1.8 degrees.

I attended SHOT Show 2011 in January, and had the opportunity to examine and fire the Vector SMG for myself. Whilst there are many others who have spoken on the relative merits of the weapon, I was very impressed. The Vector SMG was comfortable, well balanced, and controllable during fully-automatic fire. What really impressed me, however, was the accuracy of the weapon when firing two-round bursts. The KRISS website shows the rather impressive outcome of one such burst here.  In certain scenarios, the practical applications of being able to put two .45 ACP rounds on target with lightning speed and precision are very significant indeed.

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Update: AK-103 exports to Libya

by N.R. Jenzen-Jones

As discussed in this earlier piece, Kalashnikov AK-103s have been sighted in the hands of both pro-Qadhafi forces, and the rebels/National Transitional Council in Libya recently. I had advanced a theory that the rifles had either been sent from Russia, as pre-production samples related to this arms deal, or been manufactured in Libya for the same reasons. Nicholas Marsh, from the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT) picked up the story and has since been keeping an eye on it.

As Marsh points out in a recent post, an August 31st photo in the New York Times (detail of which is above) shows AK-103s resting in a crate bearing some interesting shipping information. Most notable is the supplier, ‘Rosoboronexport’, the Russian state-owned arms exporter. The customer is listed as ‘Procurement Department, Tripoli, Libya’. The ports of origin and arrival are consistent with what would be expected. There appear to be ten rifles in the crate, the standard shipping number, and what appears to be wax paper can be seen at right.

The crate pictured is numbered as #6524 out of 11380. Working on 10 rifles per crate, that equates to 113,800 from this particular contract.

Of course, to be certain that these assault rifles were actually contained within the crate shown we would need some more information from someone on the ground. Ideally, we could match the contract number on the crate to the relevant paperwork, and see what the crates originally contained. Of course, this is a lot easier said than done. I have sent an email to Rosoboronexport seeking further details, but it is highly unlikely I will receive a response.

But, as Marsh rightly points out, for the purposes of providing a pointer to where further research is required, this photo is enough for us to assume the rifles were sent to Libya under an authorised export deal with Russia.