Rwanda shows off new military hardware amid rising African demand for Chinese arms
- Small central African nation becomes first foreign armed forces known to be equipped with ‘Red Arrow’ anti-tank missiles
Rwanda recently revealed its purchases of powerful Chinese weaponry after the equipment was used in an army training exercise.
Last Tuesday, on the final day of its annual exercises, the Rwandan army displayed its Chinese-made PCL-09 self-propelled howitzer system and its HJ-9A “Red Arrow” anti-tank missiles, photos of which were later released by the military.
PCL-09, under the export name CS/SH1, is one of the main artillery systems used by the People’s Liberation Army and was first commissioned in 2009.
With a 122mm gun-howitzer similar to Soviet D-30 mounted on an SX2150 truck, the system can launch several types of projectiles with a maximum range of 27km (16.7 miles) at a rate of six to eight rounds per minute. It is also equipped with the China-developed Beidou navigation system and data chain.
The HJ-9A is an upgraded version of China’s HJ-9, and has a range of up to 5.5km and it is claimed that its can penetrate steel up to a depth of 1.2 metres.
The Rwandan Defence Force’s use of the HJ-9A is the first known use of the missiles by a foreign country.
Rwanda, is one of the world’s poorest countries and is still rebuilding after the 1994 genocide, but has been a regular buyer of Chinese arms with previous purchases including the SH-3 self-propelled arms vehicles and air defence missiles.
Beijing-based military commentator Zhou Chenming said the latest purchases highlighted the expansion of Chinese arms sales in Africa – partly because the weapons are easy to operate, effective, relatively cheap and boast similar features to the Soviet weapons favoured by many African armed forces in the past.
Between 2013 and 2017, Chinese arms sales increased by 38 per cent from the previous five-year period, with Africa accounting for 21 per cent of China’s arms exports, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
“Unlike the US and its allies, China is probably the only arms provider that has no additional political preconditions to major arms sales,” Zhou added.
He also said that some African countries wanted to buy some Chinese weapons just to show their close political relationships and military ties with China, he added.
However the sales have caused controversy in the past after reports that Chinese weapons were being used in conflicts such as the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Sudan.
“As long as the buyers can afford it, China does not worry about selling some of its most advanced weapons to foreign countries, especially army equipment. The only exceptions are the forbidden stuff banned under international treaties,” Zhou said.