China has supplied Sudan with a new type of armoured personnel carrier (APC), according to a report by a research group that documents arms flows in conflict zones.
The Chinese-made machine can carry infantry into combat inside an armored hull while blasting at targets using a 30 x 165 mm mounted cannon, as well as a machine gun. It is also equipped with a GPS unit to aid navigation.
Conflict Armament Research, which photographed and studied the vehicle, says it is “of a previously unknown type, which has never before been documented on the battlefield.”
The research organization found the vehicle during a visit with Sudanese rebel group SPLA-N in Kurmuk County of Sudan’s Blue Nile state. The rebels say they captured it from Sudan’s army during the 2016 fighting season.
“The body of the APC appears similar to the (Chinese) WZ523 armoured personnel carrier… This example, however, appears to have a heavier weapons turret,” reads the new report by Conflict Armament Research.
“Sudan may be the first export customer for this type of APC.”
Sudan’s army (SAF) used the vehicle during operations against the SPLA-N rebels, whom they have been fighting continuously for the last six years, except for a pause last year after President Omar al-Bashir unilaterally declared a ceasefire.
According to the research report, Sudan’s army also used Chinese ammunition during attacks on the western end of the SPLA-N front line in early 2016. “Weapons captured at Aroum and Mufu include large quantities of 2015-packaged Chinese small arms ammunition and 2016-manufactured Sudanese 60 mm mortar rounds.”
CAR thinks that the new Chinese weapons were deployed on the battlefield as part of a push to capture territory held by the SPLA-N in Blue Nile, a state bordering South Sudan. The report points to greater “involvement of regular SAF armour and artillery units, rather than the militia-led attacks which international observers have primarily reported to date.”
Sudan also turned to Iran for help in building up its arsenal. Weapons captured on the battlefield by Sudanese rebels include 122 mm artillery from Iran and Soviet-origin T-55 tanks refurbished by an Iranian company.