Armor: The Chinese Warlord Special


April 30, 2013: A Chinese truck maker (ZXAuto) is exploiting the favorable publicity it got two years ago during the Libyan rebellion and is now offering some of its light trucks with machine-gun mounts in the cargo compartment. ZXAuto is publicizing the wide use of its pick-up trucks by rebels during the 2011 fighting. This occurred because ZXAuto had managed to sell thousands of its pickup trucks to Libya over the last decade and the rebels did what rebels, and some soldiers, have been doing since the 1940s, by welding machine-gun mounts into the backs of light trucks and jeeps. At a recent trade shop in China ZXAuto showed models of some of its trucks with machine-gun mounts installed as factory options.

Vehicles like this are particularly popular in Africa, where they are called "technicals" (and the heavy machine-guns are used mainly against ground targets). But not always. In Iraq the terrorist groups developed an innovative variant that involved hiding the machine-gun under a tarp until it had an opportunity to fire at a passing helicopter. The Iraqis came up with this concept because, in the past, when heavy machine-guns were used against aircraft, U.S. aircraft and ground troops were usually all over the area before the 14.5mm heavy machine-gun could be moved or hidden. These machine-guns weigh over two hundred kg (440 pounds), and even when disassembled, the lightest component weighs 80 kg (176 pounds). After four years of trial and error the Iraqis realized that heavy machine-guns would only work against the American helicopters if the weapons were mobile and not easily identified. But once the Iraqis used the technique a few times the Americans knew what to look for, and the word got out in Sunni Arab areas (where the Iraqi "technicals" operated, to reduce the chances of an informer turning them in) that there was a reward for anyone providing information on “technical” in their neighborhood.

While not a success in Iraq, and an invitation to a smart bomb or missile attack when used by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the technicals are still popular in Africa and other places where warlords are able to recruit and equip their own private armies. These are the kinds of markets Chinese weapons and auto makers go after. If you got the cash, the Chinese trader has what you want, no questions asked. For the Chinese this is even sweeter because Japanese pick-ups dominated this market for decades, but the Japanese never thought to provide the gun mounts as a factory option.


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