Artillery: Chinese Rockets Mysteriously Appear In Sudan


July 21, 2009: Sudan has apparently imported 406mm self-propelled rocket launchers from China. The WS-2 system consists of an 8x8 truck mounting six canisters, each holding a 1.3 ton, 406mm WS-2 rocket. The WS-2 has a max range of 200 kilometers. Warheads can be as large as 200 kilograms (440 pounds), for the 70 kilometers range version. At 200 kilometers, the warhead is about half that size. The warheads use cluster bomb munitions. Sudan is apparently the first export customer for the WS-2. The three man crew can fire one or more rockets within 12 minutes of halting the vehicle. A WS-2 battery contains six launcher vehicles and 6-9 reload vehicles and one command vehicle.

China has been secretive about weapons it has sold to Sudan, and when. If pressed,  China  insists that they supply less than ten percent of Sudan's weapons imports. China claims that all the weapons it has provided to Sudan were delivered before the 2005 arms embargo. The WS-2 has been in Sudan for a few years, at least. Several military attaches from North African nations have seen the WS-2s, but have only admitted to that off-the-record.

The WS-2 is unguided, and will land within 600 meters of the aiming point at maximum range. That is marginally useful, even with cluster bomb warheads. China has announced improved version, the WS-3, that uses GPS or inertial navigation, as well as terminal homing guidance. If Sudan were to be seen with WS-3 missiles, it would definitely put China in violation of the UN embargo.

The WS-2 is similar to the U.S. 610mm, 1.8 ton ATACMS rocket, which has GPS guidance and a range of 300 kilometers. Each ATACMS rocket costs about a million dollars. The WS-2 rocket probably goes for less than $100,000 each, although the WS-3 probably costs several times that.

In the last few years, Chinese Type 96 (also called Type 88C) tanks have also been spotted in Sudan. This means that China has exported one of its most modern tanks, without any fanfare at all. The 50 ton Type 96 has three man crews and modern sensors and electronics. The 90 series tanks are Chinese designs, and there appear to be as many as 2500 Type 90 series tanks in service, with as many as two thirds of them Type 96s. There are another 700 Type 79s and 80s, both of which were stepping stones to the 90 series. Most Chinese tanks, about 5,000, are Type 59s. Most of these have been upgraded from being a clone of the Russian T-54 to T-54 clones equipped with Western guns (copy of the British L7 105mm gun, firing depleted uranium shells) and modern electronics. China also has a copy of the German 120mm gun, which it may try to install in some Type 59 upgrades. Those Type 59s that don't get upgraded are being scrapped. This apparently means that the Type 59 force will shrink by at least several hundred tanks a year until all are gone.

Sudan has, until recently, had a tank force consisting mostly of about 200 Chinese Type 59s, but some of these appear to have been upgraded by the Chinese. Also spotted in Sudan have been Chinese Type 92 wheeled infantry fighting vehicle (similar to the U.S. Stryker).

 China is very strict about keeping information on its tank force secret. The most modern tanks they have are the Type 98 and 99, which come close to matching early models of the U.S. M-1.



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