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‘Sudan’s military industry expanding’: Small Arms Survey

July 6 - 2014 GENEVA

Sudanese-made ammunition, mortars, rocket launchers, and their associated ammunition are increasingly appearing in conflict zones within and beyond Sudan and South Sudan.  

Further research is required to verify the true extent of the manufacturing abilities of Sudan’s Military Industry Corporation (MIC), the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey said in a report released on 2 July.

Sudan claims to be the third largest weapons manufacturer in Africa, after Egypt and South Africa. In 1959, El Shajara ammunition plant was established to produce small arms ammunition. Production was expanded in 1993, when President Omar Al Bashir opened the MIC. Very little information is publically available about the MIC, but according to its website and various product brochures, it has eight main production categories: ammunition, conventional weapons, armoured vehicles and main battle tanks, gear, outfits, and equipment, electronics, aviation, marine, and vehicles, the report states.

In 2013, the MIC stepped up efforts to appeal to international buyers. It developed product brochures, released a 10 minute promotional video on YouTube, and redesigned its website.

In February, MIC participated in the 2013 IDEX weapons convention, held bi-annually in Abu Dhabi. It was the first time Sudan put its weapons on public display, showcasing a variety of infantry and crew-served weapons, including general-purpose and heavy machine guns, RPGs, a copy of the Chinese CQ assault rifle, rocket launchers and ammunition, mortars, and one 4x4 vehicle. It also offered military communication devices, optical equipment, and laser devices.

Manufacturing plants

According to research carried out by the Small Arms Survey's Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan, MIC currently produces military products in at least seven distinct manufacturing plants: Yarmouk Industrial Complex, El Shajara Ammunition Plant, El Shahid Ibrahim Shamseldin Complex for Heavy Industries, El Zarghaa Engineering Complex, Safat Aviation Complex, and the Saria Industrial Complex.

El Shajara Ammunition Plant in 1959 started producing canons and 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition. In 1994, the plant was incorporated into the MIC. At that time, it increased its production to include mortar rounds, ammunition, and aircraft bombs. The plant also produces spare parts for these products.

The Yarmouk Industrial Complex is run by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), and reportedly has 35 per cent Iranian ownership.  Built with additional assistance from Bulgaria, the complex began operations in 1996 in the Soba section of Khartoum. Its five main factories reportedly produce 30 different conventional military items in addition to a variety of civilian products used for railway, electricity, cement, and vehicle production. Israel reportedly bombed sections of the Yarmouk complex on 23 October 2012.

The Saria Industrial Complex, established in 1997, reportedly includes nine factories producing 60 different products. The complex provides Sudan’s armed forces with military clothing and supplies, simple electronics, and appliances. El Zarghaa Engineering Complex, established in 1999 in the area of Halfaya in Khartoum, specialises in electronics, communications, and research and development. It also produces wireless communications devices and electro-optical devices used in defence.

El Shahid Ibrahim Shamseldin Complex for Heavy Industries was established in 2002 in Giad Industrial City for the production of heavy machinery. It reportedly produces tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and self-propelled guns, in addition to other products and services such as earth-moving equipment, rehabilitation of railways, and river transport.

The Safat Aviation complex, 20 km north of Khartoum in Karari, opened in 2005. It includes centres and factories specialised in aircraft maintenance and the installation of aircraft parts. According to Africa Confidential, Safat also manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles with Iranian assistance.

The transport aircraft maintenance centre is now authorised to conduct periodic maintenance of Antonov aircrafts, carried out with the support of Ukrainian experts. Work at the Helicopter Maintenance and Development Centre is carried out with support from Russian advisors based on a partnership with the Russian Federation’s Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant (NARP).

Defence agreements

Sudan maintains high value defence agreements with China and Iran, countries that have reportedly provided training and sent technicians to support the country’s weapons manufacturing sector. The MIC, the Small Arms Survey report says, uses technical expertise from both China and Iran in the production and manufacture of various weapons and ammunition, and also for the maintenance of aircraft, and ground vehicles used by the Sudanese army.

“A technical review of Sudanese manufactured weapons confirms that they derive from Chinese, Iranian, and Soviet designs. It is not clear whether Sudan simply repackages Chinese ammunition, or assembles cartridges that have already been marked by the Chinese. Because of Sudan’s close military ties with China and Iran, it is likely that technology for the production of these weapons was supplied from the two countries, yet it is unclear whether any formal licensing agreements exist.”

Research for violence reduction

The HSBA is a multi-year research project, administered by the Small Arms Survey, which is an independent research project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. Through active generation and dissemination of timely empirical research, the project supports violence reduction initiatives.

File photo: A T72 tank knocked-out by forces of the Sudan People's Liveration Movement (SPLM-N) during the battle of Trogi, South Kordofan, early January 2014. 

 Related: US lobby to hit Sudan government financially (12 June 2014)

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