TV video footage of a military parade during the 52nd anniversary of Sudanese independence last year shows that the country already had new-generation Chinese T96 and upgraded T59D main battle tanks and T92 wheeled infantry fighting vehicles fitted with Russian 2A72 30-mm cannon guns.
China acquired the technology from Russia to produce 2A72 30-mm cannon guns, which is believed to have been used to upgrade the Chinese PLA ground forces' T86 infantry fighting vehicles, or IFVs. Installing 2A72 guns on T92 wheeled IFVs for export to Sudan is a recent development. So far the T-92 wheeled IFVs have been known to be provided only to the Chinese No.38 Group Army.
This appears to be the first time China has exported T92 wheeled IFVs and T96 MBTs to an African nation. The technological standard of this equipment is far superior to ground force equipment China has previously exported to Africa.
At the International Defense Exhibition and Conference 2007 held in Abu Dhabi last year, China introduced the upgraded variant of the T59D tank. African countries that are now using T59 tanks include Zambia and Tanzania.
In recent years, China has largely reinforced military cooperation with African countries through the strategy of trading oil for weapons. Both Sudan and Nigeria have purchased China-made F7M fighters. In 2005 Sudan exported to China 6.62 million tons of crude oil, about 5.2 percent of China's total oil imports that year. China has a 40-percent stake in Sudan's largest international oil consortium.
Other Chinese weapons currently in service in the Sudanese forces include Type 54 122-mm howitzers, Type 59-I 130-mm cannons, Type 81 122-mm rocket guns, Type 59 57-mm air-defense guns, mortars of different calibers, eight J-6 fighters and a number of J-7M fighters.
Sudan has also expressed interest in purchasing 12 Chinese FC1 fighters, and the two sides are now negotiating technical details of the deal. In 1996 Sudan purchased six F7M fighters from China, and another two Y8 transport aircraft are also in service. Western military observers believe that those Chinese weapons were paid for with Sudanese oil.
The Sudan military parade in 2007 had a strong Chinese color, as most of the armored weapons were from China. The same parade revealed that the Sudan air force had Chinese-made K8 military trainers. Three K8 trainers and three MiG-29s flew over the capital during the parade. Images from the parade have revealed to the world that the Sudanese army resembles a second Chinese Liberation Army.
(Andrei Chang is editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto.)