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Angolan military exercise reveals new Chinese armoured vehicles

16 February 2017
Norinco WMA301 tank destroyers and a WZ551 command variant seen during an exercise held by the Angolan Armed Forces on 29 January. Source: Agência Angola Press

The Angolan military is now operating Chinese-made NORINCO WMA301 tank destroyers and the command-post variant of the WZ551 armoured personnel carrier (APC), footage and still images from a recent military exercise have revealed.

The WMA301 is already known to be in service in Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, and Senegal and has been deployed operationally in northern Cameroon, northeast Nigeria, and The Gambia.

An Angolan officer told local media that the tank destroyers were delivered in 2016, but did not say how many were received.

The vehicles were unveiled during a military exercise conducted in Soba Matias in the southern province of Cuando Cubango on 29 January under the umbrella of the 50th Motorised Infantry Brigade of the Angolan Army's 5th Division.

Chief of Defence Staff General Geraldo Sachipengo Nunda told Angolan media that the exercise was aimed at validating a new training process that was introduced for army recruits and future officers in March 2016.

It lasted 12 hours and involved more than 3,500 men and women from the Angolan Armed Forces (Forças Armadas Angolanas: FAA), including special forces, helicopters from the Angolan National Air Force (Força Aérea Nacional de Angola: FANA), CBRN specialists, and naval infantry who were tasked with conducting a riverine assault.

According to Angolan military sources quoted by local media, 20 main battle tanks; 32 APCs; 24 fire support vehicles, mortars, and artillery pieces; and an unspecified number of anti-aircraft guns took part.

Television news footage of the exercise showed T-72s and T-55 tanks, BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, MT-LB APCs, BM-21 multiple rocket launchers, and Zu-23-4 anti-aircraft guns, as well as the WMA301s and WZ551s. Recently delivered Mil Mi-171Sh helicopters were used to insert special forces.

Defence Minister João Lourenço, who attended the exercise, congratulated the FAA hierarchy for the professionalism displayed by the troops during the exercise and noted that the Angolan government's commitment to modernising and professionalising its military would continue.

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