Military Capabilities

US general dismisses Chinese kit in Africa

04 April 2019

Four Chinese-made WZ523 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) are seen near Fotokol in northern Cameroon on 1 February 2015. They were probably part of a batch of 10 surplus vehicles delivered in 2007. The operation in early 2015 involved them driving across northern Cameroon to attack Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria. Source: Stephane Yas/AFP/Getty Images

The Chinese military equipment being acquired by African countries is not of a high quality, according to the US Army general nominated as the next commander of the US military's Africa Command (AFRICOM).

"Chinese engagement has marginally improved some African militaries through military equipment sales and limited training, although endemic quality concerns probably make any improvements short-lived," General Stephen Townsend said in written answers to questions submitted before a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on 2 April.

He gave one example, saying the Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that Nigeria acquired to improve its counter-terrorism capabilities are used infrequently due to their "poor quality".

Nigeria's acquisition of armed CH-3 UAVs was revealed in January 2015 when photographs of one that had crashed with its weapons emerged on social media.

"Low cost and short delivery timelines entice African partners to purchase Chinese equipment but these purchases frequently do not address the underlying military need, complicating US security force assistance [to African countries]," Gen Townsend added.

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