Iraq begins mass license production of China’s Norinco VN22 APC

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Currently, Iraq is presenting an armored personnel carrier meant for mass production within the country. This vehicle is a variant of the Chinese VN22, acquired through a licensing agreement with Norinco, which implies that the purchase of a production line is forthcoming. 

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This armored personnel carrier isn’t an exact copy of its Chinese counterpart, particularly in terms of weaponry. It is equipped with a triple-barreled automatic Gatling gun situated in an exposed turret. Conversely, the original version features a 30-mm gun and an ATGM installed in an unmanned turret. 

The VN22 is a 6×6 wheeled armored personnel carrier. The design team maintains that the front section of the carrier can withstand the impact of 25-mm shells, while the hull can resist 14.5-mm gunfire. This vehicle houses a crew of three and can transport six soldiers in the landing squad. 

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The VN22 made its first appearance at the Zhuhai Air Show in 2021 and was shown again at a Baghdad exhibition in 2022. As of now, the exact number of such APCs slated for production in Iraq remains undisclosed.

Iraqi APCs

The Iraqi Army operates a wide variety of armored personnel carriers [APCs], sourced from several countries around the world. A mainstay model is the American M113 APC which has served the Iraqi military for many years, with hundreds of these vehicles actively in use. 

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In the late 20th century, Iraq introduced a locally produced modified version of the Soviet T-55 tank, known as the T-55 Enigma, into their army’s pool of armored personnel carriers [APCs]. The precise count of these machines currently in operation remains unknown, but speculations suggest the number to be in the dozens. 

The Iraqi forces also boast a substantial fleet of the BTR-80 APC, a popular model courtesy of Russia, favored by numerous armies globally. Although the exact number of units remains undisclosed, it’s safe to infer that Iraq owns several hundred of these vehicles. 

A significant addition to the Iraq army’s mechanized infantry units is the K200 KIFV, a South Korean APC of notable repute. While there are no public records determining the total count of K200 KIFVs in active service, they are suspected to have a significant presence. Finally, the Iraqi army also utilizes the Type 63 APC, an amphibious model from China. Due to substantial purchases throughout the years, this light APC has seen a great deal of use.

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Local made APCs

There is a myriad of uniquely specced APCs available in Iraq, with the Al-Mared being one of them. This colossal 8×8 wheeled APC is particularly revered for its sturdy armor. It boasts the capacity to accommodate up to 12 individuals, inclusive of the driver and commander, and lends itself to a wide array of weapon options; machine guns and anti-tank guided missiles just to mention a few. 

From the same production line, Iraq produces the ILAV Badger, a 4×4 wheeled combat vehicle specifically tailored for urban warfare. While its size doesn’t measure up to that of the Al-Mared, the Badger’s versatility is nothing short of impressive, making it suitable for everything from troop transport to reconnaissance. 

Photo credit: Pentapostagma

The TOSA represents another APC developed by Iraq. This tracked vehicle is specifically designed for navigating rough terrains, and it has enough room to accommodate up to 10 personnel. An adaptable turret that can be furnished with a range of weaponry further enhances its capabilities. 

There’s also the Al-Raksh. In many ways, it’s similar to the Badger, but it follows a distinct design perspective. The notable characteristics of the Al-Raksh include its exceptional speed and flexibility, making it perfectly suited to fulfill reconnaissance and swift reaction force duties. 

These APCs mirror the varied requirements of the Iraqi Army by offering the versatility required for a broad range of missions – from urban combat to operations on challenging terrains. They serve as a concrete example of the strides made by the Iraqi defense industry recently.

Photo credit: Reddit

Chinese presence in Iraq

In the past few years, China has significantly expanded its influence in Iraq, predominantly through substantial investments in the oil sector. As the world’s leading oil importer, China views Iraq’s extensive oil reserves as a critical component of its enduring energy security strategy. Notable Chinese corporations, such as PetroChina and CNOOC, have acquired stakes in some of Iraq’s substantial oil fields. 

Besides its booming oil industry, Iraq is also the recipient of significant infrastructure investment from China. This is part of China’s broader One Belt, One Road initiative – a comprehensive global strategy aimed at boosting economic growth across the Asia-Pacific region, Africa, and Europe. For Iraq, this has resulted in financial support leading to major projects like the construction of primary roads, bridges, and power facilities. 

However, China’s investment in Iraq isn’t limited to physical infrastructure. There’s a technology aspect as well. Consider Huawei, for instance. This multinational corporation, known for its leadership in the field of information and communication technology infrastructure and smart devices, has had a significant presence in Iraq for some time. Their projects have included delivering essential ICT solutions to the country and embracing 4G and 5G networks, which have significantly enhanced Iraq’s telecommunications infrastructure.

This is not liked everywhere

China’s multifaceted interest in Iraq isn’t purely economic. There’s a humanitarian aspect to this relationship as well. China aids in Iraq’s post-war rebuilding efforts, offering donations of medical supplies and equipment, and training Iraqi medical personnel. This support has proved invaluable, particularly in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Photo credit: Reddit

However, China’s increasing influence in Iraq isn’t universally welcomed. Concerns about possible economic overdependence on China have arisen, accompanied by murmurs of a perceived lack of transparency in some of their investment dealings. Despite these apprehensions, it’s projected that China’s involvement in Iraq will continue to expand, reflecting its strategic ambitions in this region.

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