NIGHTWATCH: China-Jordan, Syria Questions, Russia-Arctic

02 China, 06 Russia, 08 Wild Cards, Government, Military

China-Jordan: The Foreign Ministry also said that on Tuesday, Yang met with King of Jordan Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein on bilateral ties, the Syria situation and the Middle East peace process.

King Abdullah II is paying a state visit to China from 15 to 18 September, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Comment: Jordan is looking for Chinese help with refugees and its economic burdens. China is in a position to advance its interests and influence because of the ripple effects of the Syria crisis, along with Russia. China has welcomed the UN inspection report on Syria, but has not commented about who executed the 21 August sarin attack.

Syria: Special note. The UN inspectors judged that one of the two rockets they examined was an M14 140mm rocket, which is fired from a BM-14 multiple rocket launcher. NightWatch checked the web today to try to determine whether the Syrian Arab Army still fields or keeps in inventory or storage BM-14s. The BM-14 is a an old system, a variation of the Soviet World War II BM-13 towed or truck-mounted, 16-round Katyusha multiple rocket launcher.

One reason for the search is that this weapon system is more than 70 years old and was replaced in most Soviet-equipped armies decades ago. Usually it was replaced by the BM-21 122-mm multiple rocket launcher. Syria can make these rockets.

A second reason for the search is that the BM-14 is an area saturation weapon. An army rocket unit usually would not fire it singly or in small numbers for a tactical mission. Each salvo should launch at least 16 rockets.

Global Security posts to the web detailed inventories of military equipment fielded by most national armies, including that of the Syrian army. Its charts show the Syrian army fields large numbers of BM-21s, but no BM-14s. They also show no rocket launcher that fires a rocket with a diameter of 330-mm. The UN inspectors found parts of such a rocket, but could not match it to any systems they knew. Our search found that Iran’s Fajr-5 333-mm rocket is the closest in diameter, but it is 18 feet long.

Global Security’s information might be incomplete and the numbers are estimates. However, the site has proven to be a reliable source of detailed military information. Its list of the types of major items of equipment that the Syrian army fields is reliable. The list does not include the BM-14.

The question for Feedback is where did the M-14 rocket come from? Who is still using this system in Syria? Does Syria still have stocks of long outdated rockets? Did the opposition capture any?

Russia: On Monday, President Putin announced that Russia is set to reopen a military base on the Arctic’s Novosibirsk Islands, which it closed in 1993 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin pointed to efforts to create a northern coast global shipping route and to defend Arctic energy resources as reasons for reinstating operations on the base. The islands are off the coast of eastern Siberia.

Comment: Russia announced that it has begun patrolling the Arctic Ocean sea lanes which are now passable in summer months. The Northern Fleet flagship, the guided missile cruiser Peter the Great led a ten ship flotilla on a 2,000 mile patrol to the Islands, which arrived last Thursday. Russia announced they have returned to Siberia to stay. Russia also intends to rebuild airfields and other infrastructure in the Arctic region. Strategic air deployments to the Arctic might resume.

One reason is the Northern Sea Route cuts two weeks off shipping time and that cuts shipping costs to Europe. Another is that receding ice sheets have made exploitation of sea and seabed resources cost effective and practical.