Military hardware fiasco in South Asian Countries

Many Asian and South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Pakistan have received faulty and defective military hardware over a period of time.

Problems regarding test firing erupted in the past (2012-13) in Bangladesh in tanks due to defective engines. In a separate procurement by Nepal for its national airlines, six Y12e and MA60 aircraft, that Bangladesh had already rejected, are currently lying useless as they are neither suited for Nepal’s terrain nor are spare parts available for them. F-22P Frigates for the Pakistan Navy have been facing various technical malfunctions.

More recently, under an ambitious project, Bangladesh procured 44VT-5 Light Tanks at a cost of BDT 1599.70 crores in November 2022. The consignment has come with a long list of material, metallurgical and mechanical faults. This hardware is manufactured mostly by China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) and other Chinese state-owned industries.

China is the world’s fifth largest exporter of weapons. Yet its defense products have been found wanting in quality, services and deficiencies in delivery. Beijing apparently refused to consider Nepal’s request to replace the aircraft that the latter has found to be useless.

It also repeatedly turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s request for midlife upgrade / overhaul of naval vessels, probably seeing no profits. Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port was a billion-dollar project funded by the Chinese in 2007. In spite of being located along one of the busiest shipping lanes with thousands of ships passing by, the port drew only 34 ships in 2012. Left grappling with growing debts and no means to pay the Chinese back, Sri Lanka had to cough up the entire port to China on a 99-year lease.

Myanmar signed a contract (2016) to purchase JF-17 aircraft jointly developed by China and Pakistan. However, these started malfunctioning and structural flaws appeared in 2022.

Myanmar authorities have reportedly expressed unhappiness over the quality of Chinese hardware supplied. In 2015, two batteries of FM-90 Surface to Air Missiles systems from China, which were supplied to Bangladesh, were found to have a number of technical problems, and consequently Bangladesh has withheld the payment. NORINCO upgraded 174 T-59 tanks of Bangladesh, in which a number of defects were reported.

Similarly, in December 2022, Surface to Air Missiles supplied to Bangladesh by China, were found to be unsatisfactory. Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) WS-22 procured by the Bangladesh army was also allegedly problematic. Consequently, Bangladesh Army is unable to conduct Artillery Course Shooting (ACS) from 2020.

China has become the ‘global marketing hub’, but only due to low-cost labor, not due to any real qualitative or technological edge. It has even been alleged that it copied Russian weaponry without permission. Hence, its goods are cheaper, therefore, preferred by countries which are unable to acquire expensive military technology from other reliable sources.

It has often been found that although these weapons are cheap, they are very expensive when it comes to maintenance. Fall in overall global market share for these weapons and the fact that these are largely untested in real combat are reasons that experts are in doubt of the quality of such arms and weapons.


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