Algeria continues to undertake a significant arms acquisition program designed to enhance its regional position amid regional security uncertainties.
To this end, the already powerful North African nation has become a major purchaser of battle-tested and proven Russian and Chinese arms.
Algeria is reported to be in talks with China to acquire SY-400 Chinese-made short-range ballistic missiles.
Algeria delegation approached China’s North Industries Group Corporation Limited (Norinco) for the procurement of the SY-400 short-range ballistic missile launcher (SRBM) during the recent Zhuhai Air Show.
The new SY-400 buy will complement the Russian-built albeit formidable Iskander E ballistic missile system and Chinese-made YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles.
The YJ-12 is considered the “most lethal anti-ship missile China has manufactured thus far,” according to a 2014 Pentagon report.
The YJ-12B ASCM will complement another deadly Chinese-made cruise missile in Algerian service, the mach 3 capable CX-1 ASCM acquired in 2018 after more than a decade of negotiations.
Algeria received 4 regiments of Iskander E systems from 2014 to 2017. A missile regiment consists of about fifty vehicles and 48 missiles: 12 launchers, 12 missile carriers and loaders, 11 vehicles of command and personnel, and other vehicles.
The trio will significantly bolster it’s regional standing in the volatile Middle East and North African region.
The likely potential recipient of the business end of the SY-400 and Iskander E ballistic missile system as well as YJ-12B anti-ship missile system is suspected to be Morocco, and former colonial power France.
Although Algeria attempts maintain a constitutional prohibition on military deployment outside the country and a strict policy of regional non-interference, however, it has acquired strategic weapons suited for defensive use against Moroccan, Libyan or European opponents.
In October 2021, ties between Algeria and France nosedived after Macron was reported to have questioned whether Algeria had existed as a nation before French colonialism.
Algeria accused France of “genocide” and recalled its ambassador from Paris in October 2021, and banned French military planes from its airspace.
However, relations between both countries have somewhat normalized in recent times.
On the other hand, tensions between Algeria and Morocco have increased significantly in recent times, mainly due to the intensification of the activities of several guerrilla groups on the triple border between Algeria, Morocco and Western Sahara.
Rabat is directly opposed to the Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro), a Sahrawi armed group that tries to end the Moroccan presence in Western Sahara and which receives structural support from Algiers.
Since its independence, Algeria has turned to the Soviet Union, and later Russia, as its chief weapons supplier, accounting for 90% of the Algerian armed forces, much to the chalgrin of western powers.
Until recently, Algeria imported mainly small arms from China. However, this changed in the last decade and the country began turning to Germany, Turkey, Italy, South Africa, the United States, and China for it’s weaponry.
Since the 2010s, China has provided a large amount of land military equipment to Algeria including PLZ-45 155mm self-propelled howitzers, SR-5 MLRS Multiple Launch Rocket Systems as well as APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) vehicles Type-07 and WZ-502G.
Beijing has been able to successfully sell its arms to Algeria, and this year alone, China has supplied five CH-5 reconnaissance and strike drones, as well as a 120mm Chinese self-propelled mortar. In 2020, Algeria bought Red Arrow-12 anti-tank systems, also known as the HJ-12, from China. In 2018, China sold the North African country five CH-3s and five CH-4s.
The SY-400 is the latest developed modification of the Weishi missiles, the development and serial production of which began in the 1980s.
The SY-400 also called DF-12A is a mobile ballistic missile system designed and manufactured by the Chinese defense industry. It was unveiled in 2008.
The TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher) is based on 8×8 military truck chassis and has eight containers each carrying one solid-fuel missile. The missiles are launched vertically and have a firing range of about 400 km and can be equipped with different types of warheads.
The SY-400 missile is equipped with GPS/INS guidance system. It is steered to the intended target in the initial flight phase by four control surfaces and stabilizing fins. The missile uses a low lowering rate to extend the range. Multiple missiles can be aimed at different targets.
The SY-400 can carry either two BP-12A missiles with a range of 400 km or 12 300mm PHL-03 missiles. The system was first introduced in 2018, with China defining it as a precision system with a short range. It can be said that the SY-400 is a competitor to the Russian Iskander-M system, as a cheaper alternative.
The missile guidance technology in the ballistic missile system is GPS/INS. The missile uses a low rate of descent to extend the range. Multiple missiles can be directed at different targets. The missiles have four control surfaces and stabilizer fins.