A Strange Case of Belligerent Ignorance

It is a Herculean task to compile global military ratings. No country would give you exact figures as for its armed forces. As a rule, military experts worldwide engage in a guesswork, making rough estimates of one army’s firepower or another’s.  However, even under these unfavorable conditions professional researchers should be as accurate as possible in their estimates.

A report on Kazakh military strength in 2023.

The Global Firepower ranking is one of the best known military ratings. Unfortunately, its report on Kazakhstan military strength as of January 9, 2023 contains some wrong data. For example, they erroneously have put its railway coverage at scanty 1,614 km, giving the country 81th place among 145 nations. Meanwhile, as of 2017, the total length of Kazakh railways is about 16,614 km. Thus, in terms of railway coverage, the country proudly holds 18th place globally.

They have also erred, when counted only 300 Kazakh tanks. This is a gross underestimation of the land forces of Kazakhstan. For instance, a Russian military expert Anatoly Tsyganok said that there are 4,900 combat tanks in the Kazakh armed forces as of 2007. Moreover, an Australian statistics database reports that there are 1,266 main battle tanks in Kazakhstan as of 2014.  Thus, both the Russian military expert and the Australian database have ranked Kazakhstan among the world’s major tank powers. Because, the vast territory of the landlocked country has required a sufficient number of main battle tanks to protect its rich natural resources and transcontinental routes. True, its armed forces have been plagued by corruption, low morale of soldiers, cringing attitudes towards Russia and China, etc. However, even under such disgraceful circumstances Kazakhstan has been among top 30 countries in terms of overall firepower.

Evidently, so-called experts of the Global Firepower ranking have based their assumptions largely upon publicly available information with little or no contributions from insiders. The ostensible 300 combat tanks of Kazakhstan (of which only 195 are estimated by theirexpertsto be in active service) in their report don’t include, perhaps, 680 main battle tanks in reserve storage as of 2018. Maybe, the Kazakh combat tanks in reserve storage are not readily available on short notice. So, what about up-and-ready armaments? Let’s try to calculate the number of the country’s main battle tanks in active service: the 11th Tank Brigade (military unit #10810) in Ayagoz, East Kazakhstan; the 43th Tank Brigade (military unit #12740) in Saryozek, Almaty Region; one tank battalion of the 4th Separate Mechanized Brigade (military unit #27943) in Oskemen; one tank battalion of the 5th Mountain Rifle Brigade (military unit #85395) in Taraz; two tank battalions of the 7th Separate Mechanized Brigade (military unit #31775) in Karaganda; two tank battalions of the 390th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade (military unit #25744) in Aktau; three tank battalions of the 12th Mechanized Brigade (military unit #21450) in Gvardeisky.

Typically, a tank brigade in the former Soviet Union has 93 main battle tanks and a tank battalion has 31 combat tanks. So, by the most conservative estimates, Kazakhstan has 465 main battle tanks in active service. Probably, the 3rd Separate Guards Mechanized Brigade (military unit #40398) in Usharal, the 6th Mechanized Brigade (military unit #35748) in Shymkent, and the 8th Separate Mechanized Brigade (military unit #30217) in Semey also have considerable number of main battle tanks, whose approximate figures I could not figure out.  So, it may be safely supposed that the armed forces of Kazakhstan have some 600 main battle tanks in active service.

It should be noted that the Global Firepower ranking of 2023 has other false statements. For example, its “experts” with overactive imagination have argued that an obscure nation of Turkmenistan with current military spending of some $200 million a year has airpower attack types superior to that of Ukraine, whose annual military spending amount to $5.4 billion! By the way, the GFP itself has put financial disparity between Turkmenistan and Ukraine still further, assuming that the former’s defense budget amounts to modest $407 million a year, while annual military spending of the latter reach impressive $30 billion. No wonder that, according to the GFP, military luminaries of Turkmenistan with their scarce budget have also surpassed Kazakhstan in terms of main battle tanks. The Turkmens have 680 combat tanks! Incidentally, the estimates of the annual defense budget of Kazakhstan range from $2,618 billion to $4 billion. What information sources have been employed by the GFP “experts” to draw a conclusion that a small nation of Turkmenistan with its limited human and scientific resources prevails over much bigger, more technologically advanced and wealthier countries, like Ukraine and Kazakhstan, in certain military branches?! Well, it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Unfortunately, many media outlets around the world have thoughtlessly copy-pasted the GFP’s conclusions, which are, to put it mildly, rather dubious in certain cases. It is a pity that such a controversial online project has got much publicity globally.

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