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Old 05-07-2009, 01:12 AM
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Default The Longer Version Part 10

Apr-Jun 1997
The Longer Version Part 10

The Sino-Soviet War had impacted global manufacturing very significantly. Almost overnight, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) went from a major exporter to a major importer. The decision by the Chinese Politburo to indebt China to the West massively, thereby ensuring that the West would not allow the present regime to fail, coupled with the changeover of Chinese industry to war production and subsequent massive destruction to Chinese industry and infrastructure wrought by Soviet strategic conventional bombing, meant that China was on the market for virtually everything. The withdrawal of manpower from agriculture and the loss of industrial fertilizers and fuel for farming machines meant that China would have to import more food than she had in her history. Within a few weeks of the start of the war, China’s stocks of diesel fuel, aviation fuel, large caliber ammunition, and spare parts were virtually exhausted. Her tank park had been cut by more than half. At the same time, Operations Tchaikovsky I and II had reduced her heavy industry to a shambles. For all the apparent success of Operation Red Willow in restoring Chinese morale and inflicting serious reversal on the invading Soviets, the hard fact was that China was nearly out of everything by the end of counteroffensive.

The US tried to sell China on the virtue of American weapons. In Autumn 1995, China was willing to take American weapons firing American calibers because that was what the US had. However, the Chinese made it clear that they would not spend their borrowed money to create a logistical nightmare for themselves (any more than the demands of war had caused that problem already). Good students of history, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had observed that in the later stages of the Second World War, the Germans had been forced to make extensive use captured weapons. As a result, the ammunition and spare parts situation became intolerable. China had no intention of going that route if she could avoid doing so. China would buy some M16s, but the Americans had best set up assembly lines for Chinese rifles at the first opportunity. Otherwise, the money China had borrowed might be better spent purchasing small arms and ammunition from Egypt and other countries manufacturing East Bloc weapons. The same policy applied to heavy weapons and machinery.

American arms dealers were not keen to set up new production lines for Chinese weapons. They were, quite naturally, desirous of selling China what they were making already. The Clinton Administration told China as much in September 1995. Almost immediately thereafter, though, the US became aware that Belgium had embarked on a round-the-clock effort to open new production lines to produce 100mm and 125mm main gun rounds for Chinese tanks. (Some Chinese MBT also fired Western calibers such as the 105mm and 120mm. However, Western arms manufacturers had few problems in ramping up existing production.) Parallel efforts were being made to provide the PRC with small arms and ammunition in the calibers they were accustomed to using and which would be fully interchangeable with the weapons already in use. Similar efforts quickly followed in Brazil, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Australia. Ruefully, the Americans arms merchants observed that the Communists had used the free market to twist the arms of the Western manufacturers. Colt began producing assault rifles compatible with the rifles already being used by the PLA. As a consequence, by the time the Bundeswehr fired its preparatory bombardment across the Inter-German border in October 1996, the United States was producing prodigious quantities of small arms and large caliber ammunition to Bloc standards. Similarly, the US was producing Chinese-type mortars, artillery, machine guns, and light armored vehicles.

Not all assembly lines were so easily modified to suit the needs of the PLA. It was one thing for Colt to make the MAK-90. It was another matter entirely for M1A2 production to be shifted to Type 85II production or to add a parallel production line. Similarly, PLAAF airframes were not readily reproduced in the West.

Interestingly, it was Brazil that picked up the production of Chinese tanks first. The Brazilian private arms developer Engesa went out of business following Operation Desert Storm. Engesa had developed the Osorio MBT, which was intended for widespread sale to Third World clients unable to purchase state-of-the-art Western MBT. However, the extraordinarily one-sided results of Desert Storm led to Middle Eastern clients opting to spend the extra money for Western tanks—the M1 Abrams series in particular. As soon as China began shopping for more tanks, however, Brazilian interests resurrected Engesa to mass-produce tanks built to Chinese specifications. Although the assembly lines would have to be completely retooled, the work force was surprisingly easy to reassemble. With sales guaranteed, the phoenix Engesa easily attracted capital. The company first exported a modified Type 59-IIA.

The fighting in the Far East consumed stupendous quantities of small arms ammunition. By October 1996, the global supply had begun to exceed demand in China. However, the situation changed again when West Germany invaded East Germany. Here again the consumption of all types of ammunition was mindboggling. The Clinton Administration was determined to see that the West Germans did not fail for want of anything the US could provide. As US forces in Europe made available to the Bundeswehr virtually everything they had in common, massive orders went out to backfill the stocks of US Army and US Air Force depots in Europe. The active involvement of the Anglophone NATO partners in the fighting in Germany prompted a wave of arms orders around the world.

In Washington, lobbyists employed by US arms manufacturers squared off with Pentagon representatives. By mid-December, Congress was asking how the ever-growing demands of ammunition resupply (as well as spare parts, fuel, rations, and so forth) were going to be met. The existing manufacturers insisted that they and only they could and should provide the US, American allies, and American clients with the necessary tools. The Pentagon was dubious. The military wanted contracts to be opened to anyone who produced whatever the military needed. After a series of acrimonious debates, Congress placed a series of “cost-plus” contracts for a host of manufactured goods required either to fight the war or recover from it.

Tucson benefitted from the “cost-plus” contracts when a number of gunsmiths and small-time ammunition refillers pooled their resources to open a small assembly line for 5.56 NATO ammunition. Soon thereafter, a similar line opened in Sierra Vista, followed by a small line for 7.62x51mm ammunition.

American industry benefitted from the destruction in China and Germany in many ways. The loss of Chinese industry put China back on the market for machine tools and fixtures for assembly lines. As Operation Tchaikovsky I unfolded, the Chinese leadership decided to prepare for a long war with the Soviet Union by embracing a Maoist style of decentralized war industry. The large factories, which had proved so vulnerable to Soviet strategic bombing, were to be replaced by a myriad small factories. The small factories would be camouflaged. They would be put in caves, underground, and in the midst of ruins. Economies of scale no longer would be possible; therefore, huge numbers of small and medium machines would be necessary. Above all, China needed machine tools in order to replace some of her own losses. Business boomed for American machine shops across the country. Tucson was no exception.

As the war progressed, politics saw to it that American arms manufacturing decentralized to some degree as it expanded. Powerful members of Congress saw the advantage of having a new assembly line for mortars or mortars ammunition open in their states. Naturally, the manufacturers were keen to expand production at the existing facilities. The degree to which members of Congress were able to leverage favorable expansion was a reflection on their power in various important committees on Capitol Hill. Phoenix and Tucson saw a number of new small factories open as 1997 wore on.

The Contingency Detachment at Fort Huachuca took careful note of the industries ramping up throughout southern Arizona. Many of them would be quite beneficial in the event of Red Star, although the problems of power and raw materials presented themselves. Perhaps not coincidentally, the CD began feeling about for tangible solutions to some of the materiel problems Fort Huachuca was facing.

1 An arms lobbyist who had never served a day in his life argued that “…a few American lives were worth the American way of life.” When pressed for clarification, the lobbyist claimed that profit for the investors was the American way. Two days later, he was in the intensive care unit of a Silver Springs hospital after being found behind a bar very nearly beaten to death. No suspect was ever identified.

Author's Note: I've been thinking about the events in southeastern Arizona in the first nine months after the Exchange while making the commute. I very much want to move on to the more exciting material. However, I keep reminding myself that the back story must be told if the good stuff is to be believable.

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