The Successful Jungle Factory

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Pablo Edronkin

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The production of clandestine weaponry in the so-called "jungle factories" - but indeed, it is not mandatory that such factories actually be in the jungle or any other particular environment - is a characteristic of mature guerrilla or irregular forces fighting in a long-term conflict. The appearance of such miniature industrial plants is also typical among well-organised resistance forces in invaded territories, and de facto autonomous regions.

In not all irregular conflicts such production plants appear, but from historical cases some characteristics of those that have been successful could be described:

The personnel of a jungle factory is the key for any sort of design: Such factories require at least a few engineers, weapons specialists and artisans able to operate specific machinery. A jungle factory is not the place for the hot-shot revolutionary intellectual, neither for semi illiterate fighters turned Stakhanovist workers.

The exact location of the factory must be kept in secret. The people working there are to be considered as high value personnel that should not be sent in actual risk or combat missions. Personnel rotation should be kept to a minimum.

If possible, production should be decentralised in order to maximise survival possibilities in the event of capture or bombardment. Also, in this fashion and with a correct distribution of production branches, logistical efficiency could be increased.

Despite that certain kinds of weapons that could be produced may have some degree of political impact, successful jungle factories don't deviate resources to satisfy propaganda plans but practical logistics. Maintenance and production of ammunitions, light weapons and so on should have maximum priority. One case of interesting "jungle factory" gone wrong is that of the Hizballah group prior to the war fought against Israel in Lebanese soil, in 2006. The Hizballah managed to develop a pretty high-tech native production of weapons but fell into an all-time mistake of unconventional warfare by trying to actually compete in conventional terms with the Israelis. For example: The two or three drones or RPVs allegedly sent to attack Israel by air were easily shot down by tie IAF, counting on its vast, advanced resources. It may have been a matter of prestige for Hizballah politicians and strategic planners to try to produce such weaponry but in the end, the decision proved wrong because it deviated a lot of resources and it was proved once again that the Israeli conventional forces are pretty capable of crushing conventional armies or conventional-wannabe armed factions.

The directors and creative minds of these factories should be able to work freely and autonomously, without pressure coming from any sort of high command or central committee. Decisions over the production of the factory should be technical (militarily and in an engineering sense) and not political.

The value of a jungle factory as a supplying force of machinery, weaponry and even technology should not be underestimated both during war and peace, and it is worth remembering that the first personal computer was designed and built in a home garage. Any attempt to centrally control such a factory, from an office outside it or fro - as we said - a central committee is never an attempt to better manage a valuable resource but to control it as a power building asset.

It is possible to minimise the development cost of any weapon system if machinery, parts or schematics can be obtained via something like an "under license" agreement in which a foreign party provides those supplies. The case of the British STEN submachine gun during WWII is a good example of such arrangements as part of the whole production policy of the weapon that was ultimately produced by resistance movements in countries like Norway, Denmark and Poland to supplement those provided by the British themselves. However, in order to achieve that, such capabilities should be thought from the star of the concept design phase, such as it happened with the STEN.

The only significant difference between a jungle factory and a true business corporation is that the former doesn't have to worry about a marketing and sales force. In all other aspects, jungle factories should be managed as any other business.

The introduction into service of the produce of such a factory is generally made under dire circumstances, while the organisation that created the jungle factory in the first place is fighting for its survival. This usually leads to some serious technical problems and the creation of a bad reputation or a virtual feeling of technical defeat as defects and shortcomings become apparent. If at all possible, the introduction should be slow and measured. There are some examples of this unfortunate effect even in the regular industry: When the M16 rifle was introduced in Vietnam, the basic design of the weapon was sound, but the lack of adequate training and maintenance equipment produced endemic problems among its users, leading to an unwarranted bad reputation for the weapon. The introduction of the STEN, a weapon that could be arguably considered as a jungle factory product, suffered similar problems and despite that the weapon proved to be reasonably effective and very successful according to the numbers produced -six million units - it was always remembered as "the plumber's delight," "the Woolworth gun" and even "the stench gun."

Some jungle factories can be recycled and turned into technological sources of great value in new, revolutionary regimes and even in already-constituted societies that passed some turbulent times in their history. The more primitive the society is, the bigger could be the impact. Many of today's big industries - generally state owned ones - had origins like those of any jungle factory.

The significance of jungle factories as logistical and even technological sources both in peace and war should not be left unnoticed. After all the first personal computer in the world was conceived and built in a home garage.

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