Home | News    Thursday 1 April 2004

Sudan starts receiving Russian MiG-29s

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Some estimate Fulcrum deal at $370 Million

By Riad Khawaj, Defense News, Special permission to S.T.

DUBAI, March 29, 2004 — the Sudanese Air Force has started taking delivery of a dozen MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters purchased from Russia in December 2001, according to official and industry sources in the region.

"The first pair of MiG 29 jets reached Sudan last December, and two more were delivered in January. The rest are expected to reach Sudan during this year" said a Sudanese military official.

The exact value of the deal was not revealed but industry and diplomatic sources here have estimated the contract to be worth around $370 million, a lot of money to a nation overwhelmed with poverty and debt.

"Sudanese leadership cares a lot about national and regional prestige," said Ahmed Qurashi, a Dubai based expert on Sudanese affairs. "The leadership wants to be perceived as strong and capable of facing military threats from inside and outside".

But Sudan’s leaders lack cash and are facing an arms embargo imposed by the United Sates and the European countries after Washington placed it on lists of states supporting terrorism and building weapons of mass destruction, Qurashi said.

China and Russia have been the two major sources of weapons to Sudan in the past decade.

"But Sudan is hoping to get promised military aid from the United States if it fulfills a pledge to combat Islamic terrorists and end the civil war," Qurashi said.

The MiG-29 deal is Sudan’s first military jet purchase since 1996, and the largest in recent years. The country also bought tanks and artillery from Russia in 2000.

The Sudanese Air Force has 51 aging fighters, including nine Northrop Grumman F-5E/F Tigers, 27 Chinese J-5, J-6 and F-7 planes, and three Russian MIG-23s.

The Sudanese military official said the MIG-29s would be used as a fighter and ground-attack jet.

Russian Aircraft Building Corp MiG refused to comment on the Sudanese deal. However the MiG-29 is the multipurpose model of the Fulcrum, which was originally built as an interceptor.

Sudan has been torn apart by the 14-years civil war between the oil-rich and predominantly Christian southern tribes and the predominantly Islamic central government in the north.

Discussion in the neighboring Kenyan capital of Nairobi between the Sudanese warring factions have yet to yield tangible results, despite extensive mediations by various international parties, including the United States.

Badly trained and poorly equipped, Sudanese government troops have been incapable of crushing insurgents in southern Sudan, and have lost control over many vital parts of the country.

"Sudanese rebels have the support of the local community and belong to tribes that dominate vast territory in the south, and get arms from neighboring countries like Eritrean and Uganda, and that’s mainly why the Sudanese Armed Forces have failed to defeat the southern insurgents," Qurashi said.

"Do not believe the MiG-29s would make much difference to the course of the battles with southern rebels," he said "Air power has had little significance in the civil war, due to the fact that the insurgents have anti-aircraft guns and missiles, which proved effective against Sudanese jets that lack standoff weapons".

But the domestic situation might not be the only motivation for Khartoum to acquire the jets.

"Sudan has ongoing border disputes with almost all its neighbors, like Egypt, Uganda, Libya, Eritrea and Kenya, and these disputes have occasionally sparked border clashes" Qurashi said.

Lyubov Pronina contributed to this report from Moscow.

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