Skip to comments.Why Are African Countries Buying All These High-Tech Jet Fighters?
Posted on 03/29/2014 7:15:05 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
Governments from Uganda to Angola are investing billions in state-of-the-art combat aircraftand its not clear why
Africas air forces are on a buying spree. Flush with oil cash, many African states are investing heavily in modern multirole jet fighters, deadly helicopter gunship and even sophisticated air-defense systems with radars and surface-to-air missiles.
The deals are worth hundreds of millions of dollars in countries still lacking many basic social services. So its worth asking exactly what Uganda, Angola, Sudan and the like are planning to do with their new air forces.
Some of the most interesting acquisitions involve modern, or modernized, Russian hardware. The Sukhoi Su-30NATO codename Flanker-Cis a particular favorite of African governments. In just the last six years, African states together have acquired no fewer than 50 Su-30MKs.
Algeria and Uganda have the most, with 18 more planes slated to go to Angola. With a unit price hovering around $37 million, these twin-engine, tw0-seat fighters dont come cheap for countries that still rank low on development indices.
The Su-30 is a highly advanced multirole fighter with capabilities comparable to those of the American F-15E Strike Eagle. It boasts a powerful radar, a heavy payload and a range of 3,000 kilometers. In Africa, only South Africa with its 26 Swedish-made JAS-39C Gripens can match the Su-30s.
The new fighters are the crown jewels of Africas air arms, but a variety of other modern weapons systems made it to the continent, as well. They include at least 64 Mil Mi-24 gunship helicopters for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Sudan.
The Su-25 ground-attack plane is popular in Africa, as are the Brazilian EMB-314 Super Tucano attack turboprop and Chinas K-8 and F-7 light fighters, the latter an improved version of the venerable MiG-21.
In addition to all this flying hardware, several countries have also invested in surface-to-air defenses.
The Stockholm International Peace Institute estimates that African aerial weapons deals doubled in volume in the six-year period 2008 to 2013, compared to 2002 to 2007. So what is Africa equipping for?
An Algerian Su-30. Photo via Wikipedia Total overkill We can assume African states arent investing in air power in order to suppress domestic uprisings, according to Siemon Wezeman, a senior fellow with SIPRIs arms-transfer program.
Advanced combat aircraft such as the Su-30 in conflicts like that in Sudans Darfur region is total overkill, Wezeman tells War is Boring. And almost none of the countries which are currently acquiring new fightersamong them Uganda, Ethiopia, Angola and South Africaare actually under threat of internal conflict at the moment.
Likewise, ground-based air-defense systems are also useless in civil war, Wezeman explains. After all, rebel groups almost never have combat aircraft for the defenses to shoot down.
Rather, in purchasing Gripens or Su-30s, countries like South Africa and Uganda are trying to build up forces for regional power projection. Geopolitical posturing is also a factor.
The new South Africa feels that is to some extend a regional power and with these ambitions come military force ambitions, Wezeman says. Angola feels that is has a very serious stake in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Angolan air force has been used there in the past.
Uganda he adds, is preparing itself to defend its new-found oil fields, if necessary. Right now Uganda supports the government of South Sudan [in its civil war]. There have been air strikes far up in the north of South Sudan which I think only the Su-30s are capable of, considering the range.
The River Nile, which counts six East and North African countries in its basin, looms in the minds of African military strategists, according to Wezeman. Colonial-era treaties reserve the lions share of the Niles waters exclusively for Sudan and Egypt. Both countries are almost entirely dependent on the river.
But recently Ethiopia has questioned the status quoand is in the process of building a massive dam close to its border with Sudan. Egypt has already threatened to take military action against the dam, if it results in less water reaching its domestic agricultural sector.
Considering also that Sudan is busy re-establishing its airfields in the south of the country, which are not facing Darfur but are facing South Sudan and Ethiopia, I have the feeling that Sudan is getting ready to make sure that the Nile waters are not disappearing, Wezeman says.
Apparently in response, Ethiopia is beefing up its air defenses.
All these countries have well-equipped conventional forces, including modern tanks and field artillery. It makes sense, in theory, to have equally modern air arms.
But in practice, modernand correspondingly expensive and complexfighters have yet to prove themselves in Africa.
udanese air force Su-25s. Photo via Wikipedia Cost to own The first issue is maintenance. Traditionally, African air forces have struggled to keep their hardware in a serviceable state, owing to a lack of money to buy spares and the absence of the highly-skilled maintenance professionals.
While many countries finances have improved in recent decades, the old logistical problems persist.
South Africa has grounded most of its Gripens because flying them on a regular basis is prohibitively expensive. In many countries, Eastern European fly the helicopters and fighters because there arent enough qualified African aircrews. Again, its prohibitively expensive to train them up.
Even if Uganda and Angola can keep their Su-30s and other modern assets flying, they might still end up not getting their moneys worth. You need the whole maintenance system, you need good training, an air-defense system for your airfields, radar coverage for your own air space and neighboring countries, Wezeman explains.
So its possible were currently witnessing the slow-motion waste of hundreds of millions of dollars by African governments. That said, its better that all this new aerial weaponry go to waste, if the alternative is some huge war that actually puts it to use.
I wouldn’t downplay Reagan’s ‘peace through strength’ dynamic, but I’d also look at China as increasingly pulling strings on the continent.
It’s actually a fairly easy explanation. You have ONE tin-pot despot who wants some toys, for gawd-know-whatever-reason, and immediately all the neighboring countries feel that have to get some also..
C'mon now. You don't really expect those those tinhorn despots to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars to fight AIDS we send them to fight AIDS do you?
They won’t maintain them. It takes discipline and money to maintain a weapon system. Africans don’t have a surplus of those.
You need a fighter jet for all the thugs with hyenas.
Unlike the United States, these African countries see the world for what it really is, uncivilized, and those who don’t do what’s necessary to survive in an uncivilized world will not survive, nor do they deserve to survive.
There are plenty of spare aircraft parts in Africa. All they have to do is take what they need from the wrecks surrounding every airstrip.
They all watched “Black Hawk Down” and wanted to get in on the action, this time with modern battle gear.
“C’mon now. You don’t really expect those those tinhorn despots to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars to fight AIDS we send them to fight AIDS do you?”
Your comment was my first thought.
Because the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.
In mineral rich African nations, the presidents for life and their people enjoy watching fighter tournaments.
The tribesmen of these mineral rich nations have a variety of popular contests centered around these fighters.
All of these contests involve a chieftain in full regalia sitting in the cockpit while opposing teams of tribesmen push these fighters out onto fields and like medieval jousting tournaments push them towards each other while drums beat and throngs of frenzied onlookers cheer.
Once contact has been made between the fighters, the contest may pause to determine which tribe's team caused greater damage to the other fighter, or the teams just continue pushing until one of the fighters is pushed backwards at which point victory is declared.
Sometimes, multiple tribes are involved in contests, in which tribesmen from multiple tribes simultaneously push their fighters together in a contest resembling an automotive "smash up derby".
Spare parts contracts for these fighters are reported to be very lucrative.
I was roughly ten in the 1960’s when I read some US government official had said, “China will never develop the bomb because it’s not in their interest to do so.” I was stunned by the utter stupidity of the statement. Within months China had exploded a nuke. It’s not up to outsiders to decide what is in someone else’s interest. Each person sees their own interest and takes appropriate actions. If the neighbor has the ability to bomb and strafe you, you’d best develop the same capability fast if only to keep him honest and peaceful. My poster would read, “Peace through being able to kick the snot out of any potential contender.”
they want to Join In on the Destruction Of Israel?
We should get in on the action. Limited range. Maintenance? Take the $$$ and let them kill each other.
“We should get in on the action. Limited range. Maintenance? Take the $$$ and let them kill each other.”
American equipment is outrageously priced. Russian equipment is not only cheaper, but you can buy spares from anyplace. American equipment spares depend on each successive president saying okay. Sometimes you do something they don’t like, like pass an anti-gay law, and you get no more spares. With no spares your plane is just a pretty decoration.
Because if you don’t feed a jet for 3 months at a time, it doesn’t complain. People on the other hand? Pesky things for a socialist dictator.
I bet there will be good money for out of work US vets in flying these things.
We can’t have Armageddon without enough weapons and people.