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More Mercenary Su-25s Slip Into Africa
by James Dunnigan
May 14, 2013

Back in February the African country of Niger received its first jet combat aircraft in the form of two Su-25s. These were received from Ukraine, which has a lot of Cold War surplus weapons, and refurbished these two ground attack aircraft. It is believed that Ukraine also supplied pilots and ground crews, at least until some Niger personnel could be trained to do the work. Niger is very poor, and until the two Su-25s arrived, had no combat aircraft at all and only about a hundred personnel and 12 transport and reconnaissance aircraft in its air force. France or the United States may have provided the money for the two Su-25s, which could be essential in dealing with the large number of Islamic terrorists operating next door in Mali or Nigeria. This is not the first time Su-25s have been supplied this way. Back in 2004, Ivory Coast for two Su-25s in a similar deal but made the mistake of using them against some French peacekeepers. The French Air Force promptly responded by attacking the Su-25s on the ground and destroying them.

The Su-25 was designed to attack ground targets, not other aircraft. It is a 17 ton aircraft that carries a 30mm twin-barrel rotary cannon (with 250 rounds) and up to five tons of bombs and missiles (including air-to-air missiles). The twin-engine, one seat aircraft has a combat radius of 380 kilometers and a top speed of 900 kilometers an hour. It's the Russian equivalent of the U.S. A-10.

The Su-25 design is actually more similar to the 19 ton American A-9, a competing design with the 23 ton A-10. The Su-25 and A-9 both are about 14 percent faster than the A-10. But the A-10 is a more stable aircraft and much more resistant to battle damage. Absent lots of ground fire, both the A-10 and Su-25 are very effective against ground targets. The A-10 also has an edge with its unique 30mm autocannon, in addition to seven tons of bombs. The A-9 could carry eight tons, in addition to the same 30mm autocannon.

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