Warplanes: Sudan Deals With Religion and MiG-29s

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November 22,2008: Sudan has bought another dozen Russian MiG-29 fighters. Sudan already has 12 MiG-29s from an earlier purchase. Both Russia and Sudan have played down the earlier (2002) sale. Deliveries for that were completed in 2004, around the same time the UN arms embargo on the Darfur region of western Sudan went into effect.

Earlier this year it was discovered that a Russian fighter pilot had died while flying a Sudanese MiG-29. This brought to light the fact that Russian pilots, both active duty and retired, have been flying Sudan's MiG-29s. This is because it has proven more difficult than expected to train Sudanese to do the job. One reason for this is that Sudan doesn't have many pilots to begin with, so the Sudanese MiG-29 pilots had to be recruited and trained from scratch. Sudan is a religious dictatorship, and the leadership selected pilot trainees more for their loyalty than for their piloting potential. Many of these trainees proved inadequate as pilots, at least of high performance fighters like the MiG-29 (which is similar in size and capabilities to the U.S. F-16). Rather than have these expensive fighters sit around unused, the government hired more Russian "instructors" to not only devote more time to getting the Sudanese trainees in shape, but also to operate the MiG-29s.

Mercenary Russian (and Ukrainian) fighter pilots have shown up in Africa before. Over the last few decades, wherever there are Russian warplanes (and the list of African users is long), and a need for them to be used, there have usually been "foreign pilots" hired to make things work, or at least fly and fight. Russians were often hired to maintain the aircraft (the mercenary pilots often insisted on this.)

 


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