Procurement: The Curse of the Monkey Model


February 20, 2008: Algeria is returning fifteen MiG-29 fighters to Russia, and refusing to accept the other 19 that were part of a purchase deal made two years ago. The Algerians complained of sub-standard components. The Russians dispute this, but the Algerians got a trade-in option when they purchased the MiG-29s. This means that they have to take more expensive (by a few million dollars per aircraft) MiG-29M2 models, or even newer MiG-35s. Then again, France has been desperate to get a first export customer for its new Rafale fighter, and the Algerians are making noises about being done with Russian jet fighters.

The Russians are not happy with the MiG-29s coming back. Since the 1970s, the Russians had developed a reputation for exporting substandard versions of their weapons ("monkey models" as the Russians themselves put it), and not providing adequate support for the exports either. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has been trying to overcome the curse of the monkey model. The Algerian accusations undo a lot of this effort, and the Russians are trying to do whatever they can to keep the Algerians happy, save some face, and not lose a lot of money.


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