November 2, 2013:
Russia recently made a billion dollar sale of military equipment and services to the African nation of Angola. In addition to the various Mi-17 helicopters, tanks, artillery, small arms, and ammunition, there were 18 Su-30K jet fighters included in the sales package. These Su-30Ks were produced in the 1990s and sold to India. But India wanted something better and soon began receiving the much improved Su-30MKI model. The Su-30Ks were not used much and eventually were returned to Russia in 2007 for some credit.
The Su-30K was the original export model of the Su-30. The returned ones ended up in an aircraft maintenance center in Belarus for the last six years. Efforts to sell them to Belarus, Sudan, and Vietnam failed.
Angola agreed because Angola does not need a top line model of the Su-30, as the basic Su-30 (which is what the K model is) was adequate against Angola’s neighbors. Russia has included pilot training and maintenance support. Even so, jet fighters have not fared well in sub-Saharan air forces. That’s because these aircraft are expensive to maintain properly. The money for maintenance is often stolen by corrupt officials and the jets end up an embarrassment sitting off in the corner of an airport or military air base, unable to fly because maintenance was not kept up. It’s unclear how Angola plans to avoid this. In any event, these Su-30s each probably only have one or two thousand flight hours left. That could be extended with a major refurbishment, but for now it will be a challenge just to keep these Su-30s flying.
Uganda is the only other country in sub-Saharan Africa to operate the Su-30, having ordered six in 2010 and received the last of them in 2012.