Procurement: China Sneaks Bombers Into Sudan

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April 1,2008: Satellite photos have revealed that Sudan now has Chinese made A-5 fighter-bombers. The A-5 is a twin engine Chinese design based on the 1950s era Russian MiG-19 fighter. The A-5 entered service in 1970, and about a thousand were built. Exports began in the 1980s, mainly to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and North Korea. The 11 ton aircraft is armed with two 23mm cannon and can carry a ton of bombs, missiles or rockets. With a max payload, the A-5 can hit targets 400 kilometers from its base.

Up until now, Sudan has been using transports for bombing missions (the bombs are rolled out of the rear cargo ramp of a Russian An-26, or the cargo door of an An-24). The only combat aircraft Sudan has was a bunch of decrepit MiG-21s. The Russians are supposed to be supplying modern MiG-29s, but none have been seen in service yet. The A-5s are low tech enough that a MiG-21 pilot could handle it, and kill civilians in Darfur more efficiently than with the current improvised transport bombers.

The Sudanese appear to have six or more A-5s, plus many MiG-21s that have apparently been abandoned (for lack of maintenance), leaving perhaps only half a dozen in working order. At least two A-5s were sold to Sudan several years ago, but have never been seen. The ones now visible via satellite appear to be newly arrived, despite Chinese claims that they are not selling such weapons to Sudan.

 

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