Procurement: Su-30s Over Africa


July 21, 2011: Uganda has received the first two of six Russian Su-30 jet fighters. Uganda paid $124 million each for their Su-30s, but this included the cost of setting a maintenance operation and for training. There was much local opposition to this deal, not least because it consumed a third of Uganda's foreign reserves. The high price also indicated some payoffs were involved.

Uganda justified the need for these high-performance jets because regional neighbors like Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan operate MiG-29s. But other neighbors may now feel obliged to upgrade their air forces as well. Oil was discovered in Uganda five years ago, so now there is something to defend, and a way to pay for it. Su-30s cost several million dollars a year to maintain (assuming they will be flown often enough to sustain pilot skills.) In the past fifty years, most African nations that have obtained high-performance jets, did not maintain them well, and these jet fighters eventually became useless and grounded.

The 37 ton Su-30 is roughly equivalent to the 25 ton U.S. F-15. Of course, the F-15 comes in many versions, as does the Su-27 (which the Su-30 is a variant of.) India bought SU-30MKIs, which are more similar to the two seat F-15E fighter-bomber. The Indian aircraft was equipped with French and Israeli electronics. Even so, the Su-30MKIs cost less than half what Uganda is paying. The Su-30 can carry more than eight tons of bombs and hit targets over 1,500 kilometers away.


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