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Russia delivered jets, tanks and missiles to Africa in 2017

A Malian Mi-35M.During 2017 Russia exported some $15 billion worth of weapons around the world. This included African nations, which received an array of equipment from fighter jets to ballistic missiles – Africa accounted for 13% of Russian arms sales over the last five years.

According to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, and confirmed at a meeting of the Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation with Foreign States on 5 March, Russia in 2017 received orders for $16 billion worth of defence equipment, bringing Russia’s order book to $45 billion. Most equipment went to China, India and Vietnam, which ordered helicopters, engines, and vessels.

A number of African countries took delivery of military hardware from Russia last year, such as long-time customer Algeria. It received the last six of 14 Su-30MKA fighters; six more Mi-28NE attack helicopters (42 were ordered in 2013) and T-90SA tanks (out of an order for 200).

Although not mentioned by the Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation, Algeria has also recently acquired TOS-1 rocket launchers and Buk-M2E surface-to-air missiles and ordered BMPT Terminator tank support vehicles from Russia, while it is expecting delivery of Kilo class submarines.

Algeria’s receipt of four Iskander-E short range ballistic missiles was confirmed. The system has a range of around 300 km with a 480 kg warhead (fragmentation, blast fragmentation or penetration warheads). Each launch vehicle carries two missiles and each missile regiment includes around thirty vehicles (launchers, loaders, command, logistics vehicles etc.). Algeria is the second export customer for the system after Armenia.

Egypt is another important African customer, and in 2017 began receiving the first of 46 MiG-29M/M2 fighters that were ordered in December 2015 – 15 were delivered last year. Egypt also received 19 Ka-52 attack helicopters, out of an order for 46 for the Egyptian Air Force. The country has yet to decide on ordering the navalised Ka-52K for the Egyptian Navy’s Mistral class landing helicopter docks (LHDs).

Although not mentioned by the Commission, Russia last year also began delivering S-300VM missiles to Egypt and AT-9 and AT-16 anti-tank missiles for its Ka-52s. It has expressed interest in T-90 tanks and Buyan class corvettes.

Other deliveries to the continent in 2017 included a single Mi-17V-5 to Kenya (for its police); two Mi-35Ms to Nigeria (out of 12 ordered in September 2015); two Mi-35Ms to Mali (apparently two more are on order for delivery by 2019) and the first of 18 refurbished Su-30Ks to Angola (originally the order was for 12 but another six ex-Indian Air Force examples have been added).

Another contract that was confirmed was for two Pantsyr-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound) air defence systems for Equatorial Guinea. This is armed with twelve 57E6 surface-to-air guided missiles and two 2A38M30-millimetre automatic guns developed from the two-barreled 30mm GSh-30 gun.

Not mentioned by the Commission was an order announced in August last year for two Mi-171Sh armed helicopters for Burkina Faso’s military.

According to Kommersant, Russia expects its 2018 order book to be roughly the same as last year, although possibly a bit lighter due to American sanctions.

"Russia matches high standards and confirms its status of one of the leading providers on the world weapons market," Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week. "The scope of our military-technical cooperation keeps growing in geographic terms steadily. The number of partners has already exceeded one hundred countries."

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia is the second largest arms exporter after the United States, with a 22% share of the market between 2013 and 2017, compared to the US share of 34%. Third on the list is France with a 6.7% share.

Russian exports of major weapons decreased by 7.1% between 2008–12 and 2013–17, SIPRI said. “The fall was largely due to reductions in deliveries to some of its main recipients. Deliveries to Algeria and China, for example, continued throughout 2013–17 but were at lower levels than the previous five-year period. Weapons remain on order from Russia for both countries. In addition, while Russia made significant deliveries to Venezuela in 2013, deliveries dropped to nil for the period 2015–17.

“Russia has fewer arms export destinations than the USA. In 2013–17 Russia delivered major weapons to 47 states and to rebel forces in Ukraine. A total of 58% of Russia’s arms exports went to its top three recipients in 2013–17: India, China and Vietnam accounted for 35, 12 and 10%, respectively. At the regional level, Asia and Oceania accounted for 66% of Russian arms exports in 2013–17, Africa for 13%, the Middle East for 11%, Europe for 6.2% and the Americas for 4.2%,” SIPRI said.

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