A Zimbabwean delegation has visited the Ulan-Ude Aviation Factory, part of the Russian Helicopters group, to view the VIP modification of Mi-171E helicopters.
Russian state defence holding company Rostec on 21 March said the delegation also got acquainted with the terms and conditions of sales and post-sales maintenance options.
“The Zimbabwean guests have been acquainted with technological aspects and production facilities of the factory and the aircraft models assembled. A trial flight aboard the VVIP-modification of Mi-171E helicopter has been provided for the members of the delegation. The Zimbabwean guests and the factory’s authorities have discussed the terms of prospective sales contracts,” Rostec said.
“Foreign buyers are attracted to Russian helicopters by some specific flight-performance and technical features of the aircraft that are crucial under certain conditions. Our helicopters are suitable for use in isolated or hard-to-reach areas with limited landing spots and lack of special equipment to rely on. The Zimbabwe delegation was satisfied with the visit to Ulan-Ude while the members of the delegation were impressed by the scope and technical equipment of the factory and the quality of the manufactured products,” said Ulan-Ude Aviation Factory Managing Director Leonid Belych.
Zimbabwe has operated Mi-17, Mi-24 and Mi-35 helicopters.
It is not clear if Zimbabwe intends to purchase VIP helicopters, especially as it struggles greatly with its budget. In November last year, for instance, Air Vice Marshal Jacob Nzvede said due to a limited budget the Air Force of Zimbabwe might not have enough aircraft to cover the 2018 elections.
Speaking at the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs last year, he said the Air Force has $75.1 million of debt and needs $3.5 million to maintain its ageing helicopter fleet.
“Last year (for 2017) I was given a budget of $43 100 000 including employment costs of $32 320 000, leaving me with only $10.7 million as an operational budget for the Air Force,” Nzvede said.
“If I may inform the committee that we also have $75.1 million debts incurred on contractual obligations, utility bills, goods and services.”
“With a $10.7 million budget there is need for you to sympathise with the Air Force because we require rations and uniforms like the Zimbabwe National Army. The Air Force is in a difficult situation and obligations like training will be difficult to achieve.
“The budget did not include harmonised elections expected to take place next year, and aircraft requires financial injections. We need fuel for aircraft. If you announce elections today we might not have enough helicopters and aircraft and so there is need to have funding soon. If we can have $4.5 million for harmonised elections it will assist us to effectively participate in them,” he said.
The Defence committee was also told that the Air Force needed $2.2 million for aviation fuel.