A large number of Russian defence and paramilitary equipment suppliers are displaying at the seventh Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition currently taking place at Air Force Base Waterkloof.
Russian Technologies State Corporation has been appointed as the organiser of the united Russian national exposition at AAD. The products of such organisations as Rosoboronexport, Russian Helicopters, Radioelectronic Technologies, Engineering Technology Scientific Production Concern, SPC Uralvagonzavod and others are exhibiting under the corporation’s auspices.
These companies are presenting state-of-the-art civilian and military equipment which they will be demonstrating to the delegates of the many African and Middle Eastern countries that are attending the exhibition.
Speaking at a media briefing, Alexander Fomin, Head of the Russian Delegation and Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, provided some background to their presence at AAD.
Fomin explained that Russia has a rich history in Africa as a result of supporting various liberation movements. “The Soviet Union participated in the liberation movements and supported the struggles for independence and self determination of many African countries and peoples.” In addition, a considerable number of local military personnel, including commanding officers, have graduated from or continue training in military colleges of the Russian Ministry of Defence.
“The goal is to keep safety in the country and this needs strong security forces. Russia is there to assist,” Fomin said. He added that South Africa was a powerful nation with a well-developed armament industry, which Russia would cooperate with. He said he would not like to see buyer/seller relationship when it came to defence sales “but a partnership in co-operation.”
“We are among few countries that are able to offer cooperation along different lines, be it space technologies, supplies of any types of weapons and military equipment or joint development and manufacturing of new products. Our solutions for the region are among most optimal if judged by cost-effectiveness,” said Alexander Mikheev, head of the joint delegation of the Russian Technologies State Corporation and Deputy Director General of Rosoboronexport.
An example of this co-operation was the signing of an agreement between Russian Helicopters and Denel Aviation on Wednesday morning. In terms of the agreement, Denel Aviation will, in future, be responsible for maintenance and repair services on helicopters produced by Russian Helicopters, the world’s most prolific manufacturer of rotary wing aircraft.
Over 500 military and civilian helicopters of Soviet/Russian origin are thought to be still operating in Africa. Fomin added that he saw many more possibilities for co-operation with South Africa.
Russia was also looking at offering a range of new Russian military and defence products to the rest of Africa, as well as upgrading existing equipment. Of particular importance was the need for helicopters. This was as a result of the growing requirement for helicopters for humanitarian assistance and safety missions. As transportation and access in many African countries remains under-developed, the Russian delegation said that helicopters were in demand on the continent.
Russia has been taking part in Africa’s largest defence and security exhibition since 2000. “The exhibition in the Republic of South Africa is the largest one on the continent and it plays an extremely important role in strengthening our positions in Africa,” said Mikheev.
“We have planned a very tight schedule of meetings at this exhibition on many issues concerning air defence, air, land and sea systems. And we expect it to be very fruitful.”
With many countries on the continent having been long-time Soviet clients, and having vast experience in operating soviet and Russian-made defence systems, the Russians clearly favour themselvesto win many new contracts.