Russia keen to manufacture military hardware with South Africa

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Russia has expressed interest in jointly producing military equipment with South Africa, as South Africa is the leading defence hardware manufacturer on the continent.

This is according to Dmitry Shugaev, the head of the Russian Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation, who made the comments on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on Thursday.

“There are some promising cooperation projects related to the joint development and manufacture of weapons and military equipment both for our countries’ national armed forces and in the interests of third countries,” he told reporters.

Shugayev said that South Africa has the most well-developed military industry in Africa, and Russia was interested in cooperating with it, taking into account the level of bilateral relations and cooperation within the BRICS group, TASS reports.

Head of Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms exporter, Alexander Mikheev, recently said that African countries account for a third of the holding company’s order book (some $14 billion out of a total $55 billion). Rosoboronexport said it planned to conduct meetings with the top leadership of 15 countries on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit. It would tell African partners about the experience of employing Russian-made equipment during operations in Syria.

In a strong signal of its willingness to engage with South Africa, the Russian Air Force on Wednesday sent two Tu-160 strategic bombers to Air Force Base Waterkloof in the type’s first visit to the continent. They flew non-stop from Engels air base in Russia.

Russia this week hosted the first Russia-Africa Summit at the coastal city of Sochi, with most African leaders attending. Although the main push was for nuclear energy, oil, gas, agriculture, and diamond deals to be signed, Russia also heavily promoted its military capabilities. The Kremlin said $12.5 billion worth of deals were struck during the summit, although most were merely memorandums of understanding.

Before the summit, Cameroon indicated that it was interested in acquiring Pantsir-S1 air defence systems, with negotiations still underway, while Ethiopia recently agreed to by a Pantsir system and Russia and Egypt were holding talks regarding the delivery of weapons and Ka-52 combat helicopters for the Egyptian Navy’s Mistral class amphibious assault ships.

Rosoboronexport had a major presence at the summit, exhibiting a wide range of capabilities from companies such as Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defence Corporation, NPK Uralvagonzavod, NPK Techmash and Proekt-Technika Corporation.

Scale models of equipment such as the Yak-130 combat training aircraft, the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft gun/missile system, the Tor-M2KM SAM system and the Mi-171SH military transport helicopter were displayed along with small arms and equipment such as Kalashnikov assault rifles, including the latest AK-200-series, GP-34 grenade launcher, Vityaz-SN submachine gun and sniper rifles, as well as ORSIS civilian and service weapons popular with police units.

Full-scale models of Russian military hardware exhibited in the outdoor display area included the Tiger, BPK-Ural and Typhoon protected vehicles, Mi-35P helicopter, MiG-35 multi-role fighter and Ansat utility helicopter (demonstrated at Sochi Airport).

Counter-unmanned aerial vehicle systems produced by Rostec’s Avtomatika Concern and able to intercept and suppress small and micro UAVs were displayed including the Sapsan-Bekas, Luch-PRO, Pishchal-PRO, Taran-PRO and Rubezh-Avtomatika. These were touted as being able to defend infrastructure such as airfields, fuel, energy and nuclear facilities.

“Rosoboronexport maintains military-technical cooperation with almost all countries of the continent and we are well aware of their needs. Our twenty African partners account for about a third of our order book, more than $14 billion, and this figure shows a growing trend. In 2019 alone, we held more than 20 meetings with top representatives of African countries and hosted about 30 African delegations at the ARMY and MAKS exhibitions. Their results suggest that Africa is very interested in Russian weapons, and we can offer our products to meet any contemporary challenge to security,” the company said.

Rosoboronexport appreciates the reserved attitude of its African partners towards various anti-Russian sanctions, which makes the continent open to fair competition, said Alexander Mikheev, Rosoboronexport’s Director General.

Rosoboronexport said it was offering solutions to many of Africa’s problems, including terrorism, irregular migration, drug trafficking, smuggling and crime



“Rosoboronexport is now ready to develop cooperation with African partners on unique terms. We offer not only direct supplies of Russian defence products, but also the implementation of various infrastructure projects related to space activities, small arms and ammunition plants, as well as maintenance and repair facilities for all services of the armed forces,” Mikheev said.