Five South African Air Force (SAAF) officers are undergoing pilot training in Russia and more could soon be on their way as the two countries step up defence ties.
There are also 12 South Africans studying naval engineering in Russia as part of a wider political push to establish closer military and industrial ties between the two countries.
In talks that ended yesterday in Pretoria Russia indicated it was keen to work with South Africa on electronic warfare, an area in which Moscow has proven highly effective in its campaign against Ukraine.
Russia’s new role in South Africa’s military was spoken about at Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) by Dr Sam Gulube, Secretary for Defence – the country’s most senior civil servant in the Ministry of Defence. Delegations led Gulube and Anatoly Punchuk, Deputy Director of the Russia’s Federal Service for Military Technical Co-operation concluded a two-day meeting in Pretoria yesterday.
Russia and South Africa are trying to build closer defence ties as a follow-up on the political goodwill between the leadership of the two countries. Both countries are members of the BRICS grouping which brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and the ANC has long-standing ties with Moscow. With western sanctions on Russia, Moscow is keen to build links with countries that are not NATO members.
The official meeting of the SA-Russia Joint Defence Commission was preceded by a two-day gathering of Russian and South African defence industry executives. The Russians are particularly keen on co-operating on research and development projects, particularly on electronic warfare, Gulube said at a joint press conference with Punchuk.
In a sign of a search for areas of co-operation, the inter-governmental committee has working groups on education and training, military technical co-operation, protection of intellectual property and joint military exercises. The militaries of both countries will invite each other as observers to their exercises.
Yesterday’s annual inter-governmental meeting on defence was the ninth to discuss ways in which to build defence ties. Three years ago Denel opened the first approved centre for the servicing of Russian helicopters in Africa. South Africa’s Paramount Group has a number of agreements with Russian companies.