Tags: Russian | MiGs | Sudan

Russian MiGs in Sudan

Friday, 04 January 2002 12:00 AM

Russia has cut a deal with Sudan to deliver a dozen advanced MiG-29 Fulcrum jet fighters to the war-torn country. The deal, announced Christmas Day in Moscow, also includes 14 MiG-29 jets for Yemen.

The transfer of fourth-generation MiG-29 Fulcrums to Sudan has raised concerns inside the Pentagon and is certain to alter any possible U.S. plans for air strikes at known terrorist bases inside the African nation.

Sudan was cited as one of a limited number of nations with direct links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. The U.S. State Department also listed Sudan as one of a few hostile nations known to be secretly developing biological weapons of mass destruction.

Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of the Committee on Military and Technical Cooperation with Foreign Countries, said that MiG had recently signed deals to deliver jets to Sudan and Yemen. Dmitriyev also noted that Moscow agreed to deliver 14 MiG-29 fighter jets to Yemen for $437 million.

MiG design bureau chief Nikolai Nikitin said that the Fulcrum fighter deal was signed Dec. 15 with Sudan, but he would not confirm the total number of fighters to be delivered.

Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, an independent defense think tank, confirmed that as many as 12 MiG-29s could be delivered to Sudan.

"Oil revenues flowing to the Khartoum regime have now enabled the purchase of highly advanced combat aircraft from Russia," stated Eric Reeves, a human rights advocate working at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

"As many as a dozen MiG-29s, one of the most potent fighter jets in the world today, will be shipped to Khartoum in an export deal recently concluded with the National Islamic Front regime. This represents an expenditure of approximately $400 million by one of the most indebted nations in the world," said Reeves.

There is no question the MiG-29 is a direct threat to U.S. airpower. The MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jet is considered to be equal to the best U.S.-made F-15 and F-18 jet fighters. Each Fulcrum is equipped with an arsenal of air-to-air weapons including the R-73 Archer and R-77 Adder missiles.

The Fulcrum fighters can also strike U.S. warships passing through the Suez Canal with advanced anti-ship missiles and could bomb targets deep inside Egypt or Saudi Arabia. In addition, the most-advanced version of the MiG-29 is capable of delivering nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

The Fulcrum is equipped with advanced phased array radar that can detect U.S.-made Tomahawk missiles, allowing the fighter to shoot down cruise missiles. The Fulcrum also has an advanced infrared detection system that can detect American F-117 and B-2 stealth bombers.

There is little debate that the MiG-29 purchase was financed by foreign oil sales. The long civil war in Sudan has claimed over a million lives in the last decade, spurred in part by disputes over oil reserves inside the poverty-stricken African state.

"The combat aircraft will be used for military purposes that certainly entail continued oil-related destruction in southern Sudan," noted Reeves.

"Though the MiG-29 is designed primarily for air-to-air combat, it has formidable air-to-ground capabilities. Depending upon the configuration of the jets actually purchased by Khartoum, these aircraft could be used with immensely deadly and destructive effect in southern Sudan," stated Reeves.

"They would likely be operationally deployed from El Obeid air base, the southernmost military air base that can be readily used by the Khartoum regime. All military aviation fuel for El Obeid is supplied by a nearby 10,000 barrel/day refinery that receives its entire crude oil supply from Talisman [Canada], Petronas [Malaysia] and China National Petroleum Corp.," said Reeves.

Oil revenues from sales to China enabled Sudan to purchase 34 new jet fighters from Chinese manufacturers. Since 2000, the Sudanese Air Force has acquired $100 million worth of Shenyang jet fighters. The Chinese jets sold to Sudan include a dozen Shenyang F-7 super-sonic fighters, highly improved versions of the famed Russian MiG-21 Fishbed.

Information provided by Aviation Week and Space Technology confirmed that Sudan has acquired 34 new fighters from China since 2000. The newly acquired Chinese jet fighters doubled the combat size of the tiny Sudanese air force.

It is unlikely that the Sudanese air force can operate the advanced MiG-29 Fulcrums, raising the possibility that Moscow will also supply mercenary pilots to fly the fourth-generation fighter jets. Russia has frequently been accused of providing mercenary pilots to other nearby African client states.

In 2000, Eritrea stated that Moscow supplied a large number of mercenary pilots to neighboring rival Ethiopia. The Eritrean diplomatic complaint to Moscow included a list, naming the Russian mercenaries working for Ethiopia.

There is no question that Russia is committed to supplying the Khartoum regime with advanced hardware. Russia has already supplied a large number of MiG-24 Hind helicopter gunships to Sudan.

Libyan and Iraqi pilots working for the Sudanese air force reportedly man the Hind gunships. The helicopter gunships have been used by the Sudanese air force to attack unarmed refugee camps.

In addition, modified Russian Antonov cargo planes frequently bomb U.N. food aid flights and refugee camps in eastern and southern Sudan. The Antonov attacks are timed to catch U.N. relief flights unloading food on the ground inside Sudan. The Antonov bombing raids are coordinated by Russian- and Chinese-made radar sites operating inside Sudan.

The U.N. has repeatedly suspended aid flights into Sudan after Antonov bombers attacked unarmed U.N. airstrips. Although the U.N. has issued direct complaints to Khartoum about the attacks, there has been no mention of the internationally sponsored oil war.

"The international oil companies involved in development in southern Sudan, including Sweden's Lundin Petroleum and Austria's OMV, have maintained that their presence is beneficial for all Sudanese," stated Eric Reeves.

"They conveniently overlook the numerous human rights reports, from many sources, on the scorched-earth warfare that serves as their security in the southern oil regions. They also ignore the devastating impact their presence has had on the humanitarian relief efforts in the oil regions.

"These companies inevitably defend themselves by arguing that they are 'constructively engaged' in the country. What Khartoum's viciously extravagant purchase of MiG-29s shows is that this is absurdly disingenuous," said Reeves.

"Despite large new oil revenues, Sudan remains one of the world's most indebted nations, in desperate need of agricultural investment in particular. Instead of investing in economic development, Khartoum is investing in the means to effect a final military solution to their southern problem," concluded Reeves.

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Russia has cut a deal with Sudan to deliver a dozen advanced MiG-29 Fulcrum jet fighters to the war-torn country. The deal, announced Christmas Day in Moscow, also includes 14 MiG-29 jets for Yemen. The transfer of fourth-generation MiG-29 Fulcrums to Sudan has raised...
Friday, 04 January 2002 12:00 AM
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