Russia, China compete in arms sales to Africa
Ghana traditionally has been a client country of Western weapons manufacturers. It does have some Russian equipment in service, however, including SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles, Zu-23-2 air defense machine guns and D-30 122-mm howitzers.
The People’s Republic of China is now promoting its latest gun-launched laser-guided projectiles on the African continent. At least one African country is already equipped with the Chinese-made GP1 155mm laser-guided projectiles, which are a Chinese version of Russia’s Krasnopol GLLGP, the technology for which was transferred to China by Russia’s KBP Design Bureau in 1997.
Chinese arms are also actively penetrating North Africa’s Arab countries. Algeria has been a typical purchaser of Russian equipment. The Algerian army has 320 T54/55 Main Battle Tanks and 350 T72 Main Battle Tanks, as well as AT-3, AT-4 and AT-5 anti-tank missiles, 289 BMP-1/2 IFVs and SAM-7, SAM-8, SAM-9 and SAM-14 ground missiles.
The Algerian air force is armed with 43 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21MFs, 30 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23B/Es, 28 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23Fs, 20 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29s, 10 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25s, 38 Sukhoi Su-24Ms, approximately 60 Mi-17/171s and 31 Mi-24s. The Algerian navy has two Kilo submarines, three Nanuchka II missile swift boats and three Project 1159.2 frigates.
The Algerian navy also has three Chinese Project C-802 missile boats, built in 2002, with C-802 ship-to-ship missiles fitted on-board. These are the first such boats to be exported to Africa.
As their economic strength continues to grow, African countries will need weapons of better quality and performance. Russia will still find a huge market for its high-tech equipment in such countries as Ethiopia, Angola, Libya, Yemen and Algeria. In recent years, it has begun to sell advanced platforms like the Sukhoi Su-30MKA, the Sukhoi Su-27SK and the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29SMT to these countries.
The Algerian air force has ordered 28 Sukhoi Su-30MKAs, which will be the most advanced Russian fighter aircraft on the African continent. The Bars phased array radar and AL-31FP TVC engines fitted on these aircraft are of the same standard as those on the Malaysian air force’s Sukhoi Su-30MKM.
The Ethiopian air force has at least 10 Sukhoi Su-27SKs, which have been seen at its Bebre Zeyt Airport. These inevitably will need upgrading. Also of interest is the fact that two Sukhoi Su-27 fighters were seen at Asmara International Airport of Eritrea, despite the fact that Russia never officially exported Sukhoi Su-27 fighters to this country. Eritrea enjoys very good relations with the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, however.
Yemen received 32 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29SMT fighters from Russia in 2006-07. Its air force also has 66 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 fighters that will need repair service.
In the future, China’s J-11B and FC-1 will be possible alternatives to Russia’s Sukhoi Su-27 and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29SMT fighters. The low price of Chinese fighters, supported by China’s strategy of trading arms for oil, determines that Russia will continue to face a powerful competitor in the African aviation market.