Friday, January 30, 2009

Chinese arms are selling well in Africa

China military equipment exports booming to Africa Continent

by Andrei Chang

Increasing quantities of Chinese-made military equipment have been finding their way to Africa, traded for oil, mineral resources and even fishing rights. Zambia has used its copper resources to pay China in a number of military deals, for instance, and Kenya has been negotiating with China to trade fishing rights for arms.

Among the most popular Chinese military exports to Africa are the J-7, K-8 and Y-12 aircraft, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to operate. China sees those countries already armed with the K-8 and J-7 aircraft as potential customers for its new FC-1 fighters.

Sources from the Russian and South African military industries have told UPI they are now keeping an eye on China's FC-1 fighter sales. The Russian military believes the FC-1 is inferior to its Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 SMT and its Sukhoi Su-30 MKA. But the Russians cannot match China's deal-making ability, as the Chinese are accepting oil and minerals in lieu of cash to pay for their equipment.

A delegation from the Nigerian air force told the author at the Cape Town Air Show in South Africa last September that their country was negotiating with China to purchase K-8 trainer aircraft. The country imported Chinese J-7 fighters in 2006 and has expressed an interest in the FC-1.

Zimbabwe's air force delegation told the author they were negotiating the purchase of one squadron of FC-1 fighters from China. Zimbabwe is already equipped with K-8 trainers and J-7 fighters. In August last year one Zimbabwean K-8 trainer crashed because of pilot error, the air force representative admitted.

The current problem lies in how Zimbabwe will be able to pay for the purchase of FC-1 fighters. A source from the South African military industry says China is interested in Zimbabwe's zinc and aluminum mines.

In recent years, a large number of Chinese companies have been involved in the development of mines in Angola as well. Military observers in South Africa told the author there are many Chinese workers in Angola, and China already has become the largest importer of the country's crude oil.

A source from the Angolan military said the country was very interested in Chinese arms. He said the Angolan air force needed entry-level trainer aircraft, and therefore was discussing a deal to import Chinese aircraft. The Angolan air force also intends to acquire new-generation advanced fighters.

A source from the South African military industry said Angola has at least eight Sukhoi Su-27 fighters. Since Russia denies having exported these planes to Angola, they are believed to be secondhand Sukhoi Su-27 fighters from Ukraine or Belarus, both of which have good military ties with Angola.

Since Angola has rich oil resources -- and combat capability is not a top priority in its choice of fighter aircraft -- there is a good chance the country may trade its oil for Chinese-made fighters.

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