Over the past decades, Russia has significantly expanded its military-technical cooperation with various African countries. This collaboration encompasses a wide range of areas, including arms sales, military training, joint exercises, and defense industry partnerships.
The partnership between Russia and African nations has not only fostered strategic relationships but has also presented opportunities for technological advancement and regional security.
This year, Russian defense exports are celebrating an important date: the 70th anniversary of the system of military-technical cooperation (MTC) with foreign countries.
Over the years, the MTC has allowed Russia to become one of the leading suppliers of weapons and military equipment to the world market.
Russia is the world’s second largest exporter of weaponry in the world, after the United States, accounting for 20 percent of global arms sales and $15 billion per year in revenue.
At the meetings of the Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation with Foreign Countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin outlines the results of work in the field of MTC and plans for the further development of MTC with key partners.
President Putin explains that Russia will continue to actively pursue military technical cooperation with all interested nations, including in the most high-tech segments in all classes of weapons – air force, counter-air defence, ground forces, navy and others.
Russo-African Arms Sales and Defense Equipment:
One of the key aspects of military-technical cooperation between Russia and African countries is arms sales and the provision of defense equipment. Russia has established itself as a major supplier of military hardware, offering a diverse range of weaponry, including aircraft, tanks, naval vessels, and small arms.
African countries, often seeking to modernize their armed forces or address security challenges, have turned to Russia for cost-effective solutions.
Four years ago, Russia disclosed that it has sold defence equipment worth USD 14 billion to Africa, amounting to 30-40% of Russia’s total defence exports.
At the time, China was leading the pack as the most favorite weapons developing country in Africa.
Despite war with Ukraine, Russia has overtaken China as the major arms supplier to Sub-Saharan African militaries.
Russia has rapidly become the primary arms supplier to Sub-Saharan African militaries, despite ongoing armed conflicts with Ukraine. This development has seen the nation overtake China as the leading arms provider in the region. Russia has actively sought to expand its presence in Africa, and this has been mirrored in the increased supply of weaponry to African nations.
Mali, Uganda, Nigeria, Sudan, and Angola have been prominent recipients of Russian arms in Africa.
Additionally, Angola has received armored vehicles, artillery systems, and patrol boats from Russia.
Algeria, for instance, has procured advanced fighter jets, air defense systems, and naval vessels from Russia.
While Egypt, Algeria has also strengthened its military capabilities through the acquisition of Russian helicopters, aircraft, and missile systems.
In a recent interview of Rosoboronexport Director General Alexander Mikheev, by the Russian Aviation & Military Guide (RAMG) on occasion of the 70th anniversary of the public administration system for military technical cooperation with foreign states, he explained that the “nations of Africa, both North and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Russia’s friendship with African nations is based on decades of good and trustful relationships. Our government has always supported Africa and helped their people to fight for justice, freedom and independence.
Russia will continue to help African nations in their development, enhancement of their economic potential, welfare of their citizens and upholding their national interests. In a multipolar world, Africa is our reliable partner and ally.”
When asked what the most brilliant pieces of armament that Rosoboronexport promotes on foreign markets today, Director General Alexander Mikheev explained that the Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A military transport aircraft, the Sukhoi Su-35 are the cornerstone for all relationships.
Also, the Sukhoi Su-30SME fighters, the Sukhoi Su-34E fighter-bomber, the Kamov Ka-52E combat scout attack helicopter, the Mil Mi-17 military transport helicopters and guided air delivered ordnance for destruction of air, ground and surface targets are in demand. There is great demand for Russian unmanned aircraft systems – Orion-E reconnaissance and reconnaissance/ strike unmanned aircraft systems, Orlan-30 and Orlan-10E reconnaissance UAVs and Kub-E kamikaze drone.
“Representatives of the air defence forces are interested in a wide range of anti-aircraft missile systems and complexes of various ranges of fire: the S-400 Triumf air defense missile systems, the Antey-4000 air defense missile system, the S-350E ’Vityaz’ air defense missile system, ’Viking’ air defense missile systems, ’Buk-M2E’ air defense missile systems, ’Tor-E2’ and ’Tor-M2E’ ADMS, the Pantsir-S1 self-propelled air defense missile/ gun system, the Igla-S and Verba MANPADS. Russian electronic warfare and countermeasures equipment – radar stations, electronic suppression systems and UAV countermeasures equipment – are also in high demand on the market.”
Russian allies are interested in the T-90S and T-90MS main battle tanks, the ’SprutSDM-1’ light amphibious tank, the BMPT tank support combat vehicle, the TOS-1A heavy flamethrower system, ’Tornado-G’ MLRS, ’Msta-S’ self-propelled howitzer, ’Tigr’ and ’Typhoon’ special purpose armored vehicles, anti-tank systems and small arms.
“Among Russian naval systems Rosoboronexport notes customer interest in the Rubez-ME coastal tactical missile system, The PantsirME air-defence missile and artillery system, the Club-S and Club-N integrated missile system, as well as modern ships and submarines capable of carrying them on board: the Project 22356 multipurpose frigate, the Project 20382 multipurpose corvette, the Project 22160 patrol ship for distant sea areas, the Karakurt-E small missile ship and others.”
Defense Industry Partnerships:
In addition to arms sales, Russia has pursued defense industry partnerships with African countries. These collaborations involve joint production, technology transfer, and co-development of defense systems. Such partnerships aim to build domestic defense industries, promote technology transfer, and enhance the self-sufficiency of African nations in meeting their security requirements.
Uganda’s collaboration with Russia for the establishment of a helicopter maintenance and assembly plant is an example of such partnerships. This initiative not only enhances Uganda’s defense capabilities but also promotes industrial development and job creation within the country.
In April 2020, Russia and South Africa signed a military cooperations agreement to jointly manufacture military equipment. This is a significant milestone considering that South Africa is one of Africa’s Leading maker of weaponry since having a matured defence industrial complex.
Alexander Mikheev noted that Russia is still ready for comprehensive and equal cooperation for the implementation of the most ambitious joint projects in the military-technical sphere.
“Of course a significant impetus for military-technical cooperation development with African nations has been given by long-established Russia-Africa summit hosted and held under the personal supervision of the President of the Russian Federation.”
Despite difficult times and unprecedented sanctions from a number of Western countries, according to Vladimir Putin, Russia has managed to maintain and develop its positions on the global arms market.
‘Russia has not only preserved but also strengthened its leading position on the global arms market, primarily in the high-tech sector, amid tough competition, – said President of Russia. – Relying on our rich experience in this sphere, we must continue to consistently build up our military technology cooperation with foreign states.’
The Russian MTС policy is aimed at the confident development and improvement of all mechanisms of interaction with partner states. Vladimir Putin emphasizes: ‘We will certainly continue to closely follow the trends of the global arms market, to offer our partners new flexible and convenient forms of cooperation.
This is all the more important in the current conditions, when our competitors often resort to unfair methods such as putting pressure on or blackmailing customers, also through the use of political sanctions, so as to force them to buy their military equipment, even though it is more expensive and inferior to our products in quality.
Military Training and Education:
Beyond arms sales, Russia has played an integral role in providing military training and education to African personnel. Russian military academies and institutions have welcomed African officers and enlisted personnel for specialized training programs.
These programs cover a wide range of disciplines, including officer training, language courses, technical skills development, and counterterrorism operations.
African countries, such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, have benefited from Russian training programs.
These initiatives not only enhance the operational capabilities of African armed forces but also foster closer ties between the military establishments of both Russia and African nations.
Joint Military Exercises and Cooperation:
To further strengthen military ties, Russia has engaged in joint military exercises with African countries. These exercises promote interoperability, exchange of best practices, and the development of joint operational strategies.
They also provide an opportunity for African forces to gain exposure to advanced Russian military techniques and equipment.
For instance, in recent years, Russia has conducted joint naval exercises with Egypt and Algeria in the Mediterranean Sea, reinforcing maritime security cooperation, as well as with Sudan where it is exploring naval basing rights.
Russia has also engaged in joint anti-piracy exercises with naval forces from countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, and South Africa. These exercises contribute to maritime safety in critical waterways and build mutual trust among participating nations.
The military-technical cooperation between Russia and African countries has been expanding and diversifying, covering various aspects of defense and security.
The arms sales, military training programs, joint exercises, and defense industry partnerships have bolstered the capabilities of African armed forces and facilitated technological advancements.
While Russia’s engagement in military-technical cooperation in Africa has drawn attention, it is essential to acknowledge that such collaborations are not exclusive to Russia.
Other global powers, including the United States, China, Turkey, India and European nations, also engage in similar activities with African countries.
As African nations continue to address evolving security challenges and seek to modernize their armed forces, partnerships in military-technical cooperation with various nations, including Russia, offer opportunities for capacity-building, technology transfer, and regional security cooperation.