Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA July-August 2017 Contents applications for year-round utilisation.
There are a number of ideas of how to form
a would-be Be-200 squadron operating in the
interest of several Asia-Pacific countries. Under
consideration is setting up a local company that
would own a fleet of Be-200 aircraft and wet-lease
them out on a “by the hour” principle. Indonesia
is the primary candidate where such a leasing
company could be established, since that country
suffers the most from fires in the region. But the
Indonesians want the Be-200 to be provided in
a convertible form so as to configure the aircraft
for various tasks, including passenger and cargo
transportation and medical evacuation.
Indonesia is an essential part of the larger Asia-
Pacific market to which the Russians have been
shipping most of their arms exports. “It’s not
only our historic market, but also a fast-growing
one”, Kladov stresses. Moscow believes that
the Indonesian and Vietnamese economies will
be expanding most rapidly, outpacing India and
China. Yet these big countries already have large
economies and are long-standing customers for
Russian equipment and technology.
As for Vietnam, it is still not certain whether
local industry will continue to license production
of Project 1241 Molniya (“Lightning”) large missile
boats. The Ba Son dockyard in Ho Chi Minh City
has already completed six hulls ordered previously
(in addition to ready-to-use examples acquired
from Russia), and expects the navy to firm up the
option for four more. This depends on results of
the ongoing fight for funding within the Vietnamese
armed forces. At any rate, Vietnam has been and
will remain a large operator of and an important
customer for Russian equipment.
Thailand is a different story. A few years ago, this
kingdom was considered a “no-go” for Russians
arms sales managers. But the world has been
changing. Today, the Royal Thai Air Force operates
two types of Russian aircraft. Last year it took
delivery of two Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional jets
in a VVIP version. The arrival of a third SSJ100 is
expected later this year. Thai Superjets are flown
by military crews as personal transport for the
defense ministry’s top brass. Local airlines have
been watching closely SSJ100 operations with the
intention to acquire a quantity for their own fleets.
Another promising area for Moscow is that
of rotorcraft. The Royal Thai Air Force is a new
operator of the Mil Mi-17 helicopter. The Russian
side does not reveal details of the agreement with
Thailand on these - apart from saying that there will
be more shipments into that country.
Despite having bought two types of Russian
equipment, Thailand still experiences what Russian
sales managers describe as “psychological barriers”.
They arise from the fact that many Thai officers have
been educated at US military academies. “They
are mentally attached to the United States. At the
same time, their country has a tremendous interest
in Russian equipment because it is more suitable
for the geographic and climatic conditions, more
reliable and simple in operation, and, importantly,
considerably less expensive.” Their interest lies with
armored vehicles, antiaircraft systems, helicopters,
and, most of all, Sukhoi fighters, Yakovlev trainers
and Beriev amphibians.
Another difficult customer (which, nonetheless,
also buys Russian equipment) is Myanmar. In May,
Rosoboronexport officials confirmed that Yakovlev
Yak-130 jet trainer shipments have occurred. They
took place earlier this year. The initial batch is
made up of three aircraft. Thus Myanmar became
the fifth user of the type after Russia, Algeria,
Belarus and Bangladesh. Myanmar’s order is
estimated to be between ten and sixteen aircraft.
This year, Bangladesh is expected to firm up an
option for eight aircraft to supplement sixteen
In March this year, Russian sources announced
that ten Myanmar air force MiG-29 fighters had
been upgraded at RAC MiG facilities near Moscow.
Referred to as the MiG-29SM (Modernised), this
is a lower-cost upgrade solution compared to the
more expensive MiG-29UPG that India has been
implementing. Details on the MiG-29SM are yet to
emerge, but the airplane is likely to keep the original
Phazotron-NI I R N -019E radar, albeit with some
technology insertions and part replacements.
Among other things, a cross-fleet upgrade
would bring the Myanmar aircraft to a single
standard. In 2001 that country signed for ten
MiG-29 single seat fighters and two MiG-29UB
operational trainers. In December 2009, Myanmar
awarded RAC MiG a follow-on order for ten MiG-
29s plus six more advanced MiG-29SE aircraft
and four operational trainers. Shipments under
the second order took place in late 2011-early
2012, with the last pair of twin seaters arriving
in March 2013. This brought the Myanmar’s
Fulcrum fleet to 32 aircraft. RAC MiG’s offer was
to upgrade the whole fleet of single seaters to a
common standard. Moscow is now offering similar
upgrades to Bangladesh that procured ten MiG-
29s at the turn of the century, and Malaysia, which
acquired eighteen in 1994.
DefenceReviewAsia | JULY/AUG 2017 15
Of aerospace products, Indonesia has already procured from Russia five
Su-27SK single seat interceptors and five Su-30MK2 twin seat multirole
fighters along with thirty Mi-35P and Mi-17 helicopters.
Afghan National Army Mil Mi-17 helicopters from the Special Mission Wing.
22/06/2017 1:19 PM
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