Angola’s Scrapyard Arms Deals

Angola recently became the biggest African customer for arms purchases from Russia, with contracts valued at one billion dollars. Nevertheless, while weapons are being stock-piled, the Angolan Armed Forces experience a lack of basic resources at the majority of army bases.


According to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti, the contracts include the supply of 18 Sukhoi-30 fighter planes, as well as Mi-17 transport helicopters, light arms, munitions, tanks, pieces of artillery and the construction of an arms factory in Angola.

“The Su-30 fighters will be form the backbone of the Angolan Air Force’s fighting power,” the newspaper said.

But the aircraft mentioned in the contract were manufactured in the 1990’s, and delivered to the Indian Air Force while it was awaiting the manufacture of the more advanced Su-30MKI. The planes were returned to Russia in 2007, and since then they have been stored at a maintenance facility in Belarus. Rosoboronexport, the company responsible for Russian military equipment exports, initially suggested selling the planes to Sudan and Vietnam, but neither was interested.

Various critics have questioned what benefit there might be to Angola in buying second hand aircraft that have been mothballed for several years. “What we see is that Russia and its leaders, always try to offload their useless, outmoded and obsolete machinery and equipment to Africa, and surprisingly, the Angolan leadership is accepting this!” said Shaabani Nzori, a political analyst in Moscow.


The State of the Air Force

A brief investigation by Maka Angola revealed that the Air Force needs a complete overhaul from the basic structural level  to save it from its dysfunctional state.

In January, the MI-25-35 that was to have participated in the Air Force’s 37th anniversary fly-past developed a fault while taking off. The aircraft had been faulty for about four years, but was repaired in less than 48 hours, just for the commemorative event. This decision by the Air Force commanders put the lives of the crew at risk.

According to internal investigations, most of the accidents sustained by the Air Force fleet have been the result of obsolete aircraft and poor maintenance.

In February, the only oxygen transport vehicle belonging to the fighter-bomber Air Regiment broke down. Without oxygen for the fighters, the base in Catumbela, Benguela province, was unable to carry out routine flights.

Nevertheless, the government recently acquired 18 new fighter-bombers despite apparently not being interested in having two oxygen supply vehicles in order to keep flights operating at its main military air base.

Moreover, the purchase by the Air Force of obsolete Russian equipment has occurred again and again. In 2012, while on trial in London,  the arms dealer Arkady Gaydamak revealed that he had sold to Angola several helicopters that were destined for the scrapheap, for US$70 million.

“I was about to get rid of them as scrap, but a few months later [Pierre] Falcone said he had found a new client in Angola, as a result of his meeting with the son of ex-President Mitterand.”

Gaydamak also explained that he had delivered the helicopters on credit. “After this gift, access to the President became easier for me as well as for Falcone,” he said.

Gaydamak and Falcone’s privileged relationship with President José Eduardo dos Santos led to the famous Angolagate scandal, which was the subject of a long-running investigation by the French judiciary.


Money  Down the Drain

In 2013 as in previous years, the Defence Ministry has received the biggest slice of the Angolan State Budget The new contracts represent about 16.5 percent of the defence budget, which totals US$5.7 million. Although Angola has Africa’s third biggest defence budget, the Angolan Armed Forces are in an alarming state. Maka Angola knows that President Dos Santos constantly receives complaints about basic matters such as the chronic shortage of food, uniforms, boots and rain gear for troops.

The President has also been informed of appalling living conditions in most military bases, in contrast to the life of luxury enjoyed by a small group of generals.

So far the Angolan government has made no comment on the news of the military contracts with Russia. MPLA party members quoted by  Voice of America say they are unaware of the contracts.