A shocking $750 million later the Uganda Airforce has now acquired 8 sukhoi-30 jet fighters from Russia. The multiple role, all weather jets, also known as the Flanker C, by NATO, Will provide the air force with air to air, and air to ground deep interdiction capabilities. It is currently in service with the Russian, Chinese, Indonesian and Venezuelan Air forces.
In one swoop the air force has leapt to the front of the regional queue as the most likely to be able to shock and awe the ‘enemy’. But it’s the price of this capability that has shocked the public. Considering that the state of the economy is not that good, health care is a mess and education is going to the dogs. Each plane is an estimated $35-45 million, plus spares and maintenance and the picture gets bigger and bigger.
The government initially denied they were buying the jets, then they said they needed them to defend the county from unidentified foes (cynics amongst us wonder how jets are used to protect oil fields from people on the ground).
Then the story got murkier: the president announced that they had been bought on the premise that they would be paid for with money from the capital gains taxes that the oil companies will pay……..the case is in arbitration as we speak (counting eggs before they hatch?) However the ministry of energy says that the capital gains tax was promised to them to build a dam at Karuma Falls. Hmmm, now how will the money withdrawn from the Bank of Uganda’s foreign exchange reserves, without parliamentary approval, to complete the purchase be replaced?
There have been mishaps reported in the press over the last few weeks involving the jet fighters. One was hilariously funny: Entebbe is a gazetted bird sanctuary area and a bird watchers dream, now that requires the airport to employ a bird control officer to keep them away from aircraft during take off and landing. The story goes that he signalled the air force that the coast was clear and take off of jets could commence. As nature would have it, birds popped up suddenly and without warning and got sucked into one of the jet fighter engines. The air force was livid and they demanded the arrest of the bird control officer! Honestly!