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The Ethiopian Air Force has recently received two Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, marking a significant addition to its military power. While the acquisition brings much-needed fighter jets to the Ethiopian force, experts have raised concerns about the age and capabilities of the aircraft.

According to African Defence Experts, the two Su-30s are likely variants of the Su-30K originally built for the Indian Air Force (IAF). These early-model Su-30Ks were eventually sold back to Russia in 2007 as the IAF upgraded to the more advanced Su-30MKI.

Post the negotiations between India and Russia, 12 ex-Indian Su-30Ks found their way to the Angolan Air Force. However, six of these aircraft remained unsold for several years, presenting a challenge for Russia in finding suitable buyers. It is against this backdrop that the Ethiopian Air Force’s decision to acquire these legacy aircraft gains significance.

African Defence Experts point out that the Su-30K jets are an older version with limitations compared to the Su-30MKI. These limitations include:

  • Old-fashioned N001 radar: This radar lacks the detection range and accuracy of newer models.
  • Analogue cockpit: The cockpit layout is outdated and less user-friendly than digital versions.
  • Limited air-to-air capabilities: The integration of modern air-to-air missiles is restricted.
  • Poor air-to-land capabilities: The jets have limited accuracy for delivering ground-attack weapons and poorly integrated weapon system controls.
  • Inaccurate navigation system: The onboard navigation system lacks the precision of newer models.
  • No canards: Canards are small wing-like structures that improve maneuverability, which are absent in this variant.

While the Su-30MK/K jets may have limitations, their acquisition represents a strategic move by the Ethiopian Air Force to bolster its air capabilities. The procurement of these legacy aircraft offers an affordable option for nations with budget constraints, allowing them to maintain a certain level of air power and deterrence. However, it also raises questions about the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of such a fleet in an evolving geopolitical landscape.

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