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Africa and South America , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft

First Batch of Su-35 Fighters Arrive in Sudan

Khartoum Becomes World's First Non Superpower Operator of the 4+ Generation Supermaneuverable Platforms

November 22nd - 2017

Sudan's Defense Ministry announced on November 21st 2017 the delivery of the first batch of four Su-35 4+ generation air superiority fighters. This came following the visit of a Sudanese military delegation to Russia, and a day before Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir's trip to Moscow where enhanced economic ties and cooperation in mining are expected to be discussed. The delivery makes Sudan the second nation to acquire Russia's most advanced fighter after the People's Republic of China - something which has come as a surprise to analysts across the world. The Su-35 is a cutting edge fighter, arguably the most advanced in the world rivaled only by the American F-22 and Chinese J-20, and it was expected to enter service in countries with long histories as clients for Russia's most advanced air superiority platforms. Algeria, an operator of almost 60 Su-30MKA fighters, and Indoensia, an operator of both the Su-27 and Su-30, were both considered likely candidates to receive the Su-35. The United Arab Emirates was also considered due to its long history of acquiring the most modern fighters and inability to purchase the F-15C, F-22 or F-35 to match the capabilities of its regional rivals.

Sudan's Air Force, as opposed to these other parties, has never operated air superiority fighters - or any particularly modern platforms at all. Its fleet of 35 older MiG-29 variants, 12 Su-24 strike fighters and 15 Su-25 ground attack aircraft made up the bulk of its capabilities. While these platforms have proven sufficient in combatting armed groups internally in the country's south and west, they pale in comparison to the capabilities of neighboring countries. While the Egyptian Air Force does not itself field more advanced platforms or any air superiority fighters, fielding lower end fourth generation platforms with similar capabilities to Sudan, they do so in far greater numbers. Neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea meanwhile both field advanced Su-27 air superiority platforms, while across the Red Sea Saudi Arabia and Israel both field F-15 air superiority fighters - the latter which has previously used its air force to strike Sudanese targets. By acquiring the Su-35, Sudan has thus emerged from being an unremarkable player in the field of aerial warfare to eclipsing the technological capabilities of all its neighbors - gaining superiority qualitatively if not quantitatively.

The size of Sudan's order is as of yet unconfirmed, with several reports indicating that the country may receive around 40 fighters. This would make Sudan the largest user of the Su-35 outside Russia - with China having ordered and received just 24 and with Algeria and Indoensia set to order 10 and 12 each respectively. Considering Sudan's estimated defense budget or $4-5 billion dollars, and Russia's fast growing investments in the country particularly in the mining sector, it is likely that Russia has offered Khartoum a special price for acquiring a large fleet of fighters in exchange for advantageous investment rights to Sudan's lucrative natural resources. The Su-35 fleet is set to both cement Sudanese defense ties to Russia and to revolutionize its military capabilities - with just a single unit of twelve Su-35 fighters eclipsing the capabilities of the entire Sudanese Air Force prior to the acquisition. With only China, Russia and the United States currently fielding fighters able to match the Su-35, Sudan's military capabilities are set to change effectively overnight once the fighters are fully inducted into service and pilots are given the necessary training. Quite unexpectedly Sudan finds itself fielding a fighter with capabilities greater that those possessed by any other non superpower nation in the world. Whether this will mark a turning point in Sudan's military, leading to a wider modernization program, remains to be seen - but it is certain to lead to a major shift in the balance of power in North East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.


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