Tuesday, June 11, 2024
  1. You Are At:
  2. News
  3. Explainers
  4. Why is US acquiring 81 'obsolete' Soviet-era combat aircraft from key Russian ally Kazakhstan?

Why is US acquiring 81 'obsolete' Soviet-era combat aircraft from key Russian ally Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan auctioned 117 combat aircraft in October, including MiG-31 interceptors, MiG-27 bombers, MiG-29 fighters and Su-24 bombers. These aircraft were deemed unusable and their modernisation was deemed economically impractical, raising questions over the US purchase.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: April 30, 2024 15:09 IST
US, MiG aircraft, Kazakhstan
Image Source : AP (FILE) A MiG-29 aircraft

Washington: In a surprising development, the United States has bought a large haul of Soviet-era combat planes from Kazakhstan, one of Russia's key allies. According to reports, Washington acquired 81 obsolete Soviet-era combat planes from Kazakhstan, including MiG-31 interceptors, MiG-27 bombers, MiG-29 fighters and Su-24 bombers, with a declared sale value of $2.26 million, which means that each plane cost $19,300.

These combat planes were built in the 1970s and 1980s and are now completely obsolete, and Kazakhstan has been slowly replacing its outdated aircraft with modern versions, such as the Russian Su-30SM multi-role aircraft. The Kazakh government auctioned 117 Soviet-era fighter and bomber aircraft in October and highlighted that they were in an unusable state, and their modernisation deemed economically unviable.

This raises questions on why the US would want the "unusable" aircraft, seeing that its military is strong enough as it is. One thing is clear, the acquisition highlights the ongoing geopolitical shifts in the central Asian region and also underscores how Kazakhstan is maintaining a delicate balance between its historical ties.

Why is the US acquiring obsolete aircraft?

According to multiple reports, the reason for the US purchase has not been officially revealed. However, it is being speculated that they will eventually be transferred to Ukraine to aid the war against Russia as the conflict has reached a critical point. It is believed that the Armed Forces of Ukraine will disassemble the aircraft for spare parts, despite limited utility, or use them as decoys at airfields.

The previous transfer of Soviet military equipment from Western countries to support Ukraine's weaponry lends strength to this argument. The sale also indicates that Kazakhstan is bolstering its ties with Western countries by attempting to reduce its historical strategic and military links with Moscow following the invasion of Ukraine. This was hinted at when politicians from countries considered unfriendly to Russia visited Astana.

This week, the UK Foreign Minister, David Cameron, visited Astana and concluded agreements on trade, education, environment, and mineral supplies. Cameron mentioned that Kazakhstan is surrounded by difficult neighbours – Russia, China, Afghanistan, and Iran and offered London’s support to deal with issues that arise in this difficult region, according to Kyiv Post. Prior to that, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kazakhstan in February 2023, where he said that the US strongly supported "its independence, its territorial integrity."

However, Kazakhstan's state-owned weapons importer and exporter, denied selling military airplanes to Ukraine in a statement, saying that foreign companies were not allowed to bid. Meanwhile, there has been no official word from the Pentagon on the sale of the Soviet-era warplanes, which played a critical role in the Civil War. The MiG-27 was vital in conflicts like the Soviet-Afghan war and the Su-24 remains in service with several air forces.

Ukraine has sidelined US-provided Abrams M1A1 battle tanks for now in its fight against Russia, in part because Russian drone warfare has made it too difficult for them to operate without detection or coming under attack, according to two US military officials. Five of the 31 tanks have already been lost to Russian attacks.

Ukraine's position in the war

Ukrainian soldiers have struggled as Russia has seized the momentum on the battlefield and gained significant territory. The $61 billion for Ukraine by the US comes as the war-torn country desperately needs new firepower and as Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up his attacks.

Ukraine is facing a shortage of ammunition, with vital funding from the US previously blocked by Republicans for months and the European Union failing to deliver munitions on time. This shortage of ammunition, troops and armoured vehicles has allowed Russia to move forward into the country along the 1,000-km front line. Ukraine has also accused Russia of ramping up the use of illegal tear gas to clear trenches.

Ukraine's need is now acute, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank. “The Russians are breaking out of positional warfare and beginning to restore manoeuvre to the battlefield because of the delays in the provision of US military assistance to Ukraine,” the ISW said in a recent assessment. 

The news of the US-Kazakhstan sale came as a Russian strike killed at least two people and wounded six more in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday. The Russian forces used guided bombs to carry out the attack on the city, according to preliminary information, Governor Oleh Synehubov said on the Telegram messaging app. The attack damaged a residential building in one of the city districts, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov wrote on Telegram. 

ALSO READ | Russia: Putin displays British armoured cars, US tanks captured in Ukraine in brazen show of strength


Read all the Breaking News Live on indiatvnews.com and Get Latest English News & Updates from Explainers