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RUSSIA, ZAMBIA REVISE JET DEAL

RUSSIA’S Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (GSS) has said it will deliver only a VIP Sukhoi Business Jet for President Edgar Lungu next year.

The aircraft manufacturing company was set to deliver five planes to Zambia, with a business jet meant for President Lungu.

The company’s vice-president Yevgeny Andrachnikov said at the Russian Business Aviation Exhibition forum that the aircraft to be delivered to Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu costs between $45 million and $49 million.

“The contract was signed and in 2019, Sukhoi Business Jet in the VIP version will be delivered to the President of Zambia,” Andrachnikov told the forum in his presentation. “This airliner costs $45-49 million. It is much more expensive than the passenger SSJ-100, which costs about $30 million.”

Sukhoi has so far delivered 11 Sukhoi Business Jet airplanes to the Royal Thai Air Force (three), The Kazakh border guard service (two), five operated by a special flight unit “Russia” of the presidential administration of Russia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Emergencies Ministry and one to a commercial operator, the Rusjet company.

And in its latest edition, the Africa Confidential further disclosed that only the Sukhoi SSJ regional jet airliner with a luxury specification suitable for a head of state would be supplied.

“The Gulfstream, however, may not be the only luxury aircraft set to fly from Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. In a deal first reported in July 2017, Russia was set to deliver five Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100 regional jets (medium-range airliners), but this has been reduced to one, we hear in Lusaka. Initially, Yury Slyusar, President of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, said that in addition to four standard SSJ100s, there would also be ‘one aircraft in the VIP version for the head of state’. He was contradicted in August by Minister of Transport and Communications, Brian Mushimba, who told local press, ‘Zambia Airways is not talking to Russia about any planes…Those are conspiracy theories’. It is Africa Confidential’s understanding that under the revised deal, only the luxury-equipped SSJ100 will now be supplied,” Africa Confidential stated.

Mushimba had last year expressed ignorance over the purchase of the jets.

And when asked yesterday, Mushimba maintained his position and said he knew nothing about the deal.

“I will not be the person to be asked that because I don’t work for the Presidency at State House or any other. I am not in sight of such….aaaaah, aaaah, I have no clue of what you are speaking about, I totally have no clue,” said Muchimba.

Africa Confidential further revealed that Israel and Zambia were almost ready to sign a new US$400 million package for high-tech aviation equipment to be funded with a loan from Israel’s Hapoalim Bank.

“Military experts question Zambia’s need for the new equipment it is ordering from Israeli contractor Elbit Systems, as well as its enormous cost. Elbit has $400m of existing supply contracts with the Zambian military for surveillance equipment and other services, such as 18 Skylark mini-drones, an unspecified number of F-5 supersonic jet fighters, ground vehicles, and upgrades to the air force’s Russian-made Mi-17 E transport helicopters. These deals, signed last year, also include centres for flight-training, and command control and communications,” Africa Confidential stated.

“One of the contracts was part-funded with a $48m loan from Israel Discount Bank, which was signed by President Edgar Lungu on 5 September 2016. The latest Elbit deal includes over $100m allocated for the purchase of an aircraft for civilian use, which will have a military tail number, AC has learned. The jet, we understand, is a Gulfstream G650 and would be earmarked for presidential use. Much of the rest of the $400m deal is a maintenance package, we understand.”

It stated that the Elbit aircraft may also be equipped with the MUSIC anti-missile system, which fires lasers at incoming heat-seeking missiles.

“Elbit has said it was supplying an African country with the MUSIC system in a context that suggested Zambia may be the client. A defence expert described the installation of such a system on a presidential jet as ‘insane’. Some of the Israeli contracts are, like many of the Chinese loan-backed projects, over-priced, say financial experts in Lusaka. The upgrade of the Maina Soko military hospital in Lusaka by Israeli company Ashtrom is costing almost $200m, which officials close to the project say is extremely high. Ashtrom also has a $400m contract for military housing and barracks in Kawambwa District, which the same Zambian government source says is over-priced,” stated Africa Confidential.

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