Algeria and Russia’s Long and Continuing Military Cooperation

Algeria and Russia’s Long and Continuing Military Cooperation

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Russia will remain the most prominent Algerian partner for military-technical cooperation, according to a source in Russian defense industry.

“The military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Algiers dates back to the 1960s, when the Soviet Union helped Algeria to equip and arm newly created Algerian People`s National Army (APNA). Since the 1960s, Moscow has significantly strengthened its position on the Algerian arms market. For instance, the deliveries of Russian defense production to Algeria reached USD457 million in 2015. It should be noted that Moscow has supplied to Algiers weapons and military equipment to the tune of USD8.27 billion since 1991, having become the most prominent importer of arms to the North African country. We hope, that such a developed military-technical cooperation will be evolving in the years to come, even despite lowering oil prices and harsh economic conditions,” the source said.

He added that Moscow is continuing the deliveries of military hardware to Algeria. “In July 2016, Russia shipped another batch of T-90SA (A stands for Algerian, Alzhirsky) main battle tanks (MBT) that comprises 67 vehicles to the North African country under the 2014 contract for 200 tanks. The relevant deliveries started in 2015. We suppose that the agreement will have been implemented by end-2017. Hence, Algeria is slate to receive a total of 508 T-90SA MBTs,” the source said.

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According to him, the North African country is considering the possibility of T-90SA local production under Russian license. “Yes, the sides are actively discussing the issue and Algiers is eager to take the positive decision on it. Once the actual shipments of the tanks to the country have been finished, Algeria may launch its own T-90SA production line. At the same time, they are supposed to reveal their interest in the export modification of the newest T-14 Armata MBT developed by the Uralvagonzavod (Russian acronym: UVZ) scientific-production corporation. Hence, the issue is far from being finally settled,” the source emphasized.

Despite the economic crisis and plunged oil prices, Moscow is continuing to secure its position on the Algerian arms market. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) arms transfers database, Russia delivered to Algeria 4 Mi-26T2 (NATO reporting name: Halo) heavy military transport helicopters, 120 B05Ya01 Berezhok manned combat turrets intended for the up-gunning of ageing BMP-1/BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), about 10 T-90SA MBTs, and about 1,300 Kornet-E (AT-14 Spriggan) anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) in 2015. Moscow also was implementing the contracts for the delivery of 42 Mi-28NE ‘Night Hunter’ (Havoc-B) combat helicopters, 14 Mi-26T2s rotor-wing aircraft, 4,000 Kornet-E ATGMs, 360 Berezhok turrets, 2 Project 636E (Improved Kilo-class) diesel-electric submarines (SSK), 200 T-90SA MBTs, and 14 Su-30MKA (Flanker-H) multirole fighter jets. According to the Stockholm Institute, Russia will finish the delivery of 2 (probably) Project 20382E ‘Tigr’ (Steregushchy-class) corvettes to Algeria in 2017.

APNA is relying on Russian military hardware to a significant extent. According to the Military Balance 2016 report issued by London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Algeria operates a huge number of Soviet/Russian weapons. The North African country`s Army has deployed 300 T-90SA, 325 T-72M1, 300 T-62 and 270 T-54/55 MBTs, 26 BRDM-2 armoured reconnaissance vehicles (ARV), 685 BMP-1 and 304 BMP-2M (the latter armed with Berezhok turrets) IFVs, 250 BTR-60 and 150 BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers (APC), 64 BRDM-2 self-propelled anti-tank guided missile (SPATGM) systems armed with Kornet-E missiles, 140 2S1 Gvozdika and 30 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled guns (SPG), 160 D-30 and 25 D-74 towed guns, and 48 BM-21 Grad and 18 9A52 Smerch multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). The arsenal of Algeria`s ATGMs comprises mostly Soviet/Russian systems, namely, 9K135 Kornet-E, 9K115-2 Metis-M1 (AT-13 Saxhorn-2), 9K11 Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger), 9K111 Fagot (AT-4 Spigot), and 9K113 Konkurs (AT-5 Spandrel) weapons. The Army`s air defense units operate 48 9K33M Osa-AK (SA-8B Gecko) and about 20 9K31 Strela-1 (SA-9 Gaskin) mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, as well as 38 96K6 Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound) self-propelled anti-aircraft gun-missile (SPAAGM) systems and 225 ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (SPAAG). Algeria`s infantry units are armed with 9K32 Strela-2 (SA-7A/B Grail) man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). APNA also operates a huge arsenal of towed anti-aircraft (AA) guns that includes 100 ZU-23-2, 75 S-60, and about 150 M1939 AA guns, as well as 60 ZPU-2 and 40 ZPU-4 heavy machineguns.

Algeria`s Navy has deployed 2 Project 877EKM (Kilo-class) and 2 Project 636E Varshavyanks SSKs armed with 3M-54E/3M-14E Kalibr (SS-N-27 Sizzler) anti-ship/land-attack missiles. The service has retained a number of surface naval ships provided by the Soviet Union, namely, 3 Project 1159 (Koni-class) anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates, 3 Project 1234E (Nanuchka II-class) corvettes, 9 Project 205U (Osa II-class) missile boats, and 1 Project 771B (Polnochny-class) landing ship. The Navy`s surface combatants are armed with 3M24E Uran-E (SS-N-25 Switchblade) and P-15 Termit (SS-N-2B Styx) ASMs, 9M33 Osa-M (SA-N-4 Gecko) naval SAMs, 30mm AK-630 and 30mm AK-230 close-in weapons systems (CIWS), 76mm AK-176 and 57mm AK-725 naval guns, and RBU-6000 ASW bomb launchers.

The nation`s Air Force operates a huge number of Soviet and Russian combat aircraft, including 11 MiG-25 (Foxbat) jet interceptors, 23 MiG-29C/UB (Fulcrum) and 44 Sukhoi Su-30MKA (A stands for Algerian, Alzhirsky) multirole fighters, 33 Su-24M/MK (Fencer-D) frontline bombers, 4 MiG-25RBSh (Foxbat-D) and 4 Su-24MR (Fencer-E) reconnaissance aircraft, 6 Ilyushin Il-78 (Midas) aerial tankers, 3 Ilyushin Il-76MD (Candid) and 9 Il-76TD (Candid) heavy military transport planes, and 16 Yakovlev YaK-130 (Mitten) operational jet trainers. The aforementioned planes are armed with Russian high-precision weapons, including Kh-25 (AS-10 Karen), Kh-29 (AS-14 Kedge), Kh-23 (AS-7 Kerry), Kh-31P/A (AS-17A/B Krypton) and Kh-59ME (AS-18 Kazoo) ASMs, R-3 (AA-2 Atoll), R-60 (AA-8 Aphid), R-73 (AA-11 Archer), R-40/46 (AA-6 Acrid), R-23/24 (AA-7 Apex), R-27 (AA-10 Alamo) and R-73 (AA-12 Adder) air-to-air missiles, and Kh-25MP (AS-12 Kegler) anti-radiation missiles (ARM).

The service has deployed several dozens of mostly ageing helicopters. The Algerian Air Force operates 31 Mi-24V (Hind) gunships, 3 Ka-27PS (Helix-D) search-and-rescue (SAR) rotor-wing aircraft, 75 Mi-8/17 (Hip-H) medium military transport helicopters, 2 Mi-26T2 heavy military transport helicopters, and 4 Ka-32T rotor-wing aircraft.

Algerian air defense units are armed with S-75 Dvina (SA-2 Guideline), S-125M Pechora-2M (SA-3 Goa), 2K12 Kvadrat (Sa-6 Gainful), and S-300PMU2 (SA-20 Gargoyle) SAM systems.

At the same time, the small arms and light weapons (SALW) of Algeria`s Armed Forces are apparently obsolete. The soldiers are armed with Kalashnikov AK/AKM assault rifles chambered for M43 7.62x39mm cartridge, Dragunov SVD sniper rifles (7.62x54Rmm), Kalashnikov RPK (7.62x39mm) light squad weapons, Kalashnikov PK/PKM (7.62x54Rmm) machineguns, and Degtyarev-Shpagin DShK/DShKM (12.7x108mm) heavy machineguns. At the same time, Algiers has received a small number of Kalashnikov AK-74 assault rifles chambered for M74 5.45x39mm cartridge.

APNA is supposed to be one of the strongest armies in the North African regions. However, it has faced some gaps to be bridged. Algeria`s Ministry of Defense pays special attention to the re-equipping of the national armoured vehicles fleet. The country has been receiving modern T-90SA MBTs that are going to phase out ageing T-72/T-72M1 tanks. Obsolete BMP-1 and BMP-2 IFVs are being upgraded to the modern level through the medium of Berezhok manned turrets. Even out-of-date BRDM-2 ARVs have been rebuilt to modern SPATGM systems armed with formidable Kornet-E ATGMs. However, Algeria`s artillery units are relatively weak as they operate obsolete D-30 and D-74 towed guns and ageing 2S1/2S3 SPGs. The nation is drawing out of service outdated AA weapons, replacing them by Pantsir-S1 SPAAGM systems.

Algeria`s Navy desperately needs new surface combatants. At present, the service operates only two relatively modern naval ships (in particular, C28A-class corvettes supplied by the People`s Republic of China). At the same time, four Kilo/Improved Kilo SSKs significantly shore up the combat capabilities of the Navy.

Algeria`s Air Force seems to be a robust service as it operates modern Su-30MKA multirole fighter jets in good supply. At the same time, it lacks modern combat and military transport helicopters. The orders for 42 Mi-28NEs and 14 Mi-26T2 are going to change the situation for the better. Once the relevant deliveries have been finished, the service will operate modern rotor-wing aircraft, being able to complete all types of combat missions.

Hence, Algiers will continue to buy weapons and military hardware from Moscow despite harsh economic situation. Considering the recent acquisitions, the North African country may order upgraded Msta-S SPGs armed with 152mm or 155mm howitzers, SALW, Berezhok manned turrets, major/minor surface combatants, modern military transport rotor-wing aircraft, Buk (SA-17 Gadfly) medium-range mobile SAM systems, and additional batches of Pantsir-S1 SPAAGMs and S-300/S-400 long-range air defense systems. According to Russian and Algerian analysts. APNA is far from being an army comparable to Russian or Western armed forces. In such context, the military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Algiers seems to be shored up in the decade to come. The relative weakness of Algerian Navy and the shortage of modern SALW may lead to new orders. It should be noted that the APNA`s arsenal is based on the Soviet/Russian military hardware (or its inexpensive Chinese legal/illegal copies). There is no sense in acquiring equipment produced in accordance with NATO STANAG standards as such measures require drastic (and, of course, expensive) changes in national defense policy. It is mentioned earlier that the cooperation between Moscow and Algiers on the defense area dates back to the 1960s. Algerian soldiers have already adapted to reliable and effective Soviet/Russian weapons and they have no intention to switch to Western hardware. Hence, Algeria will remain a prominent military-technical for Russia – at least in the foreseeable future.

As reported by TASS Russian News Agency