Zimbabwe’s recent acquisition of 32 helicopters from Russia has raised questions among aviation experts. Ian Cox, an expert in aviation and defense matters, suggests that Russia may have used the deal to dump American-powered crafts on Zimbabwe.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa took delivery of 18 Kazan Ansat helicopters from Russia on Thursday as part of a yet-to-be-unpacked Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the two countries. The helicopters are priced at US$10 million each by the government, but according to Military Today, a leading publication focused on aircraft and defense, they cost US$2.5 million at most.
Cox described the purchase as “the most bizarre helicopter purchase by an African nation” he had ever seen. He pointed out that the Kazan Ansat helicopters are powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, which are part of Raytheon, one of the largest US defense companies. Due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, it may no longer be able to obtain engine support for these helicopters.
“Russia dumped these on Zimbabwe quickly because they knew they would not be able to get engine support for them anymore,” Cox wrote on Twitter. “Do they even have a viable replacement engine for this type? I would put money on Zimbabwe not being able to get engine support either.”
Cox also questioned the US$10 million price tag on each helicopter and suggested that there may be more to the story. “Don’t get distracted by the shiny things that are ‘saving lives,’” he wrote. “There is more to this story. Probably gold.”