The Asian nation’s move is seen as pushing Russia’s influence in Africa

Kampala: Uganda has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India for the maintenance and technical support of the Sukhoi Su-MK30 fighter jets Uganda purchased from Russia more than a decade ago.

The maintenance will be done by Indian state-owned aerospace and defence company, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Indian company has a manufacturing license from Russia to build the fighter aircraft.

The MoU was signed on March 4 at the Indian High Commission in Kampala. Lt. Gen. Charles Lutaaya, Commander of Air Force in the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), signed on behalf of Uganda.

The Indian High Commission on its Twitter account said the deal was the first major defence agreement with Uganda following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unveiling of ’10 Principles of India-Africa Engagement’ in the Ugandan Parliament on July 25, 2018.

Financial details of the deal remain a secret but the arrangement is raising debate among military analysts about the future of Uganda’s super jets.

Lt. Col. Ronald Kakurungu, the spokesperson of the UPDF told The Independent that Uganda used the SU-MK30 jets when it bombed camps of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in November 2021 at the start of the hunt for ADF militants in DR Congo in Operation Shujaa.

Kakurungu, however, declined to comment on where else Uganda has used the jets in Uganda’s vast military footprint in the Great Lakes region. Uganda is known for its penchant for Russian weapons.

Between 2011 and 2012, Uganda acquired six SU-30MK fighter jets from Russia at a price of $635m according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.

Other weapons Uganda has purchased from Russia include T-90 tanks, Kornet anti-tank missiles, anti-ship missiles, Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), and other components of the SU-30 combat aircraft. SIPRI data show that Uganda took delivery of 1,000 Kornet anti-tank missiles between 2012 and 2013.

However the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK fighter jets are arguably Uganda’s most prized military asset. The country however has not routinely used the Sukhoi jets in its military adventures in the region where its operations have at once stretched from DR Congo to Central African Republic and Somalia in a period spanning ten years.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is Uganda’s most engaging military enterprise currently in its fifteenth year of operation. Although it is essentially a peacekeeping mission, Ugandan troops have many times engaged in offensive warfare to deal with the deadly Al Shabaab terrorists in retaliatory attacks in fierce battles in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, and other parts in the Horn of Africa country.

But Sukhoi jets are not even used in AMISOM operations, Kakurungu and another military source familiar with AMISOM operations told The Independent.