By Taddeo Bwambale
UGANDA has denied international media reports that it has signed a deal for the purchase of six fighter jets from a Russian company.
Several Russian media houses yesterday reported that state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport signed two contracts worth $1.2b for the delivery of six fighters to Uganda and another 16 to Algeria.
â€œThe two African nations will receive different models of the Su-30 Flanker fighters,â€ said Vedomosti, Russiaâ€™s most reputable business daily, adding that Kampala will receive the Su-30MK2 model.
Russiaâ€™s state-owned radio, The Voice of Russia, quoting a Moscow military-diplomatic source, said Uganda was planning to sign the agreement and pay for the planes with oil money.
â€œSince Uganda is short of real money to pay for the planes, Russian LUKoil is negotiating its potential participation in developing large oil fields in Uganda, implying a possible swapping,â€ said the radio.
However, army spokesperson Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye dismissed the reports as untrue.
â€œWe had negotiations with the Russians over the jet fighters but upon realising that the cost was too high, we decided otherwise,â€ he said. â€œWe never entered into an agreement with them.â€
Instead, he said, the Ugandan airforce decided to send its six MIG-21 fighter planes for overhaul to Russia about two weeks ago. He did not say at what cost.
Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga said he first needed to see the details of the media reports before commenting.
The Su-30 fighter plane is a two-seater, multi-role fighter, capable of accomplishing many combat missions at significant distances from the home base in any weather conditions, both by day and night.
The tasks range from air defence, air patrol and escort to ground attack, suppression of enemy air defences and maritime attack.
It has high maneuverability and unique take-off and landing characteristics, allowing for the aircraft to rapidly strip airspeed and perform on the spot somersault maneuvers.
The aircraft has a speed of 1,350km per hour at low altitude and is capable of performing a 4.5-hour combat mission within a range of 3,000km with a normal fuel reserve.
An in-flight refuelling system increases the flight duration up to 10 hours with a range of 5,200km.
The Russian company LUKoil, said to be negotiating the swap, visited President Yoweri Museveni at State House Entebbe at the end of January.
Andrei Sapozhnikov, LUKoilâ€™s vice-president for business development, handed over an investment proposal to Museveni, the State House said at the time. It added that the President encouraged the firm to invest in Ugandaâ€™s oil exploration and refining sector.
LUKoil is Russiaâ€™s largest oil company and the second largest private oil company worldwide.
In his 2010 New Yearâ€™s address, Museveni outlined the four priority sectors for the use of oil revenues.
They included energy infrastructure, rail and road infrastructure, irrigation schemes for agricultural production, and science and technology. Defence was not part of them.
â€œSince oil is a finite resource, oil revenues will be used to develop durable and competitive competencies that will increase productivity in key sectors of the economy,â€ he assured the nation.
â€œOil revenues shall not be used for consumption but for durable investments that benefit future generations,â€ he added.