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28 Apr, 2024 20:06

Former Soviet republic denies selling warplanes to US

Media reports claim that Washington purchased 81 aircraft from Kazakhstan for an average price of less than $19,000 each
Former Soviet republic denies selling warplanes to US

Kazakhstan has dismissed reports that it sold dozens of retired Soviet-era warplanes to outside buyers, including the US, to be potentially transferred to Kiev for use in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

On Sunday, the Kiev Post reported that Washington was the winning bidder for 81 of the 117 aircraft, buying them “through offshore entities” for a combined $1.5 million.

The report didn’t give a breakdown of how many planes of each type were acquired, but it said the purchase included MiG-29 fighter jets, MiG-27 fighter bombers and Su-24 bombers.

Kazakhstan also offered MiG-31 interceptors in the auction. All of the aircraft were listed as being in “unusable condition,” according to the report, and the costs of modernizing them were deemed economically impractical. The warplanes, which were built in the 1970s and 1980s, were retired under the Kazakh military’s modernization program.

The average unit cost paid by the US was less than $19,000. In fact, the entire fleet of 81 jets cost only about as much as ten AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, one of the air-to-surface munitions commonly used by US drones and warplanes.

US officials haven’t declared how the retired Kazakh planes will be used, the Kiev Post said. “Speculation has grown that – as the aircraft types are all in service with Ukraine – it is likely they will eventually be transferred to Kiev.” If that happens, the newspaper added, Ukrainian forces will likely disassemble the aircraft for spare parts or use them as decoys at airfields.

However, Kazakh state defense contractor KAZSPECEXPORT dismissed the reports, saying that the auction was organized strictly according to the law and on the premise that all the warplanes would be scrapped for metal. “Foreign companies were not allowed to take part in the bidding,” it said.

Kazakhstan, which is historically a Russian ally, has increasingly engaged with Western nations since the Ukraine crisis began in February 2022. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev hosted UK Foreign Minister David Cameron’s visit to Astana earlier this month. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Astana last year for talks with Central Asian leaders.