Russia's move to support Zimbabwe with 32 helicopters could just be its way of dumping the American-powered crafts, Ian Cox an expert in aviation and defence matters has suggested.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa took delivery of 18 helicopters from Russia Thursday, part of a yet to be unpacked Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the two countries.
H.E. President @edmnangagwa takes delivery of 18 helicopters purchased from the Russian Federation. Of the 18, 12 are Air ambulances designed for medical rescue while 6 are designed for law enforcement (policing duties). The fleet will reach 32 by year 2025. pic.twitter.com/TceRItt9Um -- Presidential Communications Zimbabwe 🇿🇼 (@DeptCommsZW) May 18, 2023
The Kazan Ansat helicopters priced at US$10 million each by government have Pratt & Whitney engines whose parts according to Cox might no longer be made available to Russia because of its onslaught on Ukraine.
Pratt & Whitney is a Canadian entity whose holding company is American-owned Raytheon Technologies, one of its government's largest suppliers of defence equipment.
Cox described it on Twitter as 'the most bizarre helicopter purchase by an African nation' he had ever seen.
"There is a subplot going on here. Hear me out! - These Russian-made Kazan Ansat helicopters are powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. Pratt & Whitney is part of Raytheon, one of the biggest US defense companies," wrote Cox.
Government purchases 18 helicopters from Russia pegged at US$10 million each
"Russia dumped these on Zimbabwe quickly because they knew they would not be able to get engine support for them anymore. 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. Pratt & Whitney service network in Africa is not likely to touch a Russian airframe with a 10-foot pole even if their own engine is in it.
"Russia will not have any Pratt & Whitney spares to support them either. They are saving what they have. Honestly, this is probably the most bizarre helicopter purchase an African nation (or any) I have seen in my lifetime."
The US$10 million tag on the aircraft (US$320 million for the whole fleet) has also raised eyebrows. According to Military Today, a leading publication focused on aircraft and defence, the helicopter costs US$2.5 million at most.
This should put Zimbabwe's total bill to Russia, if it is buying, at US$80 million about US$240 million less than the figure given.
Added Cox: "Don't get distracted by the shiny things that are "saving lives" there is more to this story. Probably gold."