Murphy's Law: Su-30 Pilots Threaten To Walk


April 26, 2012: Ugandan Su-30 fighter pilots are leaving the air force. Two of the eight recently trained Su-30 pilots have already resigned and the other six are threatening to do the same. It's all about money, or the lack of it. Ugandan Air Force fighter pilots are paid $500 a month, while foreign pilots brought in to do the same work receive $8,000 a month. Ugandan pilots working for air lines receive the same pay as foreign pilots and Ugandan pilots are demanding the same deal. The government promised its Ugandan Su-30 pilots a raise last year but the money never came through.

In the last year Uganda has received six Russian Su-30 jet fighters. Uganda paid $124 million each for their Su-30s, this included the cost of setting a maintenance operation and for training. There was much local opposition to this deal, not least because it consumed a third of Uganda's foreign reserves. The high price also indicated some payoffs were involved.

Uganda justified the need for these high-performance jets because regional neighbors like Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan operate MiG-29s. But other neighbors may now feel obliged to upgrade their air forces as well. Oil was discovered in Uganda five years ago, so now there is something to defend and a way to pay for it. Su-30s cost several million dollars a year to maintain (assuming they will be flown often enough to sustain pilot skills). In the past fifty years most African nations that have obtained high-performance jets did not maintain them well, and these jet fighters eventually became useless and permanently grounded.

The 37 ton Su-30 is roughly equivalent to the 25 ton U.S. F-15. Of course, the F-15 comes in many versions, as does the Su-27 (which the Su-30 is a variant of). India bought SU-30MKIs, which are more similar to the two seat F-15E fighter-bomber. The Indian aircraft was equipped with French and Israeli electronics. Even so, the Su-30MKIs cost less than half what Uganda is paying. The Su-30 can carry more than eight tons of bombs and hit targets over 1,500 kilometers away.



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