TechRussia's partner Uzbekistan cuts ties, opts for Western aircraft

Russia's partner Uzbekistan cuts ties, opts for Western aircraft

Images source: © Getty Images | Toni Anne Barson
4:26 PM EST, November 21, 2023

Russia's influence in the international arms market appears to be waning. Even nations collaborating with Russia for decades seem tired of their relationship, creating an opportunity that France is adeptly capitalizing on. Here we delve into what Uzbekistan hopes to gain from France.

Uzbekistan, a founding member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization before severing ties in 2012, intends to buy advanced Rafale aircraft from France. This decision will allow them to replace their antiquated fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 and Su-27 aircraft and their recently delivered 2021 aircraft.

This abrupt change in procurement strategy is significant considering Uzbekistan's 2021 agreement to receive an unspecified quantity of new Su-30SMs from Russia. Understandably, they may harbor concerns echoing those of other users who have criticized the erratic supply of Russian spare parts, likely deteriorating further due to the Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine conflict.

French sources indicate Uzbekistan's interest in procuring 24 Rafale aircraft. In turn, Uzbekistan could become a uranium supplier for France, possibly replacing Niger, where a pro-Russian coup recently unfolded.

Rafale – A Modern Aircraft Unencumbered by American ITAR Problems

The French Rafale currently stands amongst the superior military aircraft worldwide. It is the only Western aircraft unaffected by American ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) restrictions. This exemption permits the U.S. to prohibit using individual American components in weapons sold to countries identified as security threats or contrary to U.S. interests.

The Rafale is a twin-engine machine with a unique delta wing and canard configuration, allowing incredible maneuverability at low and supersonic speeds. Unlike its competitor, the Eurofighter, the Rafale was designed as a multipurpose machine capable of demonstrating air dominance, hitting ground targets, or executing a nuclear attack.

To this end, the Rafale is fitted with state-of-the-art electronics, enabling operations in weather conditions and enhancing the aircraft's durability. Features include an AESA radar and a passive IRST (Infrared Search and Track) system for detecting stealth technology aircraft up to 62 miles.

Further systems include the DDM-NG missile approach warning system and the SPECTRA electronic warfare suite, which allows for the so-called “active camouflage” of its signature using Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology. This process involves intercepting the enemy radar signal, analyzing and processing it, and then retransmitting the modified signal, which the enemy radar misreads.

The Rafale's armaments comprise the onboard NEXTER 30M791 cal. 30mm gun, capable of firing 2,500 rounds per minute, and over 9 tons of payload carried on 14 or 13 pylons in the naval version. The available armament includes:

  • Meteor long-range air-to-air missiles,
  • MICA short/medium-range air-to-air missiles (RF radar-guided or IIR (imaging infrared seeker) heat-seeking variants),
  • AM 39-Exocet anti-ship missiles,
  • Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG cruise missiles,
  • BANG guided bombs (JDAM-like conversion kits),
  • ASMP-A with a thermonuclear warhead.

The Rafale, therefore, is the favored choice for countries unwilling to be constrained by American regulations on equipment. Uzbekistan is now the second entity from the Russian sphere of influence to show interest in the Rafale, following Serbia.

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