Staff and agencies
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez says the South American country will buy 24 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets this year to replace its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s.
Chávez said Wednesday that the Su-30 jets would replace the 21 F-16A/Bs, which he says Venezuela has had trouble maintaining because the USA refuses to sell his government upgrades. The country has stored at least 17 of its inventory due to lack of components.
Chávez has complained in th past that a deal with Israel Aircraft Industries to upgrade the F-16s was blocked by Washington as part of its sanctions campaign agains the hard-line socialist régime in Caracas. In the past the past the leader has hinted at a purchase of RSK MiG MiG-29s, or Su-27s/30s. In making the announcement, the maverick leader appears to have selected the Su-30 multirole fighter.
"First, we are going to buy 24 Sukhoi Su-30s, and we are going to leave open the possibility of a future acquisition" of the as-yet unspecified Su-30MK, dubbed the Su-35s, Chávez said in a speech. It is likely the variant shipped first will be the Su-30K export variant as sold to India.
Venezuela will sell the F-16s to "any interested country" despite US concerns over technology export to rogue régimes, Chávez told media in Caracas.
Venezuela also has 17 Dassault Mirage 50V/EV/DVs.