Algeria is returning 12 RSK MiG-29SMT single-seat fighters and UBT-model trainers to Russia, after refusing to accept the aircraft amid allegations of poor manufacturing quality.

The aircraft are part of a package for 34 MiG-29SMT/UBTs worth $1.3 billion, with an additional $500 million for the modernisation of 36 early-model MiG-29s acquired for $18 million each from Belarus and Ukraine.

These should have been upgraded to the SMT/UBT standard, but following shipment of the first batch last year, the Algerian air force found that some "new" equipment actually dated back to the early 1990s, when the aircraft had been manufactured.

RSK MiG says all avionics and targeting equipment supplied with the aircraft is new, and reflects its current production variants.

Algeria also took delivery of its first three of 28 Sukhoi Su-30MKA two-seat multirole fighters between December 2007 and January, and is now negotiating with Russia's Rosoboronexport arms agency for a further batch of the aircraft to replace its unwanted MiGs.

Sources say Algeria also wants to use some of the money from the abandoned deal to buy additional Yakovlev Yak-130A trainers, with these to join 16 aircraft ordered with the MiG and Sukhoi fighters as part of a wider arms package worth $8 billion signed with Russia in 2006.

Source: Flight International