Denel and Russian Helicopters signed an agreement at the Africa Aerospace & Defence show in Pretoria on 19 September to set up a maintenance hub in South Africa.
For Russia, the move is part of an effort to regain its foothold on the African continent after a 10- to 15-year absence, says Alexander Fomin, director of the nation's military-technical co-operation centre. He notes that before its collapse, the Soviet Union had a relationship with almost every African nation.
As a result, there are hundreds of Russian-made helicopters operating inside Africa, and many have been flying since before the fall of the Soviet Union. There are so many contracts that Russian officials told reporters there were too many to be named during the press conference at the show.
The deal signed with Denel will help to service those machines and aid Russia's efforts to restore old ties. It could also open the door to selling new aircraft in the market, Fomin says. That is particularly true of the civil aviation market, says Russian Helicopters chief executive Dmitry Petrov. Russia hopes to be a leader in that sector in Africa for years to come.
One advantage Russia enjoys is a willingness to transfer technology, says Fomin.
As part of efforts to regain dominance over the defence and aviation markets in Africa, Russia has a significant presence at the show.