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Algeria - Air Force - Modernization

Algeria is rearming its Air Force with new generation planes. With the retirement of the MiG-21 in 2003, the backbone of the Algerian Air Force is formed by the MiG-29. The Algerian Air Force has been upgrading its inventory by acquiring new built Be1900s and Mi-171s, and upgrading existing Su-24s, MiG-25s and Mi-24s. Outside the post-Soviet area, Russia has delivered S-300 air defense systems to Algeria and China.

France offered a package of arms and military equipment to Algeria when it announced plans to embark on a major modernisation of its armed forces at the turn of the millennium. There were high hopes that Algeria would be the first export customer for France's Rafale combat aircraft. France lost out on the combat aircraft order to Russia, but as of 2010 still had a chance for the Algerian frigate order [which Germany ultimately won in 2012].

In fiscal year 2001, the US Eximbank financed a dual-use export totaling $195.5 million for the procurement of transport aircraft and related equipment to be used by the Algerian Air Force to monitor hydrocarbon pipelines, survey national borders, conduct search and rescue operations, respond to natural disasters, detect environmental hazards, and monitor agriculture.

Between 1970 and 1991, SIPRI data shows that the Soviet Union accounted for 90 per cent of Algeria's imports of major conventional weapons. During this period Algeria was the eighth largest recipient of Soviet arms exports, accounting for four per cent. In 2004, the Novosibirsk aircraft association delivered of 22 Su-24-MK tactical bombers worth $120 million to Algeria, which also bought six Ilyushin Il-78 air-force tankers.

By 2010 the QJJ maintained an inventory of 440 aircraft, including 104 jet combat aircraft, 73 transport and patrol aircraft, 31 trainers, and 191 helicopters.

During 2016 negotiations continued on two military transport aircraft Il-76MD-90A (in case of signing the contract in 2016, Algeria would get two aircraft in 2017).

According to SIPRI data, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia accounted for around three percent of global arms imports for the period 2005-2009, but the volume of major conventional arms delivered to North Africa in 2005-2009 increased by 62 per cent in comparison with 2000-2004. Algeria accounted for around 89 per cent of transfers to North Africa during this period, rising from 18th to 9th largest recipient of major conventional weapons globally. Morocco placed significant orders in 2008 and 2009, leading to concerns that Algeria and Morocco were entering into what is regarded as an 'arms race'. Morocco had no outstanding orders for major conventional weapons from Russia since taking delivery of the last of the 12 Tunguska mobile air-defence systems and missiles in 2008. It had turned to the USA for F-16C combat aircraft, presumably in response to Algerian Su-30MKA acquisitions, and to France and the Netherlands for FREMM and SIGMA frigates respectively.

March 2006 Russia Deal

When president of Russia, Vladimir Putin offered to cancel debts incurred by Algeria for these Soviet-era arms transfers in exchange for new arms orders. Algeria accepted the offer in 2006, concluding deals worth an estimated $6.5 billion for combat and trainer aircraft, tanks, submarines, and air defence systems. In March 2006, during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Algeria, both countries signed a large package of contracts worth about $8 billion. The deal displayed the ease with which Russia’s foreign policy practitioners can make arrangements with the control of and ability to speak on behalf of key industries. In return for the cancelling of approximately $4.7 billion of debt owed to the Soviet Union, Algeria, according to the official announcement from its government, agreed to purchase goods and services from Russia equaling the total of the debts.

Reports of the details of the deal were in conflict. Orders for the Algerian Air Force were said to include 36 MiG-29SMT fighters, 28 Su-30MKI Flanker multi-purpose fighter interdiction aircraft, and 16 Yak-130 Mitten combat trainers, as well as upgrades for 36 older MiG-29s [some sources report the sale of 34 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters], four [or possibly eight] S300PMU air defense systems, ground-based radar systems, and training for technicians and pilots. For the ground forces, the package included 180 [possibly 185] T-90S main battle tanks, 30 Tunguska self-propelled air defense guns [or 38 Pantsir S1 short-range missile-gun systems], 8 S-300 Surface to Air Missiles (the same system that Iran ordered in December 2007), and 218 Kornet-3 laser-guided anti-tank missiles.

Additionally, as part of the deal, Putin gained access for Gazprom, Itera (an independent gas Russian gascompany with about 20% Gazprom ownership), and Lukoil, (not majority state owned) to joint ventures in Algerian gas and oil field ventures. Since this major deal, Rosneftalong with Stroitransgaz (Russia’s largest oil and gas infrastructure company whose largest minority owner is Gazprom) invested $1.3 billion for a 60% stake in the Block 245 Oil project in Algeria, which has oil reserves as high as 415 million barrels.

In March 2007 Russia and Algeria were also negotiating the sale of Sukhoi Su-32/34 Fullback fighter-bombers, Mil Mi-28N Havoc attack helicopters, as well as additional supplies of Su-30 Flanker and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters. But by 2010 Russian hopes for follow-on contracts with Algeria had not materialised since the 2006 mega-deal.

Reports in 2009 suggested that Algeria will follow up its 2007 order for six EH-101-400 helicopters and four Super Lynx-300 from the Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland with an order for up to 100 helicopters for Algerian border security forces.

Mi-28NE attack helicopters

Another breakthrough is the signing of a deal to supply some 40 Mi-28NE attack helicopters to Algeria. The first batch was ready to be dispatched by March 2016. These aircraft had already been purchased by Iraq for its fight against the Islamic State. The Algerian contract for the Mi-28NEs is estimated at $600-700 million.


The International Fighter 2012 conference in London in November 2012 included a presentation by General Rabah Aggad, Inspector of the Algerian Air Force. The Defence IQ Team which sponsored the conference said that "Brazil, Nigeria and Algeria are all in the market to buy new fighter platforms..." but there is otherwise no indication of impending fighter purchases by Algeria. It had purchased Russian fighter aircraft MiG-29, Su-30MK and training aircraft Yak-130 missile batteries as well as Russian-made S-300 PMU2 air defence missile system. Algeria, the 8th ranked global buyer of weapons, represented 13% of Russian arms sales.

While the current front-line fleet primarily consists of Russian-origin aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-30 and the MiG-29, Algeria has expressed some interest in purchasing competing modern aircraft from China. Algeria has specifically been mentioned as a potential future customer of the JF-17 Thunder project. The delivery of 16 Yak-130 was delayed until 2010. The transport fleet is being modernised with the purchase of twelve C295 and an unknown number of Mi-171. The aircraft were eventually returned to Russia in April this year and may be put in service with the Russian Air Force after additional testing.

In April 2010 Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport signed two contracts worth $1.2 billion on the deliveries of 16 jet fighters to Algeria and another six fighters to Uganda. The two African nations will receive different models of the Su-30 Flanker fighters. Algiers will receive 16 Su-30-MKI(A)s. Russia will supply Su-30 Flanker fighters and Yak-130 Mitten trainer/light attack jets to Algeria in 2011. Russia's Irkut aircraft building corporation agreed to supply 16 Yak-130 trainer/light attack jets to Algeria.

Algerian-Russian discussions on the sale of various kinds of new military aircraft are ongoing since 2013. On 15 March 2021, Russian press started reporting that a first batch of Sukhoi Su-34ME strike fighters, intended for Algeria, entered production at Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association Plant. The report was later confirmed by the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade, a Russian think tank closely linked with the country’s arms industry. The news was widely reported in the Algerian press. Supposedly, six of 14 ordered aircraft would reach Algerian Air Force by the end of 2021, with the training of personnel scheduled for 2022. Russian officials denied reports that a batch of Sukhoi Su-34 fighter jets are about to be delivered to Algeria. According to Russian news agency Interfax, reports were denied by the press secretary of Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation Valery Reshetnikov.

MiG-29SMT Fulcrum

In an unprecedented move, Algeria to returned to Russia 15 MiG aircraft delivered in 2006-07. Rosoboronexport signed a $1.28 billion contract for the delivery of 29 one-seat MiG-29SMT Fulcrum fighters and six two-seat MiG-29UB fighters in March 2006 as part of an $8 billion military-technical cooperation agreement with Algeria. The MiG-29SMT is an upgraded version of the MiG-29 fighter, carrying a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry.

Deliveries were to be made from March 2007 until February 2008, but Algeria began refusing deliveries from May 2007, demanding that Russia take back the first 15 aircraft it had delivered, citing the "inferior quality" of certain components and units. In October 2007, Algeria stopped payments on other military contracts pending the return of the MiGs. The aircraft were eventually returned to Russia in April 2008 and were put in service with the Russian Air Force after additional testing. Russia offered Algeria more advanced airplanes, MiG-29M2s or MiG-35s. In September 2009 criminal charges were been laid against the top management of a company accused of providing low-quality equipment for MiG-29 fighters later rejected by Algeria.

A selection of Russian exports of major conventional weapons to North Africa, 2000-20091


Type of conventional weapon Order and delivery period Number ordered Number delivered
Algeria Il-78 tanker/transport aircraft 1998; 2000-2001 6 6
MiG-29 combat aircraft 1999; 2000-2001 8 8
Su-24 combat aircraft 1999-2000; 2001-2005 (25)2 (25)
Mi-17 helicopter 2002-2004 42 42
                     S-300PMU-2 surface-to-air missile system 2006 (4)
Su-30MK combat aircraft 2006; 2008-2009 28 28
Yak-130 trainer combat aircraft    2006 16
MiG-29 combat aircraft 2006 34 Cancelled
BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles 2005; 2006-2009 300 240
Pantsyr-1 mobile air defence system 2006; 2008-2009 38 (15)
T-90S tank 2006-2008 185 185
Type-636 (Kilo) submarines 2006 2


1Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database,

2(…) - Indicates estimate

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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 17:50:09 ZULU