Contrary to expectations, Kazakhstan chose the Russian Su-30SM fighter instead of the French Rafale option.
The advance of Kazakh air defense
On November 30, Yerzhan Nildibayev, second commander of the Kazakh Air Defense, mentioned that Kazakhstan has opted to purchase Russian-made Su-30SM fighters, ruling out a French offer for Rafale aircraft.
In his announcement, Nildibayev detailed that the purchase of ten more Su-30SMs is planned for the period 2023-2024, justifying the decision by its superior price-quality ratio compared to the French competition. Apparently, Dassault Aviation has been trying to sell its Rafales to the Kazakh and Uzbek air forces, whose main fleets are of Soviet origin.
Su-30SM, the decision of Kazakhstan and Algeria
The Kazakh choice of the Su-30SM echoes Algeria’s decision in the 2000s, putting aside strong attempts to promote the Rafale.
The Su-30SM model chosen by Kazakhstan is closely linked to the Su-30MKA that Algeria acquired. The Irkutsk Aviation Plant manufactures both models, derivatives of the “fourth generation+” Su-30MKI prototype, originally adapted to meet Indian Air Force specifications.
Comparison: Su-30 versus the Rafale
A notable advantage of the Su-30 for countries such as Algeria and Kazakhstan is its wide operational coverage. Despite the Rafale’s impressive range for a light fighter, it falls short against heavyweights like the Su-30 and F-15.
The Su-30 ‘s larger radar and better flight performance give it an advantage over the Rafale, as it can carry more weapons and fly even further. This added to its radar is almost twice as large as the Rafale’s RBE2, making it a formidable adversary.
The role of environmental weapons suppliers
A considerable disadvantage of Rafale lies in the common practice of Western arms suppliers imposing restrictions on using their assets abroad and embargoes on spare parts. Additionally, the possibility of compatibility issues with existing Russian equipment in Kazakhstan poses significant operational challenges.
With Kazakhstan and Russia strengthening their air defense integration within the framework of a joint air defense network of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, including French fighters with incompatible systems and short ranges of action would pose a significant challenge.