Sudan could soon receive additional SU-24M ground attack aircraft overhauled in Belarus, satellite imagery suggests.
The country, long known for its human rights abuses, reportedly ordered twelve of the aircraft from Belarusian BelTechExport a few years back, journalist and consultant Chris Biggers said on investigative website bellingcat.com.
Last year workers at Belarus’ 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in the Belarusian town of Baranovichi moved three decommissioned Sukhoi Su-24M (NATO reporting name – Fencer) from open storage to the plant’s work area. Space snapshots from February and July show a single swing-wing Sukhoi kitted out in fresh desert camo. The Soviet-era bomber was sitting nearby the 558th’s drive-through maintenance hangar at the time of capture.
Chris Biggers admits that they do not have access to enough imagery to know if the Sukhoi is the same aircraft in both sets of imagery or if an earlier Fencer was already exported. But given the color of the camo pattern, it’s pretty clear where they’re headed, he states.
To date, only three have been confirmed operating from [Sudanese] Wadi Sayyidna air base. They were first confirmed on handhelds and satellite imagery in June and August 2013.
Since then, they’ve been involved with several bombing runs in South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains, helping kill and displace the local Nuba population, and in a Saudi-led campaign to bring Yemen’s President Hadi back to power.
Sudan’s deployment is largely seen as an attempt to regain Saudi and Gulf support, the article reads. In February 2014, Saudi and EU banks suspended operations with the country. But Saudi Arabia has pledged fresh investments in Sudan’s key agricultural sector since military operations in Yemen began.
With conflict on the rise, so are Belarusian arms exports, the expert warns.
The United States designated Sudan as a ‘State Sponsor of Terrorism’ in 1993. In the early 1990s, Sudan provided safe haven to Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network. In March 2009, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir became the first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for allegedly directing a campaign of mass killing, rape, and pillage against civilians in Darfur.