Monday, January 11, 2010

Venezuela to reinforce troops on Colombia border with Russian tanks

Ria-Novosti reports:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced plans for the deployment of new Russian-made tanks and combat helicopters on the border with Colombia.

Ties between Venezuela and Colombia deteriorated last August after Washington signed a deal with Bogota allowing U.S. forces to run anti-drug operations from Colombian bases. Chavez has criticized the deal and called for the Venezuelan people and army to prepare for a war.

"We are expecting the arrival of the first shipment of tanks [from Russia] which will be sent to Barracas [in the state of Barinas] to reinforce a motorized infantry brigade," Chavez said in his weekly TV program, Alo Presidente, on Sunday.

"In addition, attack helicopters arriving from Russia will be deployed along the Colombian border," he said.

Chavez secured a $2.2 loan from Russia during his visit to Moscow last September for the purchase of 92 T-72 main battle tanks, an undisclosed number of Smerch multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), and a variety of air defense systems, including the advanced S-300 complexes.

Between 2005 and 2007, Moscow and Caracas signed 12 contracts worth more than $4.4 billion to supply arms to Venezuela, including fighter jets, helicopters and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Venezuelan military already has nearly 200 tanks, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, while Colombia has no tank units.
Note: This article mentions specifically the T-72 MBT, the S-300 air defense complex and Smerch MLRS. As far as I know, the "jet fighters" in question are SU-30MKV (a variant of the SU-30MK2 with anti-shipping capabilities), the "Kalashnikovs" are modern AK-101, and the "variety of air defense systems" refers to the 9k38 Igla MANPADS and the Tor-M1 air defense system. The helicopters are Mi-17B multirole helicopters, Mi-35 Hind E attack helicopters and Mi-26 Halo heavy transport helicopters. Finally, Venezuela is also negotiating the purchase of several dozen Ilyushin Il-114 patrol planes and 10 Mi-28N Havoc attack helicopters. Venezuela also expressed interest in the new Su-35 fighter. The Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported that the Venezuelan military plans to buy six conventionally powered submarines. Moreover, Caracas wants to acquire several dozen surface warships, including Project 14310 Mirage patrol boats, which are floating missile platforms that can destroy any ship seven to 130 kilometers away.