Latin America is considered strategic for Russia, which intends to widen its influence in the Defense market traditionally served by European and North American companies. Despite the regional economic retraction and the reduction of the acquisitions, the region will keep being interesting to Moscow, among other things because its equipments have been pleasing the Latin-American countries in all senses. Thus, it is possible to state that the crisis does not affect the cooperation in Defense that Russia has been building with the Latin-American countries.
The Russian technological development with weapons of high precision, including cruise missiles and laser/satellite-guided bombs, allows to reach and destroy targets without record of civilian casualties or serious collateral damage. That is something that has been attracting more and more interest for these weapons in the region.
As an example, currently the Russian helicopters operate in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. It is nearly 400 aircrafts, which means 20% of the total of military helicopters in action in the region.
The most popular is the MI-8/17. In the whole region, 320 helicopters of this model would be in operation. In Cuba, at least 50 among the 60 helicopters of Soviet and Russian origin are this model. Peru counts on the MI-171 employed in antiterrorist operations, and authorities of the country acknowledge the excellence of the equipment in terms of quality and performance.
In 2008, Brazil has acquired, for US$ 150 million, 12 Russian attack helicopters AH-2 “Sabre” (MI-35M), which are already in use by the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira - FAB). It is important to point out that the Brazilian choice for the Russian equipment happened in a process in which giants of the sector participated, like the Italian Agusta Westland and the Franco-German Eurocopter.
Besides, in 2013, Brazil and Russia secured a bilateral agreement that turned in the creation of a joint venture to build multi-purpose MI-171 helicopters and a technical center for the maintenance of the MI-35. Brazil also acquired two civilian KA-32 helicopters from Russia to deal with fires of great proportions, construction and installation of buildings and transportation of loads.
Between February 29 and March 3, these equipments will be in exhibition in the Heli-Expo 2016, which will be carried out in the Kentucky Exposition Center, United States. It is the biggest exhibition of helicopters in the world and Russia will take advantage of the opportunity to show a little more of its aviation technology.
The strengthening of the cooperation in Defense between Russia and the countries of Latin America still holds strong relation with the success of the combat missions of the country’s aviation in the Syrian conflict. It is possible to claim that the Latin-American habit in acquiring North American or European military equipment is being strongly lost.
Even with a crisis that reaches practically all the regions of the planet, Russia has been achieving excellent contracts and agreements with more than 90 countries. It is important to point out that it is not only the quality of the products that has been expanding the market for Russia, but also its disposition in transferring technology of Defense, which is something rare, complex and extremely difficult.
Marcelo Rech is a journalist and analyst of the Institute InfoRel of International Relations and Defense (www.inforel.org). E-mail: email@example.com.