• Iraq
  • December 15, 2009
  • 4 minutes read

NEWS ANALYSIS: Details emerge on Ukrainian arms sale to Iraq

Kiev – A 2.4-billion-dollar Ukrainian weapons sale to Iraq will give Baghdad’s army a powerful upgrade and the former Soviet republic’s arms industry an unprecedented capital injection, according to news reports Thursday.

Once complete, the sale to Iraq will be the biggest weapons export contract in Ukrainian history, dwarfing a 650-million-dollar delivery of 320 tanks to Pakistan ending in 2002.

The biggest ticket item made public so far in the Iraq deal is 420 Ukrainian-manufactured BTR-4 armoured personnel carriers, confirmed by former Defence Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko, according to a report by the Korrespondent website.

The BTR-4 is Ukraine’s top-of-the-line troop carrier, an eight- wheeled armoured vehicle built to accept a modular turret equipped with customer-specified combinations of machine guns, anti-tank missiles and sensors, according to data made public by Ukraine’s state-owned arms export monopoly Ukrspetsexport.

Ukrspetsexport officials did not respond immediately to a request for comment by German News Agency dpa.

Officials at Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers likewise declined to respond to questions about the arms deal.

The US-based trading firm Defence Solutions Holding Inc has advertised the BTR-4 on the international arms market as costing between 1.5 to 2 million dollars per unit, with some components of Macedonian manufacture, according to the company website.

The BTR-4 began serial production at the Malyshev arms plant in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in 2009, with an order for 10 vehicles from Ukraine’s Defence Ministry.

Macedonia is considering ordering 200 of the personnel carriers for itself, according to a report by the Interfax news agency.

In an already-signed 80-million-dollar deal that is included in the 2.4-billion-dollar package, Ukraine’s Antonov aerospace corporation will deliver to the Iraqi air force six An-32 military cargo planes by April 2010, according to a Vlasti.net report.

Contracts for some 400 million dollars of the 2.4 billion dollars Iraq earmarked for Ukrainian weapons and military technologies have already been signed, Hrytsenko said.

Ukrainian and Iraqi negotiators are currently discussing two major contracts for other Ukrainian-produced military major equipment, including battle tanks, Mi-8 transport helicopters and weapons guidance systems, according to a Zerkalo Nedeli newspaper report.

More than 80 Ukrainian state-owned arms factories will produce components to fill the present Iraqi government order over the next three years, the newspaper said.

Polish, Czech, Bulgarian and Slovenian companies also were in bidding for the deal, according to the report.

The Iraq arms deal will turn Ukraine into the world’s fifth largest exporter, according to a Nezavisimaya Gazeta report.

Ukraine’s arms industry also produces sensors, automotive parts, conventional munitions, missiles, communications and air defence kits that approach standards of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and that are suitable for developing-world militaries, Ukrspestexport officials have said.

Ukraine in 2008 was the world’s 14th largest arms exporter, according to data from the Stockholm International Research Institute.

A high-tech Ukraine-manufactured radar called Kolchuga – according to its Donetsk manufacturer, capable of detecting stealth aircraft – even landed Kiev in hot water in 2003, when Washington accused Ukraine of selling a Kolchuga system to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Ukraine’s military and the Western-leaning wing of its political elite have long been keen on closer cooperation with the US and NATO armies as a means of obtaining badly needed cash for training and new equipment, and as a route out from under Russia’s military shadow.

Ukraine maintained a brigade of infantry in Iraq as part of the US-led occupation army, from 2003 – 2008. Much of the brigade’s equipment was turned over to the Iraqi army after the Ukrainians left.

Polls show that Ukraine’s population is against joining NATO, and suspicious of military deployments abroad.