A Russian military industry expert says Algeria would be among the first countries to take delivery of the latest Russian fighters

Algerian Sukhoi threat looms over Morocco

photo_camera AP/ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICEHNKO - Russia unveiled a prototype of its future fighter jet at the airshow on Tuesday

Samuel Bendett, an arms expert, told the online newspaper Breaking Defense that both Russia and Algeria would be ready to close purchases for the new Su-75 Checkmate fighters as soon as the first export batches are ready. 

The analyst from the CNA, an American centre for international studies, said that Russia's need to sell its exports due to the war in Ukraine and the arms race in which Algeria is involved in competition with Morocco augur well for this scenario. 

Bendett is referring to the latest multirole fighter with stealth technology being designed by Russian manufacturer Sukhoi, for which the first test flights are planned for 2025. According to the manufacturer's official data, the first exports are expected in 2029, after joining the Russian Aerospace Forces. 

Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin vía AP - Cazas de quinta generación Sukhoi Su-57 despegan durante el Salón Internacional MAKS-2019

The Sukhoi-75 Checkmate is the aircraft manufacturer's latest big bet to overtake Lockheed Martin's US F-35. Its design should correct the flaws found in the production Su-57, which has become too expensive, as well as having flaws in its stealth system. The Su-57 has been widely criticised today for these flaws, as well as for not being spotted in the Ukrainian war, allegedly because of its unreliability.

Bendett also claims that it would not be surprising if Algeria enjoyed some incentives from Russia to purchase a batch of these Su-57s, with some components upgraded.  

Algeria's fighter force is entirely composed of Russian-made aircraft, as are virtually all of its assets in other forces. It has become common practice in Algeria to procure Russian weapon systems and progressively upgrade them with French systems, with whom it also cooperates in the armaments field. 

REUTERS/TATYANA MAKEYEVA - Checkmate, el nuevo caza furtivo de quinta generación de Sukhoi, durante el salón MAKS 2021

Currently, Algeria's most recent-generation air superiority fighter is the Su-30, an aircraft also used by the Venezuelan, Malaysian and Indian air forces, for example. 

The Su-57 would allow Algeria to gain a clear air advantage over Morocco, which mainly relies on a fleet of US-supplied F-16s. While there are rumours that Morocco would be after the coveted F-35s, it is unlikely to see them in the Moroccan arsenal in the coming years. According to official sources, Morocco has made no formal request to acquire these stealth-technology fighters that directly compete with, if not surpass, the Su-57. 

The most likely scenario is that Morocco will work to achieve its air superiority goals through the most upgraded versions of the Block 70 F-16. Morocco has already closed purchases to operate this version of the Lockheed Martin fighter that have been approved by the US Congress. According to military analysts, the upgraded versions of the F-16 are a very competitive and viable value-for-money option for second-tier economies such as Morocco. 

PHOTO/ARCHIVO - F-16 marroquí durante unos ejercicios

In terms of air defence, Morocco has effective US Patriot systems, as well as an agreement with Israel to operate the Iron Dome system, the most reliable and most frequently used in real warfare. 

The arms race between Algeria and Morocco is nothing new, but it intensified in 2021 with the worsening of relations between the two countries, when Algiers cut diplomatic bridges with Rabat. Much of this conflict stems from Morocco's accession to the Abraham Accords and its progressive normalisation of relations with Israel. The Western Sahara issue and the latest updates in this conflict have exacerbated the situation with accusations of spying and interference in each other's internal policies. 

Both countries rank highest in military spending relative to their gross domestic product. Algeria, which spends 5.6 per cent of its gross income on defence, ranks fifth, while Morocco is tenth on the list with 4.2 per cent of its GDP converted into military spending.

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