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BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe — The Algerian Air Force has ordered 12 Sukhoi (Su-34) "Fullback" fighter bombers from Russian aircraft manufacturer Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association to replace an aged fleet of Soviet-era MiG-25s, which are long over-due for retirement from service, as part of an ongoing force modernization program.

In an interview published by Russian-language newspaper Vedomosti on New Year's Day, Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association Director General Chkalov Sergei Smirnov announced that Algeria has finally ordered the Su-34 after nearly eight years of continuous negotiations.

Although he did not give any further details on the sale, Smirnov said the Algerian Air Force is also negotiating for the long-term purchase of upgraded versions of the company's (Sukhoi) Su-24 "Fencer," which would be in line with the changing needs of Algeria's ongoing force re-orientation and modernization project.

The Su-34 order is believed to be a component of the $7.5 billion Algerian-Russian arms deal signed in March 2006 for the supply of anti-missile systems, aviation, sea and land-ward defense equipment and technologies.

Late last year, top Russian military expert Igor Korotchenko told RIA Novostin that the deployment of the Su-34 on combat duty in Syria will help potential buyers in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East to evaluate its performance and decide on whether to acquire it or not.

"Several countries in Africa, including Uganda and Nigeria, which [are] waging a war against Boko Haram, could buy the Su-34. Such top of the range fighter bomber aircraft could also strengthen Ethiopia's Air Force, which still operates a large fleet of aging Su-27 fighters," Korotchenko said.

The Su-34 has also attracted the interest of Iraq, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan while Kazakhstan already operates a squadron recently acquired from Russia. Powered by a two Saturn AL-31F turbo-fan engines, the Su-34 is a fourth generation fighter bomber created from the frame of its (Sukhoi) Su-27 predecessor.

It has a non-stop operating range of 4 000 kilometers and a maximum speed of up to 2,200 kilometers per hour. Its principal armaments include a 30-mm GSh-301 canon, and various surface to air-to-air missiles, cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship and anti-radiation missiles in addition to guided and free-fall bombs.

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