The authorities of Kazakhstan are attempting to auction off more than 100 Soviet-made combat aircraft.
The lot was put up for sale by the state enterprise Kazspetsexport, and includes MiG-27, MiG-29, MiG-31, and Su-24 combat aircraft. The starting price for the entire lot of 117 aircraft was set at approximately 1.8 billion Kazakhstani tenge ($3.85 million).
These aircraft, delivered between 1975 and 1989, are currently in storage at various military facilities. Their condition is so deteriorated that restoration was deemed impractical due to the high cost involved, with some even reported to be unsuitable for “cannibalization,” meaning their parts cannot be used to refurbish other aircraft.
However, part of the MiG-31 fleet should still be close to flying conditions. As recently as April 2020, an aircraft of this type crashed near Karaganda, 185 kilometers (115 miles) southeast of the capital city Astana, after one of the engines caught fire.
The Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound heavy supersonic interceptor was introduced into active service in 1981. With a maximum takeoff weight of 46 tons (over 101,000 pounds), it boasts the capability to transport a wide variety of weaponry.
The MiG-31 fighters flown by the Kazakh Air Defense Forces were from the final batch ever produced, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 20 were still counted as active in the 2023 World Air Forces directory.
In the meantime, the Kazakh Air Defense Forces are harmonizing and modernizing their fleet with the recent acquisition of at least 24 Su-30SM multirole fighter jets.
Is Russia the most likely buyer?
A first sale was scheduled for October 26, 2023, as reported by Forbes Kazakhstan. However, for an unknown reason, it did not take place.
A new tender is scheduled for November 11, 2023, according to the Russian news portal Reporter. The entire lot will be put up for auction again, but this time at half the original price.
Some suspect that Russia might purchase the lot to acquire spare parts, as some of the combat aircraft mentioned, which are still in use by the Russian Air Force and engaged in the invasion of Ukraine, are no longer in production.
However, on October 19, 2023, Kazakhstan announced a ban on the export of approximately 100 products to Russia, including drones and electronic components. It remains to be seen whether this ban includes the avionics found in these combat aircraft.
Ukraine could also benefit from some of these aircraft, as it operates the MiG-29 fighter and the Su-24 bomber. Without access to Russian manufacturers, the country has relied on the support of European partners to supply Soviet aircraft.