Zimbabwe purchase of 32 Ansat helicopters – our analysis

Zimbabwe purchase of 32 Ansat helicopters – our analysis

24-May-2023 Source: HeliHub.com

With the razzamatazz of a brass band in temperatures approaching 30C, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe was on hand last week with none other than the Director General of Rostec (parent company of Russian Helicopters) Sergey Chemezov for the handover event for 18 Kazan Ansat helicopters, with a reported 14 more due by the end of 2025.  The event was held at the Executive Turbine hangar at Harare Airport.

Chemezov is reportedly one of President Putin’s known close associates, and both were KGB officers posted in Dresden. Some speculation has been noted in the press regarding the need for such a high-ranking Russian official to be present for this handover.

Russian operator HeliDrive has been involved in getting the helicopters flying in Zimbabwe – one pictorial report showed a HeliDrive employee in company uniform givng press representatives information on the medical interior of one of the EMS helicopters

HeliHub.com partner, and helicopter market intelligence specialists, Parapex Media have reviewed over 100 images online and identified registrations for 14 of the reported 18 helicopters, of which 4 are police and 10 are EMS. Some local reports say that 4 of the initial 18 helicopters are for law enforcement use, others say 6.

Parapex points out that the colour scheme of the EMS helicopters, which is exactly the same as the standard colour scheme used in Russia, minus any Cyrillic script titles. Parapex Media image analysis believes the helicopters appear to be new – and not older examples refurbished. Some aircraft are shown with plastic covers on the skids, skid steps, pilot’s seats and other areas too.

With a production total of 18 Ansat helicopters in 2021 and a further 24 in 2022, it is certainly feasible that the 18 delivered to Zimbabwe are were already built with the expectation of local orders which did not materialise.

The standard yellow/red/black Russian air ambulance colour scheme includes the “112” phone number in large scrips – the primary emergency number in Russia. The emergency phone number in Zimbabwe is 999, with two other numbers also in use on particular mobile phone networks – 112 for Eco Net mobile and 114 for Net One mobile subscribers. This gives weight to the suggestion that these helicopters were not originally built with an expectation that they would be sold to the African nation. However the number delivered to Zimbabwe would imply a 2023 planned production rate more than double the 2022 figure of 24.

One key aspect here are the engines in the Ansat – the PW207K from Pratt & Whitney.  Given the response by many countries, we believe that the engine OEM will not be supplying parts or service knowledge to Russian OEMs and operators.  Only last week it emerged that UTair had 30% of their fleet grounded due to non-availability of parts.  Thus it would appear likely that supporting Kazan Ansat helicopters is a great challenge at the moment, and new unsold airframes need to find a customer.  Effectively, we believe these helicopters are useless to Russia – and perhaps Zimbabwe too.  [We approached Pratt & Whitney for comment on this matter but did not receive a timely response]

Some significant questions are being asked locally about the ability for the ruling regime in Zimbabwe to afford such luxuries as a fleet of helicopters of this size at a time when hospitals are so under funded that they do no have some basic supplies.  [Zim Government figures are suggesting they are paying US$10M a piece for each Ansat, a multiple of the market price]

Nehandar Radio quotes political analyst Kundai Jirira saying that the country needed hospital equipment not helicopters. “l think it is misappropriation of funds when our hospitals have shortages or do not have medical utensils such as gloves, bandages, paracetamol, needles. Each helicopter could have bought 10 high quality ambulances more so all this money could have been used to complete or build our District hospitals.”

All local news outlets describe the helicopters as “part of the Government’s public private partnership with the Russian Federation which demonstrates the deep cordial relations being enjoyed between Harare and Moscow.”

All images in this report have originated from Zimbabwe Government sources

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