Chavez Orders Kilo Subs

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Venezuela has placed a preliminary order for five advanced diesel-electric submarines with Rosoboronexport, Russia's arms export company. The submarines will be of the Project 877EKM or Varshavyanka series, known in the West as the Kilo class.

The announcement came during the visit of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - known for his strong anti-U.S. views - to Moscow earlier this month to discuss additional weapons purchases and wider economic ties with Russia. Upon his arrival in the Russian capital he declared, If the United States attacks Venezuela, we are ready to die defending our sacred land."

Chavez continued, "We support Russia, we need Russia, which is becoming stronger day by day." He added that Venezuela intended to continue cooperating closely with Moscow, including in the military sphere.

After visiting Russia and meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Chavez planned to go on to Belarus and then to Iran, where both governments are portrayed by the U.S. government as outlaw regimes. Chavez had previously visited Iran. (He has also made several highly publicized trips to Cuba.)

In conjunction with Chavezs trip to Russia, Konstantin Makiyenko, Deputy Director of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said: "Most likely, [Venezuela] will buy five. . . submarines with missile systems ... but they could end up buying nine."

The Project 636/877 submarines are advanced diesel-electric submarines, which first entered service with the Russian Navy in 1981. Similar submarines are in service with the Algerian, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Iranian, Polish, and Romanian navies. (The Venezuelan Navy now operates two German-built Type 209/1300 diesel-electric submarines.)

Reportedly, Chavez is also negotiating with Russia for the purchase of an advanced air-defense system.

Last year Chavez signed agreements for the purchase of Russian-made helicopter gunships, fighter aircraft, and small arms for a total of $3 billion.

-- Norman Polmar

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