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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kuwait in Town Shopping for Arms

Itar-TassKuwait is the first foreign country to buy the Smerch multi-launch rocket system, which is built by the Motovilikhinskiye Plants.
Officials from Kuwait's Defense Ministry are in Moscow to discuss acquiring weapons, including Smerch multi-launch rocket systems, BMP combat infantry vehicles and an Il-76 cargo plane.

The 18-strong delegation is expected to conclude a round of talks with Rosoboronexport, the state arms-exporting agency, on Friday, Brigade General Hamed Al-Qallaf, head of the delegation, said in an interview late Wednesday.

"We will complete discussion on Smerch, BMP-2 and BMP-3 and the aircraft," Al-Qallaf said.

Al-Qallaf said a contract could be signed after the visit "if we decide this equipment is good and we must use it."

The delegation arrived in Russia July 1 and spent two days in the Ural Mountains city of Nizhny Tagil, site of the third Russian Expo Arms-2002.

The exhibition was organized for Russian arms companies to show off a variety of tanks, combat vehicles and ammunition to potential clients, including foreign armed forces.

Posing in front of the upgraded Smerch system prior to the show's official opening Tuesday, Al-Qallaf told reporters that the word "good" does not describe Russian weapons well enough, and it would be better to use the word "excellent."

Al-Qallaf said he was pleased with the firepower demonstration at the show. "We saw good things about the Smerch launcher," he said.

Al-Qallaf refused to detail the number of items Kuwait is looking to buy or the overall value, saying only that the weapons would make a welcome addition to other Russian weaponry in the Kuwaiti armed forces.

Kuwait was the first foreign country to buy the Smerch system, reportedly receiving 27 of the launchers between 1995 and 1996. At the time, media reported that together with an unreleased number of BMP-2 and BMP-3 combat infantry vehicles Kuwait paid some $800 million.

Algeria later bought 18 Smerch systems. The price of that deal has not been released.

The Smerch is made by the Perm-based Motovilikhinskiye Plants and has been in use by the Russian armed forces since 1987.

A spectator at the arms exhibition was injured Wednesday during a demonstration firing of the Smerch system.

Al-Qallaf said Kuwait was looking at the upgraded version of Smerch, whose firing range has been increased from 40 kilometers to 90 kilometers.

During Soviet times, Kuwait purchased Strela air-defense missile and Luna tactical-missile systems, Al-Qallaf said.

He also said that Kuwait has met with the Ilyushin aircraft maker and is looking to get an Il-76 military cargo plane.

Al-Qallaf added that Kuwait is not yet considering Russian tanks or fighter jets.

Despite the possible new purchases, Kuwait will hardly become a major Russian weapons client since the United States remains its main supplier, said Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, an independent defense think tank.

Makiyenko said it would be a much more substantial deal if Kuwait were to purchase Russia's Buk-M1 and Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems.

Kuwait is also believed to be looking at the S-300 air defense systems.