Caracas, March 14 (IANS/EFE) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has formally taken the delivery of the first four airplanes out of 18 purchased from China for military training purposes, which, however, came armed with machine guns, air-to-ground missiles, bombs and rockets.
Chavez said Saturday during the televised ceremony at a military base in the northwestern state of Lara, which he attended wearing the uniform of commander in chief of the Bolivarian armed forces, that the arrival of the aircraft made “March 13 a historic day for the Bolivarian anti-imperialist air force”.
This armament increases military capability for “defending the sovereignty of this sacred land and of this revolution”, he said.
With almost 1 million sq km of territory and more than 600,000 sq km of territorial waters and an exclusive economic area, “Venezuela will be a force for good, for justice, for equality, for freedom, a socialist power, and for that we have to be well equipped”, he said.
The war-fighting equipment, he said, will guard “the country’s riches of water, oil, energy, gas, geographic location and its role as the cradle of the first great revolution of the 21st century” threatened by “a counter-revolutionary opposition that would like the United States empire to take over Venezuela”.
The president said he wants to buy a total of 40 of these K-8W aircraft.
With the ones already purchased “we will have the capability of training 40 pilots a year” using a flight simulator that “we will inaugurate within a few weeks”.
We needed this stage of basic training to ready our pilots (to move on) from turboprops, especially the Brazilian Tucans “to fly F-5 combat aircraft, now either restored or being restored, along with the F-16s and the Sukhois” recently purchased from Russia, Chavez said.
Venezuela’s purchases of military equipment from China follow its orders from Russia of 24 Sukhoi-30 fighters, some 50 helicopters and 100,000 AK-103 automatic rifles in 2006 for some $3 million, according to Russian sources.
Additionally, during a visit by Chavez to Moscow last year, the government of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev approved financing of $2.2 billion for Venezuela’s armament spending, which later, according to the Venezuelan government, “made viable” the purchase of the Igla-S mobile anti-aircraft system and 92 model T-72 tanks.