By Antony Sguazzin / Bloomberg
October 23, 2019

Russia will on Wednesday land the world’s biggest military aircraft in South Africa, the Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack” bomber, in a rare display of cooperation between the defense forces of the two countries.

The two bombers, which are capable of launching nuclear missiles, are the first to ever land in Africa and will be escorted by fighter jets from the South African Air Force when they touch down at the Waterkloof air base in Tshwane, the South African National Defence Force said in a statement. The bombers will arrive at around 4 p.m. and a number of other Russian military aircraft will also land at the site. The bombers had initially been scheduled to land earlier.

“The military-to-military relations between the two countries are not solely built on struggle politics but rather on fostering mutually beneficial partnerships based on common interests,” the SANDF said. Russia’s defense ministry put out a similar statement.

The arrival of the bombers in Africa’s most industrialized nation coincides with Russian President Vladimir Putin hosting an Africa summit this week, the first such event to be organized by Russia. The nation is competing with China and the U.S. for influence in Africa.

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