Cyprus buys French fighter helicopters and sells Russian Mi35s to Serbia

Cyprus helicopter

Cyprus is diversifying its military equipment from being overly reliant on Russian defence industry, with the gradual abandonment of weapons systems acquired (out of necessity) in the previous years by Russia.

After the partial lifting of the embargo imposed by the US, the western defence market for Cyprus has now opened and an effort is being made to modernise the weapons systems of the Cypriot National Guard.

It should be noted that the only western country that provided military equipment to Cyprus despite the US embargo was France and Nicosia is turning to it again.

As revealed by the Cypriot newspaper Politis, the island’s aviation (which does not have fighter jets) is going to procure six new attack helicopters from France.

The day before yesterday, the parliamentary defence committee decided in a closed session the release of €53 million for the purchase of helicopters from Airbus Helicopters.

The total cost of the helicopters together with the equipment will amount to €140 million.

The intention is to buy a total of 12 helicopters (6 + 6) in two phases, in order to replace the 11 Russian Mi35 helicopters that Cyprus will sell to Serbia.

Cyprus had acquired 12 Mi35 helicopters from Russia in the 1990s, and lost one in an accident in which a Cypriot pilot was killed, along with a Russian instructor.

Following the sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 over the annexation of Crimea, it became almost impossible to supply spare parts for the maintenance of these helicopters and the only country that showed interest in acquiring them was Serbia.

Serbia, as a non-EU member, has not imposed sanctions against Russia.

The Director General of the Cyprus Ministry of Defence Andreas Loukas, together with a delegation of military chiefs, had the opportunity to see the new French helicopters up close at the international military exhibition “EUROSATORY 2022” in Paris.

On the sidelines of the exhibition, the Commander of the National Guard, Lieutenant General Democritus Zervakis, met with the French General Thierry Burkhard.

The implementation of the 2022-23 bilateral military cooperation program was discussed, and includes, among other things, joint trainings and activities, both in France and in Cyprus.

From August 2020, with the ratification by the Cypriot Parliament, the military agreement between the armed forces of the Republic of Cyprus and France came into force.

The military agreement provides for co-operation in the fields of armaments and defence technology, joint training of military personnel and conducting search and rescue exercises.

Cyprus faces a problem with the maintenance of Russian-made weapons systems, such as the T-80U tanks, the BMP3 armored tanks and the TOR-M1 and Buk-M1-2 self-propelled missile and anti-aircraft systems.

The intention is to gradually replace them for reasons of modernisation as everything was acquired 20 years ago.

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