Soviet jets for sale on E-mail

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The Independent Online
NINE million computer users around the world have been offered the chance to buy former Soviet warplanes by electronic mail. A Korean war vintage MiG 15 fighter can be yours for dollars 29,000 ( pounds 19,500) delivered; a 1968 MiG 21 is only dollars 36,000 ( pounds 24,000).

Gerard Braas, a Belgian businessman trading from Warsaw, has advertised 17 military aircraft from the former Warsaw Pact on Usenet, the worldwide network of computer discussion groups.

He assured the Independent that he could get any number of aircraft. 'As you know, everything in Russia is for sale now,' he said. He said he had already sold four MiGs to hobbyist pilots in the United States. 'Technically, they will fly, but we would never get permission to fly one over Germany. We have to strip the wings off and ship it in a 40ft container.

'You can buy all these civilian airliners . . . but there is no market for them. I can offer you 100 tomorrow if you want them.'

The most expensive of the aircraft advertised is a 1993 Ilyushin 76 transport aircraft, at nearly dollars 4m ( pounds 2.7m). Allan Winn, the editor of Flight International, said: 'If you could run it like a western aeroplane, it would be worth perhaps dollars 20m but as there is no back-up, it is probably not underpriced.'

Internet, the worldwide network of computers that carries Usenet discussions, has at least 20 million users in 131 countries, and is growing at a rate of 10 per cent a month. It offers huge possibilities for trade.

In the countries of the former Soviet Union, where the voice telephone system is unreliable, electronic mail offers businessmen the chance to reach large audiences of potential contacts for very little money.