C-27Js are among a group of aircraft the Ghanaian Air Force is acquiring. (Alenia Aermacchi)
BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE — The Ghanaian Air Force (GAF) says it will soon acquire an undisclosed number of fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft. These are added to a shopping list that includes Airbus C-295 troop transports, Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan transports, Mil Mi-35M Hind assault helicopters, Cessna Grand Caravan helicopters, HAI Z-9 utility and Airbus AS365 Dauphin utility helicopters to fulfill its airlift contract obligations with UN peacekeeping and stabilization missions across Africa.
The announcement of the aircraft acquisition program is spurred by the growth in the demand for UN and African Union (AU) sub-Saharan airlift services driven by the rising number of continental peacekeeping, humanitarian and stabilization missions.
Last July, the UN awarded its first African military airlift services to the GAF to transport peacekeeping troops deployed to Mali. The GAF already provides airlift services to the UN stabilization mission in Ivory Coast.
Addressing delegates at the IQPC International Military Helicopter conference held in London from Jan. 22- 24, GAF Air Commodore Maxwell Nagai said the new aerial platforms will give it the capacity to deliver the airlift services required by UN continental missions.
Nagai is the base commander at the GAF Takoradi Air Base. Internally, Ghana needs new aircraft to secure its land and maritime boundaries and protect newly discovered, offshore hydro-carbon reserves, oil pipelines and infrastructure.
The worsening piracy crisis in the Gulf of Guinea and the encroaching terror threat from neighboring Nigeria, the Sahel and Maghreb regions of north and northwest Africa also influence Ghana’s demand for new aerial platforms and defense capabilities.
Nagai addressed the conference, defining the GAF’s peacekeeping operations, the strengths drawn from its helicopter deployments and its future needs.
The GAF seeks additional Airbus C-295 transports to complement two that are in service as well as to cover the logistics gap likely to be left by the impending retirement of the Air Force’s last Fokker 27 plane.
The force also operates four Hongdu K-8 Karakorum trainers, one Dassault Falcon 900 executive jet, three Diamond DA 42 MPPs, four HAIC JL-8 light attack jets, three Cessna 172 basic trainers, seven Mi-17s, two Agusta-Westland AW109 Power utility helicopters, two Bell 412 SP utility helicopters and two Aerospatiale SA 316 Alouette III utility helicopters.
Following the July UN award for airlift services, Ghana contracted Airbus Military of Spain to supply two more CASA C-295 cargo aircraft for African airlift services under a lease-to-purchase agreement that will be paid from UN funds. .
However, the GAF acquisition program began ahead of the UN airlift services contract and was largely driven by force modernization requirements and the need for new capabilities to deal with emerging security threats such as the spread of maritime crimes, and homegrown and foreign-inspired terrorism.
Last April, Ghana took delivery of four out of an order of six new Mi-171Sh helicopters and a fully equipped helicopter maintenance warehouse from state-owned Russian arms export agency Rosoboronexport.
Ghana President John Mahama said the aircraft will be deployed to counter offshore piracy, drug smuggling and the theft or illegal provision of oil supplies. The aircraft are also serving civilian purposes including VIP transport, search and rescue and aviation training operations.
Ghana also took delivery of three Diamond DA42 MPP from Austria for maritime surveillance operations and is set to receive one Embraer 190 from Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer this year.
The envisaged expansion of aerial defense capabilities comes as the country’s troop contributions to UN military operations have expanded to include peacekeeping in Liberia, Somalia, Darfur, Ivory Coast, Lebanon and Mali. Last week, Mahama said his country will provide 850 troops to support the UN-AU missions.
Prior to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s plea for the deployment of the force in South Sudan, the Ghanaian government had offered to redeploy 330 members of the Ghana Batallion currently serving in Ivory Coast, but because of the unfolding humanitarian crisis, the armed forces will deploy an additional 520 new troops and equipment to bring the full strength of its contingent to 850.
“When I received the request from the UN Secretary-General, I did not hesitate to give my provisional approval. We see, on television everyday, the human suffering and the plight of the displaced people. Ghana will deploy as quickly as possible to secure the lines for humanitarian assistance to come through,” Mahama said. ■