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Ghana Air Force to spend US$200 million on five aircraft

altFollowing its recent order for two Airbus Military C295 transport aircraft, the Ghana Air Force will also receive an Embraer 190 jet and two Diamond DA 42 aircraft, the country’s defence minister has announced.

Joseph Henry Smith told a new conference in Accra on Tuesday of the purchases, saying that the acquisition of the Embraer 190 from Brazil, together with logistic support and the construction of a hangar, will cost the West African nation about US$105.3 million.

The money is coming from a US$105 370 177 loan from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and approved on July 20. The hangar, with capacity for three large aircraft, will be built by Contracta Engenharia for US$17 million. It will be equipped with a bus, fire truck, ambulance and other support vehicles.

On August 4, Airbus announced that Ghana had signed a contract for two C295s, for delivery early next year. Smith said the C295 will enable the Air Force to move troops and other security agencies across the country and within the West African sub-region. The aircraft will also be used for medical evacuation, paratrooping, training and humanitarian operations, including assistance to organizations such as National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and the peace mission of the United Nations.

The other two aircraft being acquired are Diamond DA 42 MPP (Multi-Purpose Platform) Guardian surveillance and training aircraft, fitted with a sensor turret for surveillance missions. The twin turboprop DA 42 MPP aircraft are being funded through a €11.750 million loan from the Fidelity Bank Ghana Limited, while the Deutsche Bank S.A.E will provide a €60 034 636 loan for the two C295 transports, according to the Daily Graphic newspaper.

Presumably, the DA 42s will be used for maritime patrol, especially safeguarding Ghana’s offshore oil assets - the country becoming a major oil producer in the region after beginning production in December last year. The Gulf of Guinea has seen a dramatic increase in the number of attacks on ships this year – last week, pirates attacked two ships carrying oil off the coast of Benin, but were driven off by the Benin navy before they could steal the cargo.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is not on the scale of that off Somalia, but analysts say an increase in scope and number of attacks in a region ill-equipped to counter the threat could affect shipping and investment. For instance, Cameroon blamed piracy for part of a 13 percent drop in oil output in 2009.

Other maritime problems include piracy and drug trafficking. The United Nations estimates that US$1 billion worth of cocaine, destined for Europe from Latin America, passed through West Africa in 2008.

All five new aircraft are expected have been delivered by the end of next year, according to Smith.

Ghana’s Daily Guide reported that the Air Force could possibly also buy two new helicopters from Mil as well as Eurocopter Dolphin helicopters. At present Ghana’s air force only has four Mi-171V, one AB-212, two A109A and two SA319 Alouette III helicopters in service, according to the 2011 IISS The Military Balance.

James Klutse, Chairman of Ghana’s Finance Committee, said there was an urgent need to replacing the ageing fleet of aircraft operated by the Ghana Air Force.

President John Evans Atta Mills told GBC news that the new aircraft are not the personal use of government officials but will allow the military to undertake their duties. The government already has a Falcon 900EX for executive travel. The US$37million presidential jet arrived in Ghana on September 30 last year, the Daily Guide notes.

Speaking to GBC's Radio Ghana, an aide to the President Koku Anyidoho, said the flood situation in the Eastern Region has highlighted the need to purchase new aircraft for the military. He said equipping the security services will help to greatly combat crime and ensure swift rescue efforts when disaster strikes.

Not everyone is happy about the purchase of the aircraft - the minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Parliament is concerned about the acquisition of the aircraft, telling the Daily Guide that Ghana cannot afford the aircraft when the health, education and sanitation sectors are underfunded.

Ghana has a very small air force, with around 2000 personnel. According to the 2011 Military Balance, it has nine transport aircraft, including one Britten-Norman BN-2 Defender, three Cessna 172s, four Fokker F-27 Friendships and one Fokker F-28 Fellowship. The latter is used for VIP transport, which is one of the air force’s main duties.

In the way of combat aircraft, Ghana’s air force only has three single seat Aermacchi MB-326K ground attack aircraft. It also has two MB-339, two L-39ZO and four Hongdu K-8 Karakorum trainers.
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