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Uganda moving combat aircraft out of Entebbe

A Su-30 Flanker aircraft.The Uganda People’s Defence Force Air Wing (UPDF-AW) is moving its combat aircraft from Entebbe to Nakasongola Air Base to alleviate congestion.

Entebbe International Airport is the main base for UPDF-AW aircraft but it has becoming increasingly congested, which could pose a problem for future operations and increase the risk of collisions. Most Ugandan military aircraft have been stationed at Entebbe, including MiG-21s (most likely inoperable), Su-30MK2 fighters, L100-30 and Y-12 transports and Jet Ranger, Mi-8/17/172 and Mi-24P helicopters.

The UPDF-AW’s training aircraft are mainly flown from Gulu Airport, which is home to its AS202/18A1 Bravos, L-39 Albatros and SF260W Warriors.

Yugandan president Yoweri Museveni confirmed the long-awaited move during a passing out parade for 23 Air Force personnel at Entebbe last month. "A lion stays in the wilderness, not in town. If you see a lion staying in town, that means it is in a zoo. It is only proper that you move to Nakasongola," New Vision quoted him as saying. The move was due to commence this month.

Nakasongola is located in central Uganda, making it a better location from which to conduct flights over the DRC and South Sudan. The base, which features a 3 km long runway and taxiway, was constructed in the 1970s by Idi Amin and was originally intended to be the main UPDF-AW base. It has been upgraded recently ahead of the move from Entebbe – since January 2011, a main hangar and another three buildings have been completed.

During his visit to Entebbe, Museveni also commissioned a Su-30MK2 flight simulator, something UPDF Air Wing Commander General Samuel Turyagyenda said would greatly reduce the amount of money spent on pilot training.

“The air force budget on fuel will greatly go down because training on the actual jets was very expensive due to fuel costs. Wear and tear of the fighter jets on training will also be reduced because the (flight) simulator is static but can do all that a pilot will do when operating the jet fighter,” he said.

Turyagyenda said more than a dozen UPDF flight engineers, technicians and aviation systems administrators have been trained on how to operate the Su-30 flight simulator by Russian instructors.

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