Botswana has ordered five new Pilatus PC-7 Mk II turboprop trainers to replace its existing fleet of PC-7s, which are more than two decades old. The deal was signed in Gaborone earlier this month.
The contract is valued at approximately 40 million Swiss Francs (286,939,000 Botswana Pula/US$44.8 million) and includes spares, support equipment and a comprehensive ground based training system that includes computer based training aids and training for pilots and technicians.
The Botswana Defence Force signed the contract with the Swiss-based Pilatus in Gaborone on April 13.
Deliveries will conclude in early 2013, enabling the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) to transition to the PC-7 Mk II during 2013.
“The decision confirms the continued trust that the Botswana Defence Force places in Pilatus and the Pilatus aircraft as a training system,” Pilatus said in a statement.
“Pilatus Aircraft Ltd is committed to continue serving the BDF, a long standing partner of Pilatus, with its world renowned dedication to Swiss precision and quality,” the company added.
The Botswana Defence Force currently operates a fleet of six PC-7s, the most recent of which entered service in 1990.
Botswana’s order will cause production of the PC-7 Mk II to resume, according to Flight International.
The Air Wing of the Botswana Defence Force operates 14 Canadair CF-5 Freedom Fighters. It next most important aircraft are its PC-7s, which can be armed.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Botswana’s estimated annual defence budget amounted to US$352 million last year, which means that the country spent 1/9th of its defence budget on acquiring the new aircraft. Of Botswana’s 10,000-15,000 soldiers, 2,500-3,000 serve with the BDF Air Wing.
Meanwhile, Pilatus is in the midst of upgrading the cockpits of the South African Air Force’s 35-strong fleet. In 1993 neighbouring South Africa purchased 60 PC-7 Mk IIs for US$175 million to replace its North American Harvards in what was the country’s first post-apartheid defence purchase. It was also the first order for the PC-7 Mk II variant, which combines features of the PC-7 and PC-9. Deliveries began in October 1994.
In 2007 South Africa contracted Pilatus to upgrade the cockpits of 35 aircraft at a cost of approximately R400 million. The first upgraded aircraft was handed over in July last year. Modified aircraft have full glass cockpits enabling pilots to be trained in all weathers.
By the end of last year, ten aircraft had been modified.