The United States has officially handed over two Cessna 208 Caravan intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to Cameroon’s Air Force to help it combat Boko Haram militants in the region.
The US Ambassador to Cameroon, Peter Henry Barlerin, on 11 May handed the aircraft over during a ceremony at Yaounde that was attended by Cameroon’s defence minister Joseph Beti Assomo, Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Rene Claude Meka and other dignitaries.
Barlerin said the Cameroon Cessna programme is worth 24 billion Central African Francs or $4.3 million. “That seems like a lot for two little planes, but it is much more than that. These surveillance aircraft represent a new link in the chain of our excellent cooperation, and have the potential to improve the safety and effectiveness of Cameroon’s fighting forces.
“Flying day or night, throughout the Far North, they can provide real time information, through video and photograph, as well as through radio communications, to both national decision makers and to operational commanders.”
Barlerin said the United States has provided a complete package, which includes the training of pilots, equipment operators, and maintenance technicians as well as pare parts and on-the-ground technical support.
“This ceremony is one of many steps in a long process of training, equipment delivery, installation, and certification events, which will take place over the next several months. The United States looks forward to continuing to work with our Cameroonian partners to ensure that these aircraft are smoothly and safely absorbed into the Air Force inventory. They should contribute to ongoing combat operations in the Far North and help keep Cameroon safe. They should also contribute to Cameroon’s ISR with Lake Chad Basin partners of the Multi-National Joint Task Force,” Barlerin said.
The aircraft are configured for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and are fitted with cameras with a range of up to ten kilometres.
The delivery to Cameroon comes days after the United States officially handed over two new Cessna 208B Grand Caravans to Chad. These aircraft were transferred during a ceremony on 2 May at a base outside the Chadian capital N’Djamena.
The aircraft originally arrived in Chad on 2 December 2017 and were initially used for pilot training. Maintenance and logistics training continues. In January this year the US military said Chad’s Caravans are being used as intelligence surveillance reconnaissance platforms that will be used in the fight against terrorist organisations in the region.
Chadian Caravans are equipped with L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical surveillance turrets which give a live video feed.
Cameroon’s were delivered in January this year after air and ground crews underwent training on the Cessna 208 in the United States in 2017.
In May 2016 the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Centre awarded contracts for the modification of six Grand Caravans for Cameroon, Chad and the Philippines, with a further contract for the aircraft that September. The Philippines received its two aircraft in July 2017.