The Cameroon Air Force has accepted an MA60 twin turboprop aircraft from Xi’an Aircraft Corporation at a signing ceremony in China, bringing the number of African MA60 operators to six.
The signing ceremony was held on October 13 and follows Cameroon President Paul Biya’s visit to China in July 2011 when he ordered the MA60. On December 1 of that year, Xi’an Aircraft International Corporation and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) signed contracts for six MA60s, including three for Cameroon, two for Air Burundi and one for Air Congo International.
The Cameroonian MA60 was funded using Chinese grant aid. In June, the Chinese Embassy stated that two MA60s for Cameroon were being considered for purchase using loans.
It is not clear when the decision was made to deliver the MA60 to the Cameroon Air Force, as it was originally destined for Camair-Co, the former Cameroon Airlines Corporation.
The MA60 is a stretched version of the Xian Y7-200A, which is based on the Antonov An-24. The MA60 was designed to replace earlier Y-7 variants.
The MA60 first flew in March 2000 and received its type certificate from the Civil Aviation Administration of China in June 2000. The first aircraft was delivered to Sichuan Airlines in August 2000.
The MA60 can carry 60 passengers at a cruising speed of 430 km/h over a range of 1 600 kilometres. It is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127J turboprops, each producing 2 051 kW (2 750 shp).
Meanwhile, in June this year the Cameroon Air Force ordered a single Airbus Military CN235 medium transport to modernise its transport fleet.
It is understood that Cameroon had earlier placed an order for the CN235 but experienced problems financing the aircraft. However, Cameroon was able to obtain financing from a bank for the aircraft, leading to the deal going ahead.
Airbus Military said that versatility and low maintenance and operating costs were key factors in the Cameroon Air Force’s selection of the CN235 and that the aircraft is well-proven in hot, dusty and humid conditions throughout Africa. CN235s have accumulated more than a million flight hours.
The CN235 is able to carry up to six tonnes of payload. Its two General Electric GE CT7-9C3 turboprop engines, each delivering 1870 shp, give it a maximum cruise speed of 240 kt (450 km/h).
Cameroon’s CN235 is the 276th to be ordered from Airbus Military. A total of 43 operators around the world have ordered the aircraft in transport and surveillance versions, and it is currently in service with 28 countries.
According to Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, Cameroon’s air force is geared toward transport and utility operations in support of ground forces. “As with other regional air forces, few aircraft have been procured since the end of the oil boom in the early 1980s and the burden is beginning to tell on equipment that is now almost 30 years old,” Janes said, cautioning that ageing aircraft and low serviceability were hampering the combat capability of the air force.
According to the IISS’s The Military Balance 2012, the Cameroon Air Force’s transport fleet inventory comprises of one Boeing 707, three C-130H-30 Hercules, one DHC-4 Caribou, four DHC-5D Buffalos, two Dornier Do-128D-6 Turbo SkyServants, one Gulfstream III and one IAI-201 Arava. Some of these aircraft are no longer serviceable and the transport fleet has declined in recent years, especially with the 2001 grounding of the remaining three DHC-5D Buffalos.
The Air Force has over a dozen combat capable aircraft, including five MB-326K Impala I/IIs, four Alpha Jets and six CM-170 Magisters, although the availability of the Magisters is questionable. Six Impalas were purchased from South Africa in 1997 and entered service in late 1998, but one later crashed in 2003.
Utility aircraft comprise two PA-23 Aztecs while the helicopter fleet comprises of three Mi-24 Hinds, four SA-342 Gazelles, one AS332 Super Puma, one AS 365 Dauphin 2, three Bell 206 Jet Rangers, two Bell 206L-3 Long Rangers, one SA 318 Alouette II, two SA 319 Alouette IIIs and three SE 3130 Alouette IIs, according to The Military Balance. Two Bell 412s were also acquired, but one was lost in a fatal crash in November 2010.