The Djibouti Air Force (FAD) has taken delivery of a new Modern Ark (MA) 60 twin turboprop transport aircraft from Chinese aircraft manufacturer Xian Aircraft Corporation (XAC) as the country beefs up aerial defence capabilities against regional militant groups and maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean.
The aircraft was supplied in terms of an agreement signed between the Djiboutian government and XAC in September 2013. The MA-60, which is the first of its type in the country, was commissioned into service by President Ismail Omar Guelleh on June 18 in a ceremony attended by members of government, the Djibouti Armed Forces (DAF), the Chinese embassy and representatives from CATIC (China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation).
“The acquisition of this equipment is timely at the time when the DAF is experiencing difficulties in transporting logistics for the benefit of our contingent deployed in Somalia in line with the AU’s peace mission,” said Lieutenant Colonel Wahib Moussa Kalinleh, commander of the Djibouti Air Force. He added that the MA60 consumes less fuel than other aircraft in the Air Force’s fleet, according to state news agency ADI.
During the handover, Guelleh commissioned a spare parts depot for the new aircraft. Several Chinese engineers will provide training for Djibouti technicians on the aircraft for a year.
The MA60 will be used for cargo and VIP transportation duties. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127J Turboprop engines with an output of 2,051 kW each, the MA60 is manned by a crew of two.
The aircraft has a maximum speed of 514 km/h, a cruising speed of 430 km/h and a range of 2 000 km with a 5 ton payload.
Djibouti’s military is faced with the twin threats of maritime piracy on the Indian Ocean and regional terrorism, both of which are blamed on armed groups from neighbouring Somalia.
Prior to the delivery of the MA60, the air force was operating less than a dozen aircraft. These include a Cessna 208 Caravan transport, a Cessna 206, two Let L-410 Turbolet VIP transports, a Eurocopter AS355, a Mil-Mi-8 and two Mil-Mi-24 attack helicopters. The 250 personnel strong air force has its only base in the town of Ambouli.