Equatorial Guinea acquires Z-9WE helicopters from China

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Equatorial Guinea’s military has acquired two Harbin Z-9WE armed helicopters from China and is exploring the possibility of acquiring additional rotary wing aircraft.

This is according to the country’s ruling Democratic Party (Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial), which reported that Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue had on 8 April inspected the newly acquired aircraft.

With a capacity to carry eight people, the aircraft are fitted with nose-mounted electro-optical gimbals for day and night surveillance, and hardpoints for weapons, which can include guns, rockets and anti-tank missiles.

The Democratic Party added that Mangue is considering continuing with the modernisation of the military and is looking at acquiring more aircraft, particularly to fight maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Z-9WE is the export version of the Z-9W light attack helicopter, based on the Chinse built version of the Airbus AS365 Dauphin. The Z-9W is in Chinese military service and has also been exported, including to African customers. Four helicopters were delivered to the Kenyan Armed Forces between 2010 and 2011, for example.

Equatorial Guinea has in recent years acquired a significant amount of military hardware from China. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s arms transfers database, the West African nation acquired from China two dozen Red Arrow-8 anti-tank missiles in 2021; a landing ship in 2009; half a dozen SM-4 self-propelled mortars in 2018; and two dozen WZ-551 armoured personnel carriers.

The air force branch of the nation’s military has been expanding rapidly in recent years, following a period of virtual non-existence. Recent additions over the last two decades include two L-39s, four Su-25s, an An-32, an Mi-26, two An-72 transports and six Mi-24 attack helicopters from Ukraine. Russia supplied a couple of Mi-17 transport helicopters in 2006 and 2018. Ukraine also supplied a single Ka-29 helicopter for naval use in 2009.