France donates Epsilon trainer aircraft to Senegal


Senegal’s Air Force has taken delivery of two Epsilon trainer aircraft from France, and will use them to train pilots at its Air Force School outside the capital Dakar.

The two aircraft were received by Senegal’s armed forces minister Sidiki Kaba on 23 May. They will serve with the Air Force School at Thies, 70 kilometres from Dakar, according to local media.

France has donated other aircraft to Senegal in the past and in 2014 received four Epsilon trainers. Kaba said these aircraft were used to train around 15 pilots between 2014 and 2019 marking a major turning point in the history of the Air Force. They have accumulated over 3 300 flight hours.

Another Epsilon will be delivered in the future. Kiba said it is being shipped by sea and will be used for maintenance. Senegal’s Air Force had two Epsilons in service prior to 2014 – these were delivered in 2006.

Christophe Bigot, the French Ambassador to Senegal, said that “the air force schools are essential to participate in security, the fight against terrorism and the assurance of a nation’s sovereignty.” He said that Togolese and Nigerian pilots will soon be trained in Senegal.

The Socata TB 30 Epsilon is a light tandem seat military trainer aircraft that first flew on 22 December 1979. It is powered by a Lycoming O-540 piston engine giving a maximum speed of 380 km/h. Its biggest operator is the French Air Force, but it has also been exported to Portugal and Togo.

Senegal will also be establishing a naval training school.

Next year and in 2021, Senegal will receive four L-39NG attack and trainer jets from Aero Vodochody. These will be fitted with AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles for an air-to-air capability.

At the moment the Senegalese Air Force doesn’t operate any jet aircraft. Its only ground attack platforms are old Mi-24/35 and Mi-17 helicopters. There were talks with Embraer in 2013, toward purchasing Super Tucano turboprops, but the deal was never finalized. The four L-39NGs Senegal will receive, though being training aircraft, will feature five hard points for carrying weaponry, meaning they can easily switch to the light attack role.

Other acquisitions over the last couple of years have included a single CN235MP maritime patrol aircraft, NC-212MP maritime patrol aircraft, and three refurbished Hind attack helicopters.