Gabon Air Force to acquire a C295 transport aircraft under a loan agreement

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Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba recently gave the greenlight for a CFA31 billion ($52 million) loan to purchase an Airbus C295 military transport aircraft for the country’s Air Force.

The decision for the loan to be secured from Spain’s Santander Bank was taken during a recent cabinet meeting on 26 June, chaired by the president. The meeting approved a draft legal text from the executive requesting authorisation to go ahead with the plan.

According to the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the President requested the government to approve the loan in line with the country’s constitution.

“This draft text, adopted in application of the provisions of article 47 of the Constitution, authorises the state of Gabon to contract a loan for an amount of €47 676 067,” reads a part of the communiqué.

“The funds from this specific loan will be used by the Gabonese government to purchase a CASA C295 MTA aircraft in order to enhance the operational capabilities of the Air Force,” it added.

It is not clear when the loan will be obtained or when the country will take delivery of the aircraft. Airbus has not registered the order yet. The acquisition accounts for about 20% of Gabon’s 2023 defence budget.

Gabon’s Air Force already flies a CN235M, which first flew in 1991. It was recently overhauled by Airbus in Spain. Several C-130 Hercules/L-100s remain in storage. The Air Force has few serviceable aircraft aside from a Puma, three Gazelles, an ATR 42 (for VIP use), a Falcon 900 (for VIP use). The fighter force comprises six former South African Air Force Mirage F1 AZ fighters; to further assist training fighter pilots, South Africa supplied two MB326 Impalas in 2013.

The Garde Republicaine Gabona flies a couple of EC135T2+ helicopters, two EC120Bs, and an EC225LP Super Puma.

Gabon has been acquiring numerous batches of military hardware over the last decade. In 2019 it emerged that the Chinese VN1 8×8 armoured vehicles were in service with Gabon – this is an export variant based on the ZBL-08 (Type 08) IFV that is fully amphibious, weighing 21 tonnes. Other relatively recently delivered hardware includes Dongfeng EQ2050 vehicles and, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 19 Type-07P infantry fighting vehicles, also from China.

Gabon took delivery of eight Aravis IFVs from French company Nexter between 2015 and 2016 and 24 Matador APCs from Paramount in 2010, followed by ten Maverick internal security vehicles. Five VAB-VTT vehicles were supplied second hand by France for Gabon’s UN peacekeeping forces. Last year Chinese VP11 4×4 armoured vehicles were seen in service for the first time.