Gabonese C295 arrives home

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The lone Airbus C295 transport aircraft ordered by Gabon has arrived home, months after the contract was greenlit.

The aircraft (TR-KJF) was tracked leaving Spain on 8 August, and landed in Libreville, Gabon, on 11 August. Tracking data showed it was flying around Libreville on 18 August. It is not clear how the coup on 30 August has affected subsequent flight operations.

Before he was overthrown, Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba in late June gave the greenlight for a CFA31 billion ($52 million) loan from Spain’s Santander Bank to purchase the military transport aircraft for the country’s Air Force.

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.