Ghana has taken delivery of its first Airbus Military C295 transport aircraft as it modernises and expands its air force. The second and final C295 will be delivered early next year.
Airbus Military announced the delivery on Friday. The company said that Ghana had selected the C295 because of its ease of maintenance and ability to operate in harsh environments.
“We are very proud to add the Ghana Air Force to our family of C295 operators. The C295, which has proven the best solution for medium sized transport, will allow missions in remote and difficult to access areas. We look forward to the entry into service of this versatile aircraft in the Ghana Air Force”, said Airbus Military Head of Programmes, Rafael Tentor.
Ghana’s defence minister Lieutenant General Joseph Henry Smith said the C295 will enable the Air Force to move troops and other security agencies across the country and within the West African sub-region. The aircraft will also be used for medical evacuation, paratrooping, training and humanitarian operations, including assistance to organizations such as National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and the peace mission of the United Nations.
Ghana was originally interested in acquiring the C-27J Spartan from Alenia Aeronautica and requested four C-27Js in September 2009.
The contract for the two C295s was announced on August 4 and brought the C295’s order book to 85 aircraft for 14 customers. More than 75 C295s are currently flying with 11 countries, having accumulated more than 100,000 flight hours.
Later in August it was announced that the Ghana Air Force will also receive an Embraer 190 jet and two Diamond DA 42 aircraft. The acquisition of the Embraer 190 from Brazil, together with logistic support and the construction of a hangar, will cost the West African nation about US$105.3 million.
The money is coming from a US$105 370 177 loan from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and approved on July 20. The hangar, with capacity for three large aircraft, will be built by Contracta Engenharia for US$17 million. It will be equipped with a bus, fire truck, ambulance and other support vehicles.
The other two aircraft being acquired are Diamond DA 42 MPP (Multi-Purpose Platform) Guardian surveillance and training aircraft, fitted with a sensor turret for surveillance missions. The twin turboprop DA 42 MPP aircraft are being funded through a €11.750 million loan from the Fidelity Bank Ghana Limited, while the Deutsche Bank S.A.E will provide a €60 034 636 loan for the two C295 transports, according to the Daily Graphic newspaper.
Presumably, the DA 42s will be used for maritime patrol, especially safeguarding Ghana’s offshore oil assets – the country becoming a major oil producer in the region after beginning production in December last year. The Gulf of Guinea has seen a dramatic increase in the number of attacks on ships this year, prompting Ghana to modernise its navy. Late last month it received four patrol boats from China.
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is not on the scale of that off Somalia, but analysts say an increase in scope and number of attacks in a region ill-equipped to counter the threat could affect shipping and investment. For instance, Cameroon blamed piracy for part of a 13 percent drop in oil output in 2009.
Other maritime problems include piracy and drug trafficking. The United Nations estimates that US$1 billion worth of cocaine, destined for Europe from Latin America, passed through West Africa in 2008.
All five new aircraft are expected have been delivered by the end of next year, according to Smith.
Ghana’s Daily Guide reported that the Air Force could possibly also buy two new helicopters from Mil as well as Eurocopter Dolphin helicopters. At present Ghana’s air force only has four Mi-171V, one AB-212, two A109A and two SA319 Alouette III helicopters in service, according to the IISS’s The Military Balance 2011.
James Klutse, Chairman of Ghana’s Finance Committee, said there was an urgent need to replacing the ageing fleet of aircraft operated by the Ghana Air Force.
President John Evans Atta Mills told GBC news that the new aircraft are not the personal use of government officials but will allow the military to undertake their duties. The government already has a Falcon 900EX for executive travel. The US$37million presidential jet arrived in Ghana on September 30 last year, the Daily Guide notes.
Ghana has a very small air force, with around 2000 personnel. According to The Military Balance 2011, it has nine transport aircraft, including one Britten-Norman BN-2 Defender, three Cessna 172s, four Fokker F-27 Friendships and one Fokker F-28 Fellowship. The latter is used for VIP transport, which is one of the air force’s main duties.
In the way of combat aircraft, Ghana’s air force only has three single seat Aermacchi MB-326K ground attack aircraft. It also has two MB-339, two L-39ZO and four Hongdu K-8 Karakorum trainers.
The C295 is a twin turboprop multirole transport aircraft manufactured by Airbus Military in Spain. It is capable of accommodating 71 troops, 50 paratroops or five standard cargo pallets (payload is 9 200 kg).