Ghana seeks Mi-171s


The Ghana Air Force is looking to acquire four Mi-171Sh transport helicopters and says it will soon take delivery of four other helicopters from China. The service has bought five new aircraft over the last several months, including fixed wing transports and surveillance aircraft.

On November 17 the government put before parliament a proposal to acquire four Mi-171Sh helicopters for the Air Force, worth an estimated €64 365 584. Of that amount, €40.25 million may come from a Fidelity Bank Limited loan.

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.

It is not yet clear whether Ghana will receive approval to acquire the Mi-171s, as the Chinese government will supply four helicopters to the West African country. It is not yet clear what models China will supply.

China’s defence minister Lieutenant General Lian Guanlee recently led a 21 member delegation to Ghana, the first time such a high ranking official has visited the country since the two established diplomatic ties.

During Guanlee’s visit, China agreed to supply four helicopters to provide surveillance and security for Ghana’s oilfields, Ghanaian media reported last Friday.

Ghana’s defence minister Lieutenant General Joseph Henry Smith said that China will provide a 20 million Yuan grant to buy military equipment of Ghana’s choice.

Vice President John Dramani Mahma said that, “This will be complimentary to the recent provision of patrol boats to the Ghana navy, which would help in all the peacekeeping programmes the country’s security has been undertaking.”
“Ghana has been engaged in many peacekeeping missions and China has been very supportive in that direction, which is raising our national image,” he added.

In August it was announced that the Ghana Air Force had ordered two Airbus Miltiary C295 transports as well as an Embraer 190 jet and two Diamond DA 42 surveillance 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 Diamond DA 42 MPP (Multi-Purpose Platform) Guardian surveillance and training aircraft are fitted with sensor turrets 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.

On October 24 Ghana’s navy took delivery of four new Chinese-built patrol ships for combating piracy and increasing maritime security in its territorial waters. The 46 metre long vessels, named GNS Blika, GNS Garinga, GNS Chemle and GNS Ehwor, were built by China’s Poly Technologies Incorporated.

According to Citi News, the four patrol vessels cost around US$68 million. In September 2008 Ghana signed a US$39.86 million contract with Poly Technologies Incorporated (PTI) for two of the vessels, which are being funded by Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

In July last year Jane’s reported that Ghana’s Navy plans to acquire ten new vessels over the next two years. Ghana is also expanding its Naval Dockyard in the southwest of the country. Janes believes Ghana has ordered two 62 metre patrol craft from South Korea for delivery by July 2013.

On January 21, Ghana’s navy commissioned a refurbished Sea Dolphin-class fast-attack craft donated by South Korea. The vessel, GNS Stephen Otu, is being joined by two fast attack craft from Germany – in July last year Ghana announced the acquisition of two decommissioned Gepard class fast attack craft, which are 58 metres long and weigh 398 tonnes.

In 2008 the US government gave Ghana three ex-Coast Guard Defender class boats and another four in March last year and in December last year the Ghana Navy received six new speedboats.

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.