This year Mali will receive a single C295 and Egypt will take delivery of the remaining three of 24 examples it has on order, according to Airbus officials, who believe Africa is a key market for the tactical airlifter.
Airbus announced in February that Mali would get a single winglet-equipped C-295W. Fernando Ciria, Head of Marketing, Tactical Airlifters and ISR at Airbus Defence and Space (ADS), told journalists in Germany this week that Africa is a very promising region with many orders to come in the next few years.
According to Stephan Miegel, Head of Military Aircraft Services at Airbus Defence and Space, there are 148 C295s and 236 CN235s flying around the world today (168 C295s have been ordered) and these have accumulated 250 000 and 1.35 million flight hours respectively. In Africa, there are 18 C212s, ten CN235s and 29 C295s in active service, primarily with air forces, although Republic of Congo’s Aero Service flies two C212s and South Africa’s Fortune Air flies a single CN235. Most of these are built by Airbus but Burkina Faso and Senegal have aircraft produced by Indonesia’s PTDI.
Ciria said Africa has many fleets of transport aircraft made up of old types such as An-26s, Turbo Dakotas, Buffalos etc., meaning that these old fleets will have to be replaced, ideally by the C295, and augmented by intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms.
Airbus is also hopeful of repeat orders from Africa, pointing out that half the company’s tactical transport customers took out repeat orders, something it describes as unique in this market segment. Egypt is the world’s largest C295 operator and a repeat customer, having ordered its 24 aircraft in five different batches.
Ciria said that one of the notable features of Egypt’s fleet is that it has been used to take over missions previously carried out by the C-130H Hercules, as it is far cheaper to fly (one third that of a C-130). In addition to personnel and cargo transport, Egyptian C295s are configured with removable VIP transport interiors.
Ghana has acquired three C295s which it flies on behalf of the United Nations. These have been deployed to Mali with the Minusma mission there. Ciria said the Ghana Air Force supplies an aircraft that can fly 80-100 hours a month, including ten days of high intensity operations (eight hours a day) and 15 days of low intensity operations (five hours a day). Three days of maintenance are required every month while a basic A-check inspection is done every 300 hours. Ghanaian C295s are used primarily to transport cargo and passengers, including wounded and sick. Ciria said flights are important as terrorists threaten the main land supply routes in Mali.
Ghana has taken the lead in acquiring and operating aircraft on behalf of the United Nations, but Ciria believes there are many other humanitarian missions that could make use of the C295/CN235, such as the Red Cross, European Union, Doctors Without Borders and World Food Programme. Many of these organisations are flying elderly aircraft like the An-24, HS-748 and DHC-5.
Airbus also highlighted C295/CN235 use by non-African operators on the continent. For instance, the Spanish Air Force has used the C295 for humanitarian assistance missions in Africa as it is cheaper to fly than the C-130, while its CN235 MPAs are used to patrol for pirates, gather intelligence on land and sea and monitor sea lanes around Somalia and the Gulf of Aden as part of Spain’s contribution to the European Union’s anti-piracy Operation Atalanta. The Spanish Air Force also flies P-3 Orions for Atalanta, based in Djibouti. Airbus said the Spanish CN235s have flown over 1 525 flight hours and 179 missions as part of Atalanta, which also sees the aircraft fly off the Kenyan and Seychelles coasts.
Although piracy is being contained off the Horn of Africa due largely to greater stability on land and multinational sea and air patrols, Ciria noted that there is a shortfall of maritime patrol capability in the Gulf of Guinea, where pirates and militant groups are hijacking tankers for their contents, destroying oil and gas facilities and kidnapping crew for ransom.
Ciria said only Nigeria, with its maritime patrol configured ATR aircraft, is able to patrol its maritime zone from the air and there is need for an aircraft like the C295 MPA in the region, not just to monitor for pirates but also to conduct environmental protection, fisheries protection, search and rescue and medical evacuation missions. Other applications in Africa include border surveillance and maritime surveillance in the Mediterranean, where illegal migration and drug smuggling are major problems. Ciria said maritime patrol aircraft need to be active in North African countries where most trafficking vessels launch from.
Airbus is also promoting a C295 special mission aircraft for border surveillance, especially to monitor the illegal movement of people, drugs, weapons and terrorists. For such a role, the C295 can be fitted with a synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicator (GMTI), video camera, infrared camera and communications and electronic intelligence systems.
Ciria said that Airbus is involved in a lot of commercial campaigns in Africa and sees a lot of opportunities in the coming years, especially as there are a number of countries that are replacing obsolete fleets.
Airbus has received two C295 contracts this year, one from Mali and one from Indonesia, which ordered two aircraft. Indonesia already has nine in service. Ciria was confident that Airbus will have secured additional C295 orders by the end of this year.
Last year Airbus Defence and Space took the C295 on a South American sales tour and earlier this month began a sales tour of Latin America and Canada, with an eye on Canada’s requirement for a new maritime surveillance and search and rescue aircraft and is confident of being awarded a contract later this year. Ciria said it is possible that Africa is one possible are for a C295 sales tour, if there is enough market potential on the continent. At the moment there are no short term orders or interest from Africa.
Fernando Alonso, Head of Military Aircraft at ADS, said that C295 sales have been very thin this year, but they have in the past fluctuated from five to 30 a year. However, he is encouraged by developments in India, as Airbus has been selected to supply the type to replace the Avro transport fleet, in partnership with Tata under the Make in India programme. Alonso said the C295 is a winner that will keep the company going until it produces a replacement aircraft.
Jean Pierre Talamoni, Head of Sales and Marketing at Airbus Military Aircraft, said that the company is committed to Make in India but cautioned that one has to be ‘careful’ with trying to establish aircraft production from scratch without producing a supply chain. “If there is no supply chain we will have to import and obviously the cost will be destroyed. A full system has to be put in place.”