The Mauritanian Islamic Air Force (FAIM) has upgraded its only Basler Turbo BT-67 transport as an aerial defence platform by outfitting it with an electro-optical (EO) turret and sensor equipment suited for surveillance and reconnaissance.
According to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, the BT-67 is an upgraded version of a DC-3 ordered by the North African country from the United States in 1999. The newly outfitted aircraft was spotted on a news video broadcast late last month by French news channel France24 as it took off from Nouakchott International Airport bound for a surveillance mission 500 km to the east.
The channel quoted the pilots of the aircraft as saying among its new surveillance capabilities, the aircraft can relay sensor imagery from the turret directly to special mobile phones used by special forces units, which improves the rapid reaction capabilities of Mauritania’s defence force.
According to IHS Janes, the upgraded BT-67 was possibly fitted with an MX-15 sensor turret, two of which were sold earlier to Mauritania by sensor and optical navigation systems manufacturer L-3 Wescam.
Mauritania has for the past few years increased its air defence capabilities with the acquisition of two Airbus Military C212-200 maritime surveillance aircraft from Spain in 2008 and 2011.
The FAIM also took delivery of four Brazilian-made Embraer EMB-312F Tucanos from France between 2010 and 2011. An additional delivery of one Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft was made by the Brazilian manufacturer in October 2012 in terms of a deal that involved the purchase of up to 3 Super Tucanos. These are equipped with Star SAFIRE III turrets from FLIR Systems.
Additionally, the air force also operates two Cessna 337s, five Britten Norman BN-2 Defenders, two Chinese Harbin Z-9As, two Cessna 337 Skymasters, two Piper PA-31T Navajo/Cheyene IIs, two HAMC Y-12(II)s and four Aermacchi SF-260Es.
In October 2013, Mauritania ordered two twin-engined AW-109 helicopters from Italian-based Augusta-Westland. The government said the choppers, which are due for delivery by the middle of this year, will be used for border patrol and reconnaissance missions.