Mauritanian Air Force trainer crashes; pilot killed

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A Mauritanian Air Force trainer aircraft has crashed, killing the pilot whilst he was taking off on a training mission.

According to the Pana news agency, the aircraft’s engine caught fire whilst it was taking off near the city of Chinguetti in northern Mauritania on Sunday, killing Lieutenant Elboukhary Ould Mohamed Ahmed, who was the sole occupant on board.

According to a statement released by Mauritania’s ministry of defence, the aircraft was on ‘an ordinary training mission’. An investigation into the cause of the crash will be launched.

The aircraft belonged to the Ecole Militaire Inter Armes (EMIA) in Atar, 450 km north of Nouakchott.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, the aircraft was an Embraer EMB-312F Tucano, one of four used for training at the military school in Atar.

Last year France began supplying Mauritania with ex-French Tucanos. Between 1993 and 2009 the French Air Force operated 50 Tucanos, which succeeded the Fouga Magister in the training role. The fleet was retired in 2009 as a cost-saving measure.

According to the website Ejection History, 33 Tucanos have been lost, out of more than 600 built.

The Tucano was one of Embraer’s first international successes and was even produced under license for the Royal Air Force as the Short Tucano. The two-seat turboprop trainer first flew in August 1980 and entered service with 14 nations around the world.

The acquisition of the Tucanos is part of the Mauritanian Air Force’s growing capabilities, which are needed to deal with evolving security threats. Mauritania is among several countries in the Sahara region where al Qaeda-linked fighters have raised their profile with a series of attacks and kidnappings, particularly targeting Westerners and carrying out attacks in more urban areas.

Of particular concern is al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, (AQIM), which grew out of the militant Salafist movement in Algeria and has moved south where it is taking advantage of the vast and lawless desert regions of Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

Countries in the region have been trying to coordinate military efforts to counter the growing threat but rivalries and competing interests have hampered cooperation.

Mauritania’s armed forces have a small air component, with only two Reims FTB-337 Milirole (Cessna 337), five Britten Norman BN-2 Defender, two Cessna 337 Skymaster, two Piper Pa-31T Navajo/Cheyene II, two HAMC Y-12(II), one Basler BT-67 and four Aermacchi SF-260E aircraft in service, according to the 2011 IISS Military Balance.



Pic: Guillaume Paumier