Niger’s Air Force has officially taken delivery of a C-130H Hercules transport aircraft from the United States.
It was accepted in a ceremony on 4 January at Air Base 101 in Niamey attended by the United States Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, Ambassador Eric Whitaker, Nigerian Minister of National Defence Issoufou Katambe, and Nigerien Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Salifou Mody.
The ceremony consisted of the celebration of the arrival of the aircraft (5U-MBH) after years of preparation and planning. Since 2015, the United States said it has invested more than $30 million in the development of the Niger Air Force’s C-130 programme including a training component, purchase of spare parts, infrastructure, fuel and support equipment.
During the ceremony, Whitaker said “As Niger strives to establish peace and security in the region, I am certain that the Niger Armed Forces, along with the C-130 which has just joined its air fleet, will continue to position itself as a model both in terms of operational efficiency in the theatre of operations, and in the professionalism with which airmen and soldiers behave whether or not they are in service.”
The arrival of the C-130H places Niger among the 70 nations in the world equipped with the type. “The C-130 provides vital logistics capabilities for national defence which spans seven borders with neighbouring countries. In addition to supporting Niger in the return of the C-130, the United States of America has invested in crew training and infrastructure. Ambassador Whitaker pointed out that the United States has trained 16 Nigerien pilots, 19 maintenance personnel, five baggage handlers and a flight engineer. In addition, the United States has injected more than $17 million in the acquisition of critical infrastructure including the renovation of a hangar for the C-130 at Air Base Number 201 in Agadez,” the US Embassy said.
“Standing side by side, US and Nigerien forces have come together to advance mutual security and trust. We thank from the bottom of our hearts the many ways our two nations work together. Today’s C-130 handover ceremony is a cornerstone in increasing our strong partnership and interoperability in the actions of our two air forces,” Barret said.
Niger in 2015 requested a WC-130H aircraft and a wing set (total acquisition value $63 million) and in 2019 requested four T56-A-15 engines and propellers for the Hercules, with four allocated. The engines and propellers are worth $6 million.
Nigerien pilots underwent training on the C-130 in the United States, with the first female pilot in the Nigerien Air Force completing her six-month training in April 2020. In January 2020 the United States military’s Africa Command handed over a new C-130 hangar, worth $7 million, at Air Base 201 near Agadez. The construction of the hangar was funded by the Department of State.
“The hangar will ultimately shelter up to two C-130 mobility aircraft, recently purchased by the Nigerien Air Force from the United States,” Africa Command said at the time. “Since 2016, the US had invested more than $60 million in ‘total package support’ to Niger’s C-130 programme that will include a team of maintainers and training fuel upon arrival of the first aircraft.”
Niger bought two new C-130Hs which were delivered in 1979 but one crashed in April 1997, killing 14 people. Other aircraft in Niger’s transport fleet include a Boeing 737-200, a single Dornier 28 and Dornier 228 and a couple of Mi-17s. Between 2013 and 2015 Niger received four Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft from the United States, with two configured for surveillance.