President Keita inspects Mali Air Force’s new aircraft


Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita welcomed the delivery of new aircraft to the country’s Air Force, including a C-295W transport, two Y-12 light utility aircraft, two Mi-35M combat helicopters and a Super Puma transport helicopter.

Keita inspected the aircraft on 3 October during a tour of Air Base 101 in Bamako. He was accompanied by Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga and various military and government officials.

The two Y-12E light transport aircraft displayed earlier this week were delivered from China in early September. The Y-12 is an improved Chinese copy of the Twin Otter built by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (HAMC). Maximum payload is 5 700 kg with seating for 17 passengers as well as two crewmembers. The Y-12E variant has 18 passenger seats and Pratt & Whitney PT6A engines. They join a number of Basler BT-67 turboprops in Malian service.

The delivery of the two Mi-35Ms was confirmed by Rosoboronexport on 3 October. “We have shipped two Mi-35 helicopters to Mali as was requested by our Malian partners. The Malian side has been very grateful to us for meeting its request and has also expressed satisfaction with the quality of equipment. I am confident that the helicopters will help the nation protect its sovereignty and successfully fight the main challenge of the 21st century, namely, terrorism”, said Director General of Rosoboronexport Alexander Mikheev.

The Mi-35M sale was announced last year. According to the EU Training Mission in Mali’s September newsletter, Mali has another two Mi-35Ms on order and these will be delivered by 2019.

Mali is expanding its Air Force and taken delivery of new transport, attack and training aircraft. In October last year the country received its first of two H215 Super Puma helicopters from Airbus Helicopters (purchased for $18 million) and that December a single C295W transport from Airbus Defence and Space. The C295W is being used to provide logistics support, medical evacuation, and troop transport capabilities to the Malian military.

Other aircraft are expected this year, including six A-29 Super Tucano light attack and advanced training turboprops from Embraer. Two will be equipped with surveillance systems and the other four will be used for close air support. They will be deployed for advanced training, border surveillance, and internal security missions, giving a major boost to the Mali Air Force’s combat fleet, which includes MiG-21s and several Mi-24 attack helicopters. Ordered in June 2015, deliveries are imminent, with the aircraft being seen undergoing test flights in Brazil in December 2016.

As noted by the EU Training Mission, in January 2016 Keita announced the implementation of a military investment plan to the value of 1,230 billion CFA. This plan formed part of the “Military Orientation and Planning Law (Loi d’orientation et de programmation militaire, LOPM)”, approved in February 2015. This covers the modernisation of the Malian Armed Forces and the recruitment of 10 000 volunteers. The Malian Armed Forces should number 20 000 by 2019. The plan also includes the reorganisation of the Air Force and the purchase of new aircraft.