Textron Aviation will deliver two Cessna Grand Caravan EX aircraft to the Rwanda Defence Force in the first half of 2021 after receiving a contract for the aircraft from ATI Engineering in support of the United States military’s African Partnership Flight initiative.
Textron on 11 August said the Caravan’s will be the first fixed-wing aircraft to be put in service by the Rwanda Defence Force, which will base them in the capital Kigali.
ATI Engineering Services in June this year received a $10 million contract from the US Department of Defence for the aircraft. It will modify and equip the Grand Caravan EX aircraft with secure HF (High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) radio systems, Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS) interior and exterior lighting, and a reconfigurable multi-mission interior featuring two ambulatory medical stretcher kits, 11 passenger seats, eight collapsible utility seats and a removable rollerball cargo floor.
The ATI Engineering contract also includes spare parts and ground support equipment, a flight training device, technical drawings and interim logistic support for both aircraft.
“The Grand Caravan EX serves an enduring mission by providing transport, reconnaissance, and medical evacuation operations throughout Africa,” said Bob Gibbs, vice president, Special Mission Sales for Textron Aviation. “The aircraft is engineered for challenging missions, high payloads and short, rough runways while delivering single-engine economy and simplicity. It is a perfect match for this mission throughout the US Africa Command (Africom) area of responsibility.”
The US Government has previously provided grant aid funding for 14 Grand Caravan EX aircraft procured through Foreign Military Sale cases throughout Africa, with Rwanda being the latest recipient. Africom’s intent is to field multiple iterations of this configuration throughout Africa, and to streamline logistics support and enhance partner nation interoperability, both of which will reduce costs to the partner nation and to the US Government.
Africom’s African partners who already possess Grand Caravan EX aircraft include Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Kenya and Uganda. These countries are co-participants in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, particularly in missions in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
“Increasing commonality of equipment, such as the Grand Caravan EX, serves as a focal point to substantially increase interoperability in operations, maintenance, supply support and planning,” Textron Aviation said.
In September 2018 the US Air Force first announced that Rwanda was to receive two new aircraft for medical evacuation and light transport, primarily during United Nations international peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan.
The Rwandan Air Force has acquired few new aircraft in the last decade, having only upgraded some of its Mi-17s. Its most numerous type is the Mi-17, with more than 20 in service – some of these have been deployed with the United Nations in South Sudan (one crashed there in March 2019). Other types in service include several SA 342 Gazelles and half a dozen Mi-24 helicopters. The Rwandan government flies a single A109 and AW139 helicopter and a G550 business jet.