Senegal’s Air Force will next year take delivery of another three TB-30 Epsilon piston-engine trainers from France, while Togo is returning its two aircraft to service.
This is according to Air & Cosmos, which reported this emerged during the 13 November visit to Senegal by Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force, General Philippe Lavigne. According to the French Ministry of Defence, Lavigne was in Dakar, Senegal, to preside over the inauguration ceremony of the new aircraft stopover facility for the French Elements in Senegal (EFS), located at Blaise Diagne International Airport (AIBD). The facility assists France and the G5 Sahel nations in their fight against terrorist groups in the region, particularly through the French-led Operation Barkhane. It was built during the second half of 2019 by French engineers.
Lavigne also visited the Air Force School at Thies, 70 kilometres from Dakar, to see how G5 Sahel countries are strengthening their air forces. The General met with Air Brigadier General Papa Souleymane Sarr, and discussed support for the development of aviation in Senegal and the G5 Sahel countries.
“The objective is to enable the armies of these countries to deploy the air assets necessary for the fight against the armed terrorist groups which are rampant in the sub-region. This collaboration is embodied, among other things, by the training action of this school,” the French Ministry of Defence said.
In May 2019 the Air Force School at Thies officially received two Epsilon trainers from France, for pilot training. France has donated other aircraft to Senegal in the past and in 2014 the West African nation received four Epsilon trainers. These aircraft were used to train around 15 pilots between 2014 and 2019 marking a major turning point in the history of the Air Force.
Another Epsilon as due to be delivered, by sea, and be used for maintenance. Senegal’s Air Force had two Epsilons in service prior to 2014 – these were delivered in 2006.
Air & Cosmos reported that the three additional Epsilons that will be delivered in 2021 will bring to ten the number delivered by France as it retires them from its Air Force and replaces them with more modern Pilatus PC-21 turboprops. These began entering French service in October 2018.
Of late the Senegal Air Force has been modernising, with small but significant deliveries, including a single CN235 aircraft, NC-212MP maritime patrol aircraft, and three refurbished Hind attack helicopters.
Senegal was due to receive three Super Tucano trainer/light combat aircraft from Brazil, ordering the aircraft in 2013, but in July 2016 instead opted for four KT-1 Woong-Bee trainers from Korea Aerospace Industries. The first two arrived in April 2020.
Meanwhile, Togo will return its two Epsilons to service, Air & Cosmos reported, after placing them in storage following a non-fatal September 2017 accident. They are expected to re-enter service in 2021 at Niamtougou in the north of the country. Seven Togolese pilots are currently training in Thies.
The Socata TB 30 Epsilon is a light tandem seat military trainer aircraft that first flew on 22 December 1979. It is powered by a Lycoming O-540 piston engine giving a maximum speed of 380 km/h. Its biggest operator is the French Air Force, but it has also been exported to Portugal and of course Togo.