Super Pumas join Benin’s Air Force

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Benin’s armed forces displayed newly acquired helicopters during the country’s Independence Day parade on 1 August.

Three H215 Super Puma and two H125M helicopters were part of the flypast celebrating Benin’s 63rd anniversary of independence at the beginning of the month.

The H215s arrived on 28 June aboard a Maximus Airlines An-124 from Amman, Jordan, while the two H125M light helicopters arrived in February aboard a Zetavia Il-76 from Spain.

The H215s (TY-39H, TY-40H, and TY-41H) are ex Royal Jordanian Air Force helicopters – Jordan put up nine of its Super Pumas for sale in 2020.

The H215s will join the H125Ms (TY-37H and TY-38H) in counter-terrorism operations in the northwest of Benin, where 3 000 soldiers are deployed to counter Islamist extremists as part of Operation Mirador, which has been ongoing since last year. Government troops, aircraft, and armoured vehicles have been deployed in the north-west on the border with Burkina Faso and in the north-east on the border with Niger.

The two H125Ms were fitted with Trakka Systems TC-300 long-range HD electro-optical/infrared camera systems, but it does not appear the H215s have received any additional equipment. The two H125Ms (formerly EC-NXF and EC-NXH) were previously operated by Spanish air services provider Eliance.

Benin’s military previously received two AS550 Fennec helicopters in 2020, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The air force has only a few serviceable aircraft in use, namely one Mi-8 helicopter, single DHC-6 and MA600 transports, a couple of Humbert Tétras CSM light aircraft, and a BAe 748 transport.

Very little new military hardware has been acquired until recently, with the exception of six CSK-131 armoured personnel carriers from China in 2022, four LH-10 Ellipse trainers from France in 2011-13, three French FPB-98 patrol craft in 2012, six ACMAT APCs in 2016 from France, as well as ten Casspir NG2000 APCS from South Africa in 2013. Some of these vehicles were displayed during the parade on 1 August.

In January, Benin received a first batch of eight ex-French VAB armoured vehicles from France, for counter-terrorism and other security tasks. They were to be followed by another seven, equipped with machineguns in overhead turrets and night vision systems.

In a December 2022 state of the nation speech, Beninese President Patrice Talon said the military response in 2022 included more than $130 million to recruit nearly 4 000 security personnel, modernize equipment and begin fortifying bases, while building 10 operating bases and “several dozen” fortified positions. In April 2023, the government announced the recruitment of five thousand new soldiers to step up the fight against terrorism.