The Ugandan Air Force has graduated 18 pilot cadets at Gulu Air Base, which has been upgraded with new training facilities and equipment, including additional trainer aircraft.
President Yoweri Museveni, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the armed force, visited the Ugandan People’s Defence Force Air Force facilities at Gulu Air Base on 6 November where he graduated 18 cadet pilots and 20 technicians under a pilot training programme that has been running since 2011. In July 2016, 34 pilots and aircraft technicians graduated at Gulu after a five-year training course.
The passing out ceremony featured flight demonstrations with Cessna 172 piston trainers and L-39 jets. The Air Force had around three L-39s but six were seen during Museveni’s visit, with at least one fitted with rocket pods and a 23 mm twin-barrel cannon. These aircraft function as lead-in trainers for Uganda’s five Su-30MK2 multirole fighters. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Bulgaria delivered three second hand L-39ZA jets between 2010 and 2012. The Cessna 172s appear to be newly acquired as well.
“The exceptional performance demonstrated here, with the fighter aircraft, is very commendable. This training is vigorous and requires a lot of coordination because any mistake made can lead to a fatal accident,” Museveni stated.
As part of enhancements to Uganda’s training capabilities, the Air Force has acquired a flight simulator that forms part of its training centre. The training centre was supplied by Bulgaria’s Jotov & Son, which has been providing training, maintenance and infrastructure services for a number of years.
General David Muhoozi, the Chief of the Defence Forces, said advanced combat flight training is part of Uganda’s long-term vision of professionalising the military and strengthening the regional capabilities of the Air Force.
Museveni added that the government has started construction of 30 000 housing units for the Uganda People’s Defence Force and plans to upgrade Gulu airport to a level where it can accommodate commercial aircraft. “This will boost tourism and trade,” he stated. During his visit, Museveni was shown a new VOR/DME radio beacon for enhanced air navigation at the facility.