Ugandans train on Raven unmanned aerial vehicles


The Ugandan air force is learning to fly Raven unmanned aerial vehicles as it prepares to take delivery of four aircraft, which were bought last year under a US military programme to help combat terrorist threats in East Africa.

Eight members of the Ugandan air force received training on the AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven between December 12 and 23 Test Area 3, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. The Ugandan defence force acquired four of the systems, valued at US$3 million, in July last year, according to the US Army.

In June last year the United States allocated US$145 million worth of military equipment to North and East African nations in order to help combat terrorist threats in the region. The biggest recipients were Burundi and Uganda, which were allocated around US$45 million worth of equipment, including four Ravens.

Uganda will receive the four unmanned aerial systems this month following the completion of training. The Raven is the smallest unmanned aircraft system the Army sells internationally. It is hand launched and controlled using a laptop computer with stylus.
“It’s a good support of our operations in Somalia. Very necessary,” said Ugandan Captain Patrick Kubayo. “The instructors…know what they’re doing. They help us a lot.”

Last year the Associated Press reported that the Pentagon is also sending US$4.4 million worth of communications and engineering equipment to Uganda.

Burundi and Uganda are heavily involved in Somalia, with around 9 000 peacekeepers in the troubled nation. The two countries in March 2011 pledged to send an additional 4 000 troops to Somalia.

The US$145.4 million aid package for counterterrorism equipment includes funding for a number of North African countries. US$22.6 million has been allocated to Mauritania for a turboprop aircraft for troop transport and surveillance and US$8.1 million for airfield systems and construction and communications equipment to develop a forward operating base in the country; US$17.7 million will go towards an aircraft for Djibouti; US$12.1 million towards helicopter upgrades and training for Kenya; and US$1 million for Mali for mine detector kits.

The US is attempting to bolster countries working against al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Somali-based al-Shabaab group.