The US government has donated two Cessna 208B Caravan light aircraft to the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) Air Wing to support the Ugandan contingent battling Al Shabaab militants in Somalia.
The aircraft were handed over by Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Kampala, Patricia Mahoney, on March 16 at Entebbe Airport.
The aircraft, worth $15 million including spare parts and training, were donated by the US Department of Defence and will be deployed to the main UPDF Air Wing air base in the northern city of Gulu from where they will support the hybrid African Union/United Nations Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) according to a statement from the US embassy in Kampala to local newspaper New Vision. They will be used for transport, medical evacuation and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights over Somalia.
“The donation aims at increasing Uganda’s national air forces’ capacity to conduct AMISOM counter-terrorism operations. These aircraft will enhance the capacity of Uganda’s air forces to provide mobility, reconnaissance, and evacuation support,” US ambassador to Uganda Scott Delis said.
In addition to donating the Caravans, the US government is considering replacing the three Mi-24 helicopters that crashed on Mount Kenya on their way to Somalia in August 2012, according to the chief of Uganda’s military, General Katumba Wamala. “We have been having these discussions and they have hinted on the possibility of replacing them with their own kind of aircraft,” Wamala is quoted by The Monitor as saying.
The Caravan handover comes a month after the US government donated eight armoured Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles to the UPDF. They were handed over on February 20 by Lieutenant Colonel Giff Haddock of the US Army on behalf of the US Ambassador to Uganda.
Earlier this year the UPDF and Burundian contingents of AMISOM received 20 Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles from the US Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) as part of measures to boost the force protection capabilities of AMISOM. The MRAPS were donated under the Excess Defense Articles programme. The vehicles were used to replace 20 South African-made Casspir armoured personnel carriers which had been in use since 2010.
The United States has promised to deliver additional MRAPS to Uganda.
Uganda joins a growing list of African militaries to benefit from the US Army’s continental counter-terrorism programme. So far, Mauritania and Niger have each taken delivery of at least two Cessna 208B Caravans. The US has also contracted Cessna to deliver aircraft to the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF).