The US government has donated two new Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft to the Mauritania Islamic Air Force (FAIM) to boost its capacity to conduct patrols to counter maritime crimes and regional terrorist groups.
The aircraft, as well as a supply of spare parts and components, was officially handed over to the Mauritanian defence minister Ahmedou Ould Idey Ould Mohamed Radhi and Army Chief of Staff General Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mohamed Ahmed by US Africa Command Chief of Staff Major General Michael Kingsley in the capital Nouakchott on June 25.
According to a joint media statement released by the US and Mauritanian governments after the handover ceremony, the two aircraft are both valued at $21 million.
They are equipped with surveillance cameras, which makes them suitable for maritime surveillance operations along the country’s 745 km long coastline.
“The partnership between the governments of Mauritania and the US is based on mutual values of peace, security and mutual respect. The granting of these planes is a further sign of the strengthened bonds of friendship and co-operation that unite the two peoples,” the statement said.
Mauritania has over the past few years benefited from a range of African-focused, US military training and capacity building programmes which seek to boost the operational capabilities of local armies through advanced personnel training and equipment support programmes.
In February Mauritania took part in Exercise Flintlock with the United States, which saw the involvement of around a thousand troops from the US, Mauritania and countries in the region.
The surveillance configured Caravans will complement the Mauritanian air force’s single Basler Turbo BT-67 aircraft, which has been fitted with a sensor turret, most likely a Wescam MX-15.
Mauritania has for the past few years increased its surveillance capabilities with the acquisition of two Airbus Military C212-200 maritime surveillance aircraft from Spain in 2008 and 2011.
The FAIM in 2010 and 2011 took delivery of four Brazilian-made Embraer EMB-312F Tucanos from France and received the first of three Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft in October 2012. These are equipped with Star SAFIRE III turrets from FLIR Systems.
In June last year the Mauritanian air force ordered two AgustaWestland AW109 helicopters to be used for border patrol and reconnaissance missions. They were scheduled for delivery in the middle of this year, in a multi-role homeland security configuration.