US gifts C-130 Hercules to Botswana

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The United States has delivered a C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft to Botswana to enhance the country’s ability to support military, humanitarian, and emergency response missions locally and within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The handover coincided with the Africa Chiefs of Defence Conference held in Botswana this week.

The US Embassy in Gaborone said the aircraft (OM4) arrived in Botswana on 24 May and was formally handed over at Sir Seretse Khama International airport in a ceremony on Thursday 27 June.

The aircraft is worth $30 million (400 million Pula) and was delivered under the United States Air Force Excess Defence Articles programme.

“The transfer of this aircraft from the United States to Botswana is a testament to how the US and Botswana work together to further a shared commitment to peace, security, and prosperity in the region,” stated US Ambassador to Botswana Howard Van Vranken.

“The United States is honoured to play a role in ensuring that the Botswana Defence Force has the capability to perform vital missions not only in Botswana, but when called upon regionally as well.

“The delivery of this plane on the heels of the African Chiefs of Defence Conference underscores the theme for this week: ‘Together on the Ramparts.’ It’s a tangible example of the United States and Botswana’s commitment to meaningfully contribute to regional stability, safety, and prosperity,” Van Vranken added.

“This donation enhances Botswana’s strategic airlift capabilities and supports your national and regional objectives. From Botswana’s track record of utilising the older C-130B aircraft, this new addition will undoubtedly play pivotal roles in a variety of missions, including delivering humanitarian aid and supporting peacekeeping missions — much as the C-130B did for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique.

“We look forward to seeing the Hercules aircraft flying safely in many missions that benefit both Botswana and the broader SADC region,” the Ambassador concluded.

Kagiso Mmusi, Minister of Defence and Security, said the handover has made him very happy. “The C-130H couldn’t have come at a better time than this moment. Just a year ago, the last C-130B, which has served us fabulously for a quarter of a century, was grounded. This happened…just after it had deployed our troops to Cabo Delgado under the SADC mission in Mozambique (SAMIM). Then it delivered disaster relief to Malawi following the recent floods in that sister nation.

“This region has not been spared from the ever-growing effects of global warming, which have increased the frequency and severity of climate-related natural disasters with the resultant deaths and destruction. I cannot overemphasise the value of the C-130 aircraft in our response to contingencies of such nature. This aircraft can operate from [the] underdeveloped ground, rough and dirt strips of our side of the world as the prime transport for dropping troops and equipment in operational areas or supplies in disaster-hit areas.

“Since 1997 the C-130B fleet has been the backbone of BDF air operations. It has been employed locally, regionally and internationally as one of Botswana’s instruments of national power. Grounding of the C-130B last year has therefore greatly degraded the BDF’s operational capability. Hence my earlier remark that receiving the C-130H could not have come at a better time.”

Mmusi said the BDF has diligently performed a variety of mission using these aircraft over the years. These include supporting the United Nations mission in Sudan, African Union missions, SAMIM operations, security cooperation exercises such as SADC air power exercises, and special forces exercises with international forces.

“In addition, Botswana hosts the SADC Standby Force Logistic Depot to support peace support and disaster relief operations. The depot will be prepositioning supplies and logistics for SADC peace support and disaster relief missions. Currently the critical hinderances that undermine Africa’s peace support and disaster relief effort is lack of airlift capability. And there is no better aircraft to address this than the C-130. I am convinced that Botswana is in good stead to be the centre of excellence for Africa’s strategic airlift capability. We have thus far demonstrated capacity to operate and maintain a sizeable C-130 fleet. A lot of investment has been made over the years to capacitate the defence force in terms of logistics, support facilities, equipment and skills development for both operators and maintainers of the C-130 aircraft.

“The capabilities and competencies developed for operation of our C-130Bs are applicable and very relevant to the C-130H model. Since the differences between the two are minor, acquiring more aircraft would therefore require a relatively minor capital investment on our part. Government has committed to ensure the BDF has a budget for the C-130H aircraft induction and to put it into operation as quickly as the processes allow.

“Botswana is not just focussed internally. When we request for more aircraft we want to develop an airlift capability for the region and to support global peace and security. I consequently invite you, Africom Commander General [Michael] Langley, to partner with us in convincing the US government on how much capacitating the BDF will mean for African peace and security.”

Concluding his remarks, Mmus said the BDF and the C-130H “shall remain a force for good.”

Major General Hendrick Thuthu Rakgantswana, Chief of Botswana’s Air Arm Command, thanked the US for capacitating the BDF with the aircraft. “We just finished the African Chiefs of Defence Conference and our theme was Together on the Ramparts. Expanding collaboration and shared values is what General Langley was saying throughout the conference and we see this now manifesting in us receiving this aircraft.”

Rakgantswana said the acquisition of the C-130H is a step in the right direction, but he wants officials to start engaging the US government for additional aircraft. “With just one aircraft in my inventory that means if just a little screw falls off, I’m down to zero. So, we can see that as much as we appreciate this donation we are not where we want to be.”

He also pushed for spares for the aircraft, and an avionics upgrade.

The BDF acquired three former US C-130B Hercules for Z10 Squadron from the North Carolina Air Guard through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Programme. One (OM1) was subsequently placed in storage, leaving two (OM2 and OM3) in active service until the recent grounding.