Zambian Air Force orders Enstrom 480B helicopters

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The Zambia Air Force (ZAF) has ordered two turbine-powered Enstrom 480B helicopters for training pilots and personnel.

Enstrom Helicopter Corporation announced the sale on 17 April, although the contract was signed on 23 February by Zambia’s defence ministry. The helicopters will be based in Lusaka, and used for training and utility missions – a training package is included in the deal.

The helicopters will be equipped with cargo hooks and hard points for cameras, as well as Garmin avionics and glass panels. One helicopter will be supplied with a full glass cockpit and one with a hybrid glass and analogue panel to provide training with a flight deck similar to the gauge-equipped Mi-17s used as the mainstay of the fleet.

“We are very excited to be supporting the ZAF missions,” said Enstrom’s VP of Sales & Marketing, Dennis Martin. “The 480B will be a lot more efficient than some of the other light helicopters they were using, but with its performance and quick reconfiguration options, the 480B will provide the capability and flexibility they need.”

South Africa’s Safomar Aviation Group coordinated and assisted Enstrom in the sale to the ZAF, including logistics, specifications, and configuration of the Helicopters. Safomar operates a large regional maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility as well as a flight school, and both maintains and operates Enstrom helicopters throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Safomar has, for example, assisted in the sale of three Enstrom 480B helicopters to Botswana’s police service – the last of these was delivered in early 2021.

According to Shai Shalem, Managing Director of Safomar, “We are excited to have Enstrom back and under new management with exciting and excellent helicopter upgrades. It is an honour to have sold two of the first helicopters off the line under the new ownership. These 480B’s are just the right fit for military and Law Enforcement missions.”

Enstrom went out of business in January 2022 but was purchased by Surack Enterprises in May that year. Production under new ownership resumed some months later, and the first new helicopter was completed in January this year.

The Zambia Air Force has been gradually expanding over the years, taking delivery of light combat, transport and trainer aircraft over the last decade. In 2016, for example, it received six SF-260TW training aircraft, and six L-15 fighter-trainers from China. In 2019, two C-27J Spartan transports were delivered from Italy and a Gulfstream 650ER jet was acquired for VIP transport. Two Bell 412s were acquired from Italy in 2021.

Last year South Africa supplied a single second hand Bell 412SP helicopter and a second hand Cessna 208B EX Caravan, following the delivery from the United States of a single Cessna 208 EX in 2020.