The Angolan Air Force has been confirmed as a new customer for the AgustaWestland (Leonardo Helicopters) AW109E Power, with one of its six aircraft on order carrying out flight testing in Italy.
A new example in Angolan National Air Force colours was seen during a flight test in Italy on June 20. The aircraft had a brown, green and sand coloured camouflage scheme with an Angolan flag on the tail, reports Air Forces Daily.
Angola ordered six helicopters in a 90 million euro deal last year, along with two patrol boats and radar systems from Italy. On 23 December, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos signed several contracts with Finmeccanica for the equipment, but at the time it was not known what type of helicopters were being acquired. The radar portion of the contract is said to be worth 115 million euros. Another contract, worth around 7.3 million euros, is for two fast patrol craft built by Whitehead Sistemi Subacquei, also part of Finmeccanica.
Although Angolan defence spending has risen dramatically in recent years, and was last year estimated to go from $6.5 billion to $13 billion by 2019, the sudden drop in oil prices appears to have affected the country’s defence procurement plans as Angola relies on oil for half of its GDP.
The oil price drop may affect the purchase of seven Macae class vessels from Brazil, with Brazilian media in May last year reporting that Angola does not have the money to pay for them. They were procured in 2014 as part of Angola’s Naval Power Development Programme (Pronaval).
Angola has been making sporadic military hardware purchases over the last five years, including six EMB-314 Super Tucanos delivered in 2013, eight MT-LB armoured personnel carriers delivered from Bulgaria in 2014; four Super Dvora patrol craft ordered from Israel in 2015; four Mi-171Sh helicopters delivered in 2015 and 12 Su-30K fighter jets ordered in 2013. Deliveries of the upgraded Su-30Ks should be completed this year. Denel Mechem is supplying 45 Casspirs while the United States delivered six Cessna 172Rs for pilot training in 2013.
Angola’s air force currently flies Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters and is believed to have half a dozen AS565 Panthers, a dozen Alouette IIIs and several SA 315B Lamas, SA342M Gazelles and Bell 212s in its inventory. A large proportion of Angola’s air force is in a state of disrepair due to a lack of maintenance or is in storage.