eSwatini’s military has taken delivery of two Bell UH-1H helicopters donated by Taiwan – the second country in Africa to receive ex-Taiwanese military Huey helicopters.
The two aircraft were formally handed over to the Umbutfo eSwatini Defence Force (UEDF) Air Wing on 21 February by Vice Minister of National Defence Chang Guan Chung. The helicopters were received by His Majesty King Mswati III at the Lozitha Royal Palace.
According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, the aircraft arrived in eSwatini earlier in the month. Five UEDF Air Wing pilots and five ground technicians have been trained by Taiwan to operate the new helicopters.
The eSwatini Observer reported one of the pilots as saying the new helicopters are bigger and better than the aircraft used at present and will be used for things like disaster relief and medical evacuation, being able to carry six stretchers at a time. They will also be used to support the police.
King Mswati III said the aircraft donation was one of many ways in which Taiwan had assisted eSwatini’s military, with personnel trained in Taiwan while there were also some Taiwanese who received training in eSwatini.
“We’re grateful for this gesture by the government of Taiwan, which is not the first in eSwatini. We have other social and infrastructure development programmes that have been supported by Taiwan before,” said the King.
King Mswati III said eSwatini was strengthening its defence force so that it can contribute to the United Nations and Southern African Development Community. eSwatini plans to upgrade its Air Wing to an Air Force, with Taiwan to assist in the training of personnel.
eSwatini Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Senator Thuli Dladla said the long-standing relations between Eswatini and Taiwan were unbreakable, with the two countries having been friends for 51 years.
Taiwan decommissioned its last six UH-1H helicopters in October 2019, with the aircraft replaced by UH-60M Black Hawks. In addition to the two that went to eSwatini, Taiwan previously gave nine to Paraguay, Honduras, Guatemala and Burkina Faso. The African country cut ties with Taiwan in May 2018. It received two UH-1Hs in June 2017.
Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) produced 118 UH-1Hs under license for the country’s military from 1970.