The Ghana Air Force has taken delivery of four Z-9EH utility helicopters from China, and will use them to secure the West African country’s oil and gas industry.
The aircraft were commissioned by President John Dramani Mahama on 23 September at Burma Camp in Accra in a ceremony attended by 300 people including representatives from the armed forces and oil and gas industry. Mahama said the aircraft manufactured by Harbin in China would be used to police the Ghana Gas project as well as other oil infrastructure. He said the delivery of the helicopters was historic as it is the first collaboration between the Ghana National Gas Company and Ghana Air Force, which will operate and maintain them, CitiFM reports.
Mahama said the aircraft would also be used to secure offshore oil installations, enhance maritime security and anti-piracy, conduct medical evacuations as well as search and rescue.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana National Gas Company, Dr George Sipa Yankey said he was delighted that his installations are now fully monitored and protected. Mahama last month commissioned the Atuabo Gas Processing Plant of the Ghana Gas Company.
The procurement of the helicopters was financed through a China Development Bank loan. The procurement also includes the spare parts and facilities for the aircraft and their maintenance, as well as personnel training.
China had exported more than 60 Z-9 helicopters to several countries across the world, and the four Ghana bought were of “the most sophisticated model”, China’s ambassador to Ghana, Sun Baohong revealed at the ceremony, according to Xinhua.
Ghana has been upgrading its military aircraft in recent times and in June Embraer secured a contract for the sale of five A-29 Super Tucano light attack and advanced training turboprops to Ghana. At the time the company said the contract would come into effect once certain conditions have been fulfilled. These conditions are expected to be fulfilled during the second half of 2015.
At the beginning of this year Mahama confirmed the acquisition of the four Z-9s and five Super Tucanos. The acquisitions were first announced in November last year but no quantities were mentioned. At the time, Mahama said the Ghana Air Force would acquire Super Tucanos, Z-9s, additional Mi-17 helicopters and a single C-295 transport aircraft. The aircraft would be used for training, peace support and combat operations.
Future acquisitions mentioned by the Ghana Air Force include a single Embraer executive jet, four Mi-35 attack helicopters and a C-27J Spartan transport aircraft to support the Ghana Gas Company.