The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) has taken delivery of an H125 light helicopter, and inaugurated an upgraded runway at Mejametalana Airbase.
The helicopter was commissioned by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Monyane Moleleki on 14 October after it was acquired from Airbus Helicopters Southern Africa (AHZA) and named Litsebe after a mountain in the Berea area.
The Lesotho News Agency (LENA)) reported Acting LDF Commander, Major General Lineo Poopa, as saying the helicopter would help address the issue of stock theft, especially around the Drakensberg mountain range. It would also be used to move educational and electoral material and assist in providing healthcare services.
The commissioning ceremony also celebrated the rehabilitation of the 1 300 metre long Mejametalana Airbase runway, which was upgraded by EXR Construction. It can accommodate aircraft weighing up to 16 500 kg during day and night operations.
Acting Airwing Commander, Major General Mojalefa Letsoela said the upgrade and helicopter acquisition took place over the 2013 to 2017 fiscal years, with the need to upgrade the runway becoming apparent in 2008. The upgrade cost over R70 million.
Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki said “The multitude of roles you execute have proved your strategic importance, hence the need to maintain the Airwing as a viable Air Force within the LDF which provides critical services to Basotho and in the region. It is therefore imperative for government to invest in that force capability which is demonstrated by undertakings of this nature and acquiring of more helicopters in future.
“While this measure is going to help improve existing fleet on the side of the light transport helicopters, LDF will still face a challenge of rapidly ageing aircraft in the medium utility class,” Moleleki said.
Lesotho’s small Defence Force is only believed to have several C212s and a single GA-8 Airvan fixed wing aircraft in service, along with several Bell 412s, a couple of BO 105s and a single Bell 206.