The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) air wing has taken delivery of two new Mil Mi-17 helicopters and says they will be deployed to provide airlift and troop support services to the Rwandan contingent deployed with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
According to Rwandan daily The New Times, the new aircraft was unveiled to the media at the RDF’s Kanombe air base near the capital Kigali by base commander Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Rugazora.
“These helicopters are brand new and will be deployed sometime this month (to South Sudan). We are now conducting some of the special aviation exercises to prepare our crew for such missions. Since we anticipate various scenarios, we are getting our people ready for deployment,” Rugazora said.
He said the helicopters will be deployed shortly together with two others, bringing the number of Rwandan Mi-17s in South Sudan to eight. The new deployment will also increase the number of Rwandan air force personnel from 119 to 225.
On December 27, 2012, the first three Rwandan Mi-17s, together with 18 crew members, were deployed to support UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan. They were later joined by another three and tasked with providing tactical airlift of personnel and cargo, undertaking search and rescue operations, air medical evacuation and any other required peacekeeping support missions.
Several years ago Rwanda upgraded six of its Mi-17s through Lithuanian company ASU Baltija. Some of the equipment that was installed included a weather radar, moving map, GPS, armour, night vision goggles, digital flight data recorder and infrared camera.
With more than 5 000 peacekeeping personnel deployed in different international missions, Rwanda is the fifth largest troop and police contingent contributor to world peace keeping missions and is one of a few African countries to deploy aircraft to international peacekeeping missions.