African nations developing air transport sharing mechanism

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African nations are looking at developing an Air Transport Sharing Mechanism to improve the African Union’s airlift capability, and a conference to this effect was recently concluded in Botswana.

The conference took place in Kasane, Botswana, from 22 to 26 August during the 5th Liaison Officer Working Group hosted by US Air Forces Africa and the Botswana Defence Force.

“The ATSM [Air Transport Sharing Mechanism] aims to create a dependable, organized, readily-available, effective and efficient air transport operations system on the continent to carry persons and cargo in support of common national and regional peace and security requirements,” said US Air Force Major James Johnson, US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) southern Africa regional desk officer.

USAFE-AFAFRICA reported that the ATSM goal is to enhance the African Union’s strategic lift capability to include medical evacuation, non-combatant evacuation, and humanitarian action and natural disaster support through the Africa Air Mobility Command Centre (AAMCC), a multi-national African airlift unit under the authority of the African Union.

“The role of this Pan-African unit is to provide air mobility in support of peace and security operations and through the support of all African nations contributing to this unit whether through personnel or any other logistic support,” said Tunisian Air Force Colonel Kais Sghaier, 11th Air Unit commander.

Topics discussed during the working group included qualifications of the unit’s commander and personnel requirements.

“We need to come up with mechanisms of optimising the use of the very limited resources available to us, hence the expectation is that Airlift Resource Sharing is one of the topical issues for this conference,” said Botswana Defence Force Brigadier Collen Mastercee Maruping, acting deputy air arm commander.

Each nation’s representative will discuss the working group’s ideas and plans with their nation’s leadership.

“I think it’s every African’s dream to see an African airplane with all African flags across its tail, flying across the continent providing relief and support to Africans,” said Sghaier.

Further proposals for the AAMCC’s location and other qualifications will be discussed during the 12th annual African Air Chiefs Symposium scheduled to be held in Senegal in 2023.

This was the ATSM’s first in-person conference between African nations with the previous nine meetings conducted virtually, USAFE-AFAFRICA reported.