Uganda has supported several US airlift missions on behalf of French and African Union forces over the past few months by providing an airfield, transportation, and maintenance packages.
In the most recent mission, U.S. forces will transport 850 Rwandan soldiers and more than 1000 tons of equipment into the Central African Republic to aid French and African Union operations against militants during this three week-long operation.
As US airlift missions operating at the request of the French government and African Union authorities continue, Uganda maintains their role as a key US strategic partner – in just two months, the Ugandans allowed the US military to stage at least three essential missions out of Entebbe, US Africa Command (Africom) reports.
“The Ugandans have been invaluable,” Colonel William Wyatt, Office of Security Cooperation Uganda chief said. “Both the Civil aviation authority and Ugandan People’s Defence Force have been instrumental in helping us stage important missions out of Entebbe.”
Most recently, the US Air Force has been staging two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft out of Uganda to provide airlift support to a Rwandan mechanized battalion. The U.S. military is transporting equipment and soldiers to the Central African Republic in support of the African Union’s effort to confront destabilizing forces and violence.
“Every day we coordinate with the Entebbe Handling Service and they provide us with crew buses and maintenance towing capabilities,” said Major Micah Vander Veen Contingency Response Element Commander, and overall mission commander for the Entebbe stage. “They provide us with everything we need around the airfield, including security services.”
The US began the Rwandan airlifting mission January 16, 2014, which is scheduled to continue through the month.
In December of last year, the US staged a Burundi airlift mission out of Uganda in support of the same African Union operation. The duration of the operation was approximately 10 days.
“With the rapid pace of events in East Africa the additional presence of the US military was felt at Entebbe,” said Wyatt. “However the Government of Uganda was very helpful in allowing US forces to conduct these important missions in support of the African Union for the Central African Republic and evacuation of noncombatants from South Sudan.”
The most notable support the Ugandans have shown to the US occurred when three CV-22 Ospreys were forced to divert to Entebbe after being fired upon, wounding four personnel onboard. The aircraft were attempting to land in Bor, to evacuate Americans from South Sudan.
During this diversion the Ugandans were conducting their own noncombatant evacuation operations out of Juba, South Sudan.
“When the US had to emergency land in Entebbe, they were forced to occupy the only area on the airfield with lights,” said Wyatt. “It was difficult for the Ugandans to process their people in the dark.”
The civil aviation authorities and Ugandan’s Air Force worked closely with US Department of Defence authorities to make this mission and others a success, Africom said. “Uganda is located in the geographical heart of Africa and it is evident they have played a critical role in past and current operations.”