The US military has awarded Berry Aviation Inc of the United States a contract to provide air transport services in support of operations in Western and Central Africa.
The US Army’s Transportation Command (US-TRANSCOM) earlier this year issued tenders for private flight contractors to transport commandos from the Joint Special Taskforce Trans-Sahara as they conduct ‘high risk activities’ in 31 African countries.
The pre-solicitation notice, issued by the US-TRANSCOM on 1 April, said the contractor would need to conduct air drops, fly commandos in and out of hostile territory and carry out short notice medical evacuation between 12 August 2013 and 27 June 2017. A 10.5 month base period will start in August to be followed by three one-year option periods.
Berry Aviation (BAI) was awarded the contract for the Trans-Sahara short takeoff and landing (STOL) services in late July. The company received an initial $10.725 million contract but if all three one-year options are taken, the contract is worth up to $49 million. The contract was subject to competitive bidding through the Federal Business Opportunity website, and five offers were received. Berry Aviation has previously worked with the US military providing transport services in Afghanistan.
Under the contract, Berry Aviation is providing two-fixed wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision necessary to perform casualty evacuation, personnel airlift, cargo airlift, as well as personnel and cargo aerial delivery services throughout the Trans-Sahara region, the company said.
“This contract award expands BAI’s established international logistic footprint and extends our airlift support efforts for USTRANSCOM and the DOD,” said Harry (Sonny) Berry, III, President and CEO of BAI. “Being awarded with this opportunity attests to the exceptional work our operations personnel and management teams have conducted in austere environments working for the DOD throughout Afghanistan and the Pacific Rim.”
Earlier this year TRANSCOM said it was looking for aircraft able to carry at least six passengers and 2 500 pounds of cargo. From the US intelligence hub located in a military airfield in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the contractors should also be able to conduct air drops of equipment bundles, provide ‘static-line, personnel air drops’ and clock up to 1 000 flight hours for a period of up to four years.
Once airborne, the flight contractors should be able to conduct operations from various “Forward Operating Locations”. Flight contractors should “be airborne with an hour of notification” and will fly US special forces missions in nearly all countries in East, West, Central and North Africa.
“Services shall be based at Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, with services provided to, but not limited to, the recognized political boundaries of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Uganda, as dictated by operational requirements. It is anticipated the most likely additional locations for missions from the above list would be to: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia,” the TRANSCOM work statement read.
The expansion of US commando operations is focused on confronting the threat posed by Sahelian and sub-Saharan terror groups which include Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar al Dine and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which operate in nearly all north and north-west African countries. The operations are also aimed at confronting Al Qaeda inspired Nigerian Islamist militant groups Boko Haram and its more radical splinter movement Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa, better known as Ansaru.
In East and Central Africa, the US special forces operations will target renegade rebel groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony, Al Shabaab in Somalia, Islamic militant sleeper cells in the coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania and various regional rebel groups operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since 2009, private flight contractors engaged by US special operations forces have been operating Pilatus PC-12s (U-28) on intelligence gathering and image collection missions over Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, Central Africa Republic and other Central African states from a small airport located near the Ugandan city of Entebbe. The intelligence operation is part of the US Army effort to help African armies drawn from Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi in searching for fugitive LRA leader Joseph Kony who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.