Turkey strengthens TAIs with African military

A round-up of all the latest defence stories in Africa.


Chad bound: The Hürku-C is the armed version of the Hürkus turboprop basic trainer. Picture: TAI

Turkish Aerospace (TAI) has achieved significant export success during the past year, receiving orders worth US$ one billion – including several from African customers.

Recent deliveries include three Hürkus-C light attack aircraft and two Anka-S UAVs to Chad, two Hürkus-Cs to Niger, and the last of five Anka-S UAVs for Tunisia, while the Anka-S is also on order for the Algerian Army.

The Hürkuş-C is the armed version of the Hürkus turboprop basic trainer, optimised for the close air support role as well as for pilot training. It can carry a maximum weapons load of 3,300lb (1,500kg) on four underwing pylons, and can also carry a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor. It is capable of operating from unprepared runways, making it a particularly useful counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft in Africa.

The Anka-S UAS is the serial production version of the TAI Anka. Like the older Block A and Block B versions, the Anka-S is powered by a Thielert Centurion 2.0S engine and introduces a satcom antenna and a new flight control computer. The aircraft is equipped with a StarFIRE 380-HDL or Aselsan CATS FLIR turret, and can be armed with the Roketsan MAM-L air-to-surface missile, which are known to have been supplied to Chad.

In West Africa, members of the 818th and 571st mobility support advisory squadrons travelled to Lomé, Togo, in May 2023 to conduct the first military-to-military engagement between the Togolese Air Force (TAF) and the 621st air mobility advisory group’s air advisors for 11 years.

The advisors saw the TAF’s ageing SOCATA TB-30 Epsilon turboprop trainers and Beech 200 King Air’s at Base Transport de Lomé, and worked with their Togolese hosts to understand their training and operational needs, and to aid the TAF in effectively and efficiently conducting maintenance and logistical operations practices while strengthening the aviation-related partnership between the US Air Force and the TAF.

Togo is a strategically important partner for the US, with a surge in attacks by Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) near the Burkina Faso border and Togolese forces have been combating terrorist activities enthusiastically and effectively.

"Throughout the assessment, it became abundantly clear that the Togolese Air Force is performing at a high level across many of its mission sets to secure its northern border from terrorist extremists," US Air Force tech. sgt. Sandre Lillington, an 818th MSAS air transportation air advisor observed.

"This engagement showed a willingness from the Togolese to grow its capabilities and work with the United States Air Force to ensure regional stability. This aligns directly with 818th MSAS's mission of building partnership capabilities," Lillington said.


Gabon C295 order is up in the air

Gabon’s recently deposed president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, had given his approval for the purchase of an Airbus C295 military transport aircraft for the Armée de l'air Gabonaise (Gabonese Air Force) before he was overthrown in a military-led coup.

The deal which will be funded using a CFA31 billion ($52 million) loan secured from Spain’s Santander Bank, and now approved by the government. The acquisition amounts to about 20% of Gabon’s 2023 defence budget.

The new airlifter will augment the CN235M already operated by Gabon’s Air Force, and the single Puma and two Gazelles that are in service. A number of Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules are believed to have been withdrawn from use.

The frontline element consists of six former SAAF Dassault Mirage F1AZ fighters and two Atlas Impalas operated by EC 1-02 at Franceville/Mvengue.

An ATR 42 and a Falcon 900 are used for VIP transport, while the Garde Republicaine Gabona flies two Eurocopter EC120Bs, a pair of EC135T2+ helicopters, and an EC225LP Super Puma.

On the other side of the continent, during the graduation ceremony for 12 new pilots and 52 engineers, lieutenant general Charles Okidi, the commander of the Ugandan Air Force, praised the battlefield performance of the Russian-made Mi-28NE night hunter attack helicopters that were delivered last year.

The aircraft have already seen active service against the Lord’s resistance army (LRA), an insurgent group purporting to represent the interests of the Acholi people in northern Uganda.

A small number of Mi-28NE attack helicopters (which have the reporting name ‘havoc’) have been delivered to Uganda, augmenting about a dozen Mi-24s and a similar number of Mi-17s. The type has also been delivered to Iraq and Algeria.

Okidi thanked and applauded the first Mi-28 pilots for providing air power during recent operations. “There is no doubt that the introduction of the attack helicopters into the battlefield changed the tides of war in Northern Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in favour of the UPDF and continues to do so in the subsequent operations. So, with the acquisition of new air assets, we are ready to serve our beloved country more in that capacity,” he said.


Uganda’s Su-30s sent to Belarus for repair

The Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces – Air Force (UPDF-AF) has dispatched two of its Sukhoi Su-30MK2 aircraft to the 558th aircraft repair plant in Baranavichy, Belarus, on July 6, 2023. The two Su-30MK2s are part of a fleet of six that the UPDF-AF acquired from Russia in 2011. One aircraft was lost in a fatal accident in 2020, killing both pilots.

Previously maintenance was undertaken by Russia’s Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant, part of the United Aircraft corporation, but on March 4, 2022, Uganda reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the future maintenance and technical support of the Ugandan Su-30s fighter jets.

The decision to send two Su-30s to Belarus for maintenance instead of India was unexpected, and has not been explained, but reflects growing military cooperation between Uganda and Belarus.

Uganda signed the $740 million agreement for six Sukhoi Su-30s in April 2011 and the aircraft were delivered in pairs in July 2011, October 2011 and May 2012. Based at Entebbe, the aircraft operate in the air-to-air and air-to-surface roles, and have conducted missions against Al Qaeda targets in Somalia and against opposition forces in South Sudan.


Zambia supports SAMIM with C-27J

The Zambia Air Force (ZAF) has been stepped up its support for the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) with its Leonardo C-27J Spartan transport aircraft, and has now also forward-deployed a force protection unit.

The ZAF deployed a C-27J aircraft to SAMIM at the beginning of 2022, and soon afterwards used the aircraft to airlift more than 50,000 kilogrammes of cargo for the South African National Defence Force from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria to Mozambique.

The ZAF has supported SAMIM which has recaptured a number villages, dislodged terrorists from their bases, created safe passage for humanitarian aid and has facilitated a return to normal life for internally displaced people (IDPs).

Lieutenant general Colin Barry, the ZAF Commander, said that his command was committed to supporting the Zambian government’s peace efforts to stabilise the Cabo Delgado region of Northern Mozambique. “Currently, the Zambia Air Force is the only service from the Zambia Defence Force deployed under SAMIM. We will continue to service the mission with airlift capability through the employment of the C-27J. The regiment unit being deployed today will be responsible for base protection and security of storage facilities and air asserts,” he said.

Zambia has pledged to provide more assets for peacekeeping operations in Africa. “Zambia has a proud history of engaging in peacekeeping efforts with the United Nations, dating back to 1988 when the country first deployed peacekeepers to Iraq. Currently, Zambia has a significant number of troops deployed in various peace operations with the majority in the UN multidimensional integrated stabilization mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA),” Barry pointed out.

Jon Lake

Jon Lake

Jon is defence editor for both Arabian and African Aerospace magazines.