Zambia and Morocco gain new helicopters

While Nigeria is rearming at a formidable rate, with many new types entering service, other African air arms are also introducing new aircraft and helicopters.

Picture: Airbus

A Moroccan delegation visited Airbus in August 2022 to look at the H135. Picture: Airbus

The United States has announced an $80 million grant to Zambia for the supply of four Bell 412EP helicopters to the Zambia Air Force (ZAF), together with a three year training, service, and parts package.

Zambia is expanding and modernising its rotary wing fleet, whose ‘backbone’ was until recently provided by some half a dozen Mil Mi-171Sh and Mi-171E utility and assault transport helicopters delivered from Russia between 2015 and 2017, and seven Chinese Z-9s.

But in recent years, about a dozen surviving Agusta-Bell 205s have been augmented by three Bell/Agusta-Bell 412 helicopters from Italy and South Africa, and a second hand Bell 212 previously operated by Era Helicopters in Canada.

Zambia has also ordered two Enstrom 480B helicopters from the United States in February, for training pilots and personnel.

Further North, the Royal Moroccan Air Force has taken delivery of the first pair of H135M helicopters of 12 ordered from Airbus Helicopters. The contract also includes an extensive support package encompassing the training of instructor pilots and maintenance personnel and the delivery of Flight Training Devices. The helicopters arrived at Meknes, on September 7, 2023, after their ferry flight from Perpignan, with brief stopovers in Almeria, Spain, and Tangier.

The new H135Ms will replace the AgustaBell AB206A and AB206B helicopters currently being used by the Royal Moroccan Air Force Helicopter Flight School at 1 Air Base at Rabat/Salé. The light twin-engined H135 will be used for training pilots for a variety of roles.

Jon Lake

Jon Lake

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