President John Evans Atta Mills, Commander-In-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, has made his maiden aviation-related order for 4 sophisticated aircraft to the tune of a whopping $680 million, from the United States (US).
The order is coming against the backdrop of ex-President Jerry John Rawlings’ visit to the Ghana Air Force Base at Burma Camp during which he took a trip round the main hangar and reportedly expressed his apparent disgust at the state of the aircraft in the holding area.
The visit to the military installation sparked mixed reactions among Ghanaians with most of them concluding that the former pilot was feeling nostalgic for his flying days and political power.
Speculations are rife that the ongoing arrangement could not have reached these concluding stages without the former Air Force pilot’s input, giving credence that he plays a critical role in security matters about the country even as he lives in apparent retirement from the cockpit of Ghanaian politics.
Previous aviation-related purchases under the erstwhile regime were met with political resistance, with those kicking against the deal pointing at it as a misplaced priority at a time when, according to them, most Ghanaians were hungry.
One of the purchases was for a Presidential aircraft which would be managed by the Ghana Air Force.
Details about the four-aircraft order were contained in a release from the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which when it receives the almost certain nod of Congress within the next 30 days, would kick-start negotiations between the two countries.
The four C-27J Spartan light tactical aircraft are intended to replace the three Fokker F27 main transports of the Ghana Air Force whose production are said to have ceased operation since 1987.
The aircraft, when the deal goes through, would be delivered alongside 10 pieces of Rolls Royce AE-2100 engines and an assortment of spares.
The aircraft is by and large manufactured in Italy, and Alenia Aeronautica, the main contractor for the deal, won US’ Joint Cargo Aircraft Competition in a partnership with L-3 Communications Integrated Systems of Greenville, Texas.
Most aircraft around the world are run on Rolls Royce engines of an assortment of ratings.
The aircraft are fitted with a range of sophisticated electronic gadgets, making them ideal for a wide spectrum of military activities.
Besides military operations, the aircraft can be used for special duties like VIP missions, especially since they are fitted with observation windows.
In putting forth the request to order the aircraft, Ghanaian authorities convinced their American counterparts about their obsession with strengthening their homeland defence.
The aircraft are intended to be used for troops’ deployment and border protection duties against the spread of turmoil from troubled parts of the sub-region.
They are also intended to enhance the cargo handling, material movement and medical evacuation capabilities of the Ghana Air Force.
Deals for military hardware and aircraft have nasty records of underhand dealings having had many political fingers burnt around the world, especially in third world countries.
Ghanaians, especially the media, would have a lot to discuss in the coming days about the looming purchase, and as usual, statements would originate from the Presidency, vouching for the healthiness of the deal.
By A.R. Gomda
Thursday, September 17, 2009
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