Closing the capability gap : Cameroon, Chad take delivery of Cessna ISR aircraft.

The Cameroonian and Chadian Air Forces took delivery of two Cessna 208 aircraft for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions from the United States.

Both aircrafts were delivered last week Cameroon and Chad, two of Africa’s longest dictatorship.

The Cessnas were modified into ISR platforms under contracts that the US awarded to North American Surveillance Systems and L-3 Communications in May 2016. A US official confirmed the aircraft were donated to both countries.

This is a significant development in the sense that Nigeria has been blanketed by ISR platforms of late. Reaper Drone bases in Niamey (Niger) and Garoua (Cameroon) negated Nigeria’s monopoly on the operation of combat drones in the region. This latest development once again negates in absolute terms Nigeria’s monopoly in ISR capable aircrafts.

Chads two new Cessna 208 ISR aircraft are seen at Adji Kossei Air Base, Djamena on 18 January. Janes/ (US Air Force)
L3 Wescam MX-15 EO systems. Jeremy Bender.

The AFRICOM spokesperson declined to provide any detail on the equipment fitted to the aircraft, saying only that they are “able to successfully conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions”.

A photograph released by the US military showed one of the Chadian Cessna 208s at Chief Adji Kossei Air Base equipped with an L3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optic/infrared payload.

The AFRICOM spokesperson said Chadian Air Force personnel undertook flying, maintenance, and support training at different US military facilities and in Chad to enable them to operate the new aircraft.

The Cameroonian military officer said Cameroonian Air Force air and ground crews had undergone training on the Cessna 208 in the United States throughout 2017.

He added that the aircraft will be integrated into existing units, probably the 321st Liaison and Observation Flight. This is part of the 32nd Air Squadron, an air observation unit currently flying a mix of Humbert Aviation Tétras 912 and Aero Synergie J300 Joker ultralight aircraft.

Nigeria is gradually fallen behind in air combat assets. The Chadian Air Force as of this writing operates 10 SU-25 Frogfoot and two MiG-29’s, making the Chadian AF the most potent when it comes strike aircrafts. By contrast the Nigerian Air Force operates a fleet of 9 F-7Ni interceptors and 12 Alpha trainer/ light attack jet.

In the space of just under three years the Nigerian Air Force is on the verge being outgunned in all parameters. The NAF claim as the premier air power in West Africa is on shaky grounds unless proactive measures are taking to recapitalize, in a meaningful way.



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