Russia - Ghana relations/

GAF commissions four Russian helicopters

Accra, Jan. 6, GNA - The Ghana Armed Forces on Wednesday commissioned four newly acquired multipurpose Russian MI-17 helicopters for the Ghana Air Force.

The robust and versatile aircraft, which are suitable for both military and civilian operations are replacing the ageing fleet of the Force and would be employed in both internal and peacekeeping operations.

The helicopters were brought into the country on December 16, 2004 in a semi-knocked down form, by a Russian Antonov transport plane, with an accompanying role and ground support equipment. A team of Russian technical personnel, who came with the helicopters assisted by Ghana Air Force personnel completed assembling and air-tested the four by Thursday December 30, 2004.

The world acclaimed helicopter - MI 17 is used in many UN theatres and in over 50 countries. It can perform many roles including medical and casualty evacuation, troop and cargo carrier, fire fighting, search and rescue on both land and sea and the conveyance of persons.

Each of the helicopters has the capacity to transport up to 36 well-equipped troops, fly non-stop for about 675 kilometres, and carry 12 lying evacuees or cargo of between 4,000 and 4,500 kilograms. It can operate both day and night without difficulty.

An important component in the contract under which the acquisition was made provided for the training of Ghanaian service personnel in the handling of the helicopters and 27 airmen had already undertaken training in various specializations in Russia.

These include transition training for eight pilots, ground engineers course for four engineers and technicians and flight engineers course for two officers and two airmen of the force.

In addition, Russian maintenance personnel will also provide on-the-job maintenance training to Ghanaian staff for a period of one year to ensure technology transfer. Within the same period, the Russians will provide spares for maintenance.

DefenceMinister Kwame Addo Kufuor, who commissioned the aircraft at the Air Force Base at Burma Camp in Accra, said the Government having realized the need to enhance the capacity of the Ghana Air Force to meet the ever-increasing operational challenges of the GAF sought to acquire the crafts whose effectiveness and efficiency were not in doubt. He said the acquisition of the helicopters was in line with the Government's efforts to equip and revitalize the GAF to enhance its capacity, not only for the maintenance of national security but for disaster relief and participation in peacekeeping operations, particularly in the West Africa Sub- Region.

Dr Addo-Kufuor said the need to empower the GAF to achieve its stated mission of protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ghana by land, sea and air against external and internal aggression, added to the dimension of ensuring that the Military was not left out in contributing positively to the transformation of the economy to achieve growth and alleviate poverty.

He said the helicopters, in assisting in civilian operations in times of need, would go a long way to enhance cordial Civilian - Military relations. They would also enable the security agencies to maintain law and order in various flash points and conflict spots in the country since all four combined could transport up to 144 military personnel to any trouble spot within hours.

The Minister expressed his appreciation to the Russian Ambassador to Ghana, Valeri Orlov for his efforts in facilitating the acquisition of the helicopters and for helping to establish the links between the GAF and Kazan Limited of Russia - the manufacturers of the helicopters. He expressed the hope that the new cooperation would open avenues for the training of Ghanaian military personnel in Russia.

Dr Addo-Kufuor took the opportunity to express the Government's appreciation to the GAF and all other security agencies in the country for the remarkable role they played in maintaining peace, law and order during Election 2004 and for helping to sustain democratic governance in the country.

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Edward Mantey charged the engineers and mechanics, who would be handling the helicopters, to handle them with care and be guided by the cardinal principles of flight safety.

He said it was the vision of the Air Force to exploit the inherent versatility of the helicopters to meet national needs, but urged the Government to provide funds to refurbish existing fleet of aircraft of the Force.

MrChris McDowell, Managing Director of Wellfind Limited, the UK company that facilitated the acquisition of the helicopters, said it was the start of a new chapter for the GAF and urged them to endeavour to maintain the equipment well.

As part the ceremony, he handed over logbooks of the helicopters to the Minister of Defence.

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