in Defence / Features

Cameroon gears up for counter-insurgency campaign.

Posted 14 June 2019 · Add Comment

The Armée de l’Air du Cameroun (Cameroon Air Force) is undergoing a major re-equipment programme, although the US halted assistance in February 2019 amid reports of gross violations of human rights by Cameroon’s security forces, writes Jon Lake.

Cameroon is fighting against insurgents from the Islamist Boko Haram group, based in neighbouring Nigeria, and the Islamic State in West Africa group. It is also facing a campaign by English-speaking separatists, who are seeking independence from the largely French-speaking country.
The air force is undertaking two major counter-insurgency campaigns – Operation Emergence 4 and Operation Alpha.
It has started to acquire new aircraft to augment and replace what is an ageing fleet and has commissioned two new airfields. But the operational status of these new air bases – Base Aérienne 202 at Bamenda in the north-west and Base Aérienne 102 at Bertoua in the east – remains uncertain.
Most operations are still flown from Base Aérienne 301 at Garoua, the most modern and the best equipped airfield in the country. It is adjacent to the United States Army contingency location Garoua and is said to conform to NATO standards.
Transports operate from Base Aérienne 201 at Douala, while most helicopters are stationed at Base Aérienne 101 near the capital, Yaoundé, where the 121ème Escadrille des Hélicoptères Anti-Chars (121st anti-tank helicopter squadron) operates two SA330 Pumas, four Harbin Z-9s and five Mil Mi-17s. Three Aérospatiale SA342 Gazelles are believed to have been removed from service.
The co-located 122ème Escadrille de Reconnaissance (122nd reconnaissance squadron) operates two Bell 206B-3 JetRangers, one Bell 412 and a single Sud SA318C Alouette II.
Two Cessna 208 Caravan intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft were delivered to Yaounde in May 2018, while two more were spotted en route to Cameroon at Santa Maria, in the Azores, in January 2019. These promise to provide real-time imagery and video to ground forces and commanders.
Since September 2018, four AgustaWestland AW109E Power helicopters have been undergoing flight tests at Varese-Venegono in Italy, wearing Cameroon Air Force markings, though no contract has been announced. At least two of these aircraft can be fitted with an under-nose searchlight, an underbelly electro optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret, and with a winch on the starboard side.
 

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