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Congolese Air Force (Force Aerienne Congolaise)

The Congolese Air Force (Force Aerienne Congolaise) is the air branch of the Armed Forces of the Republic of the Cong (aka Congo-Brazzaville). It is not to be confused with Air Force of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as the Force Arienne Congolaise, or FAC. Political tensions in Africa declined with the fall of the Soviet Union and most of its fighter aircraft were scrapped by the end of the 1990s. At independence from France in 1960, the Congolese Air Force began with equipment such as the Douglas C-47s, Broussards and Bell 47Gs, these were followed by Nord Noratlas tactical transports and Sud Alouette helicopter. It was organised into fighter, counterinsurgency, transport and support wings.

During the Cold War it was as a Communist bastion in central Africa, countering the politically unstable, pro-Western regime in Zaire (the former name of the DRC). Its role is now one of countering cross-border smuggling operations, intermittent counterinsurgency actions in the northern provinces and successfully containing the crisis in the DRC along its border. Its first batch of aircraft, the MiG-15s and some of the MiG-17s, arrived in the early 1960s just after the Congo's independence from France and Zaire's independence from Belgium.Financial aid also came from the former USSR and some personnel were either Soviets or Cubans. In the 1970s the air force acquired Soviet equipment, including five Ilyushin IL-14 and six turboprop Antonov An-24 transports and an An-26. These fighters and a few MiG-15UTI combat trainers were transferred to the FAC. This largesse was in return for providing bases for Cuban MiG-17 operations over Angola.

In 1990 the initial batch of Soviet fighter were replaced by 16 USSR supplied MiG-21MF/bis Fishbeds plus a couple of MiG-21US trainers. During this time there were numerous accidents involving both Soviet and Congolese personnel. A Soviet training mission stayed until late 1991. After the Soviets, left there was only limited funding and even less requirement for MiG operations and they were withdrawn from service.

France, China and the Soviet Union supplied arms and aircraft. The Soviets and Cubans trained the air force as a whole, but France also trained some of its officers. Six Mi-8 helicopters were delivered from Ukraine in mid-1997 before the Cobra rebel takeover. In June 2007 the Independence celebration spoiled after the parade in Kisangani. A Congolese Air Force plane crashed at Simi Simi airport, 4 km from the city center. The aircraft caught fire in the middle of the runway during its landing. A few minutes before the crash, this aircraft with another acrobatics in the airspace of the city at the time of the parade.

By April 2011 the Paramount Group was negotiating with several potential customers for the sale of ex-South African Air Force Mirage F1AZ aircraft. Air Forces Monthly, in its May edition 2011, said that four F1AZs left Pietersburg Airport in South Africa on 08 August 2010 , with two delivered to Congo-Brazzaville for the Force Aerienne Congolaise and the other two going to the Force Aeriennes Gabonaises. According to the South African blog Defense-Web, Paramount has a contract for the maintenance and support of these devices in Brazzaville The group also proposes a re-powering of the French aircraft with the Russian reactor SMR95, evolution of the reactor RD33 of Mig 29 Which gives the aircraft a thrust of 8 to 9 tons compared to 7200 kg of the original engine.

Two Mil Mi-17V-5 Hip-Hs, a Mi-17 Hip-H and a single Mi-24 Hind of the Force Aerienne Congolaise (Congolese Air Force) at were seen at Brazzaville-Maya-Maya Airport on October 25, 2013. The Mi-17V-5s were equipped with a rear loading ramp and had a rescue hoist mounted above the front door The Mi-17 (possibly serial TN-368) wores a green and brown scheme, different from that on the example noted at Pointe Noire on June 25, confirming that a minimum of two are in Congolese service. At least one Mi-24P Hind-F was delivered to the Congo from the Ukraine in 2005. However, these aircraft appears to be a Mi-24V Hind-E variant, with a nose-turret mounted machine-gun rather than the fixed cannons of the Hind-F, indicating further deliveries had occurred. It is armed with a rocket pod under the stub wing.

Force Aerienne Congolaise (Congolese Air Force) CASA CN235M-10 TN-228 (c/n C009, ex N833CA) seen at its home base at Brazzaville-Maya-Maya Airport on October 25, 2013 was one of two previously operated by the Botswana Defence Force Air Wing that were replaced by new CN235M-300s. Both were initially stored at Lanseria in South Africa, with one (5V-MBM/N820CA, c/n C008, ex OG1) due to go to the Togolese Air Force, although it never entered service with it. TN-228 was delivered to the Congo by March 2013.

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