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The Gambia Air Force

The Gambian army operates a single Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot attack jet. Major counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in recent years has created a market for light, inexpensive-to-operate turboprops that can provide ground support from spartan airfields. The UAE is the only air force to operate the AT-802U weaponised variant of the aircraft, although Burkina Faso, Croatia, Gambia, and Israel operate the AT-802 in a utility role.

Gambia has former retired Ukrainian helicopters that are non-functional. A batch of four Gambian soldiers received flying training in the Ukraine. A group captain from Pakistan has also submitted a framework, based on which a new Gambian air force can be established.

The UK Secretary for the Colonies announced in June 1917 that the 10,000 contributed by the Government of the Gambia for the purchase of fighter aeroplanes was to be divided equally between the R.F.C. and the Royal Naval Air Service. Gambia Airways Ltd was formed in 1946 by the then British United Airways in partnership with the Government of the Gambia to provide passenger, freight and sales facilities at Bathurst and also a traffic handling organisation at Yundum International Airport.

In June 1973, the Government holding was increased to 60 percent with the transfer of some BCal stock. Passenger, freight and aircraft-handling facilities were operated at Yundum International Airport under a ten-year management agreement with British Caledonian Airways [BCal]. Air Gambia launched its maiden flight, a scheduled Banjul-London operation, on 29 May 1990. The privately owned airline became flag-carrier to the West African republic. The company was Gambia-registered, and shareholdings are 67 percent Gambian, 33 percent UK. Flights replaced the British Caledonian service which ended in 1987.

The December 1981 confederation pact between Senegal and The Gambia, under which the two countries retained sovereignty but developed joint policies, apparently had little practical effect. The Gambia is surrounded by Senegal on three sides and has the Atlantic Ocean as its western boundary. The Senegalese air force operated over Gambia. As far as the Senegalese Air Force was concerned, no change, other than in name, was expected, since The Gambia did not have much of an air arm. The 25-strong Gambian Air Force had one Skyvan 3M and one B-N Defender to contribute to the SAF.

The Senegalese Air Force had much more, and by 1985 the SAF was a fairly well-balanced force. Five ex-Brazilian CM.170R Magisters comprise a light attack element, while the only other armed types are a Twin Otter 300M and an EMB.lll Bandeirante used for coastal/ offshore patrol. The transport fleet was based mainly at Dakar and has a Boeing 727-200 and a Caravelle for VIP work, six F.27s, and five C-47s. Two of five MH.1521 Broussards and a single Aztec remain for utility work. Helicopters included four Alouette lis, three of four SA.330H Pumas and a single Gazelle. Liaison and training is performed by one Reims F.337 and seven Rallye 230s.

The Gambia formed the nucleus of an air force in 2002 and sent personnel to the Ukraine for a four-year pilot training course. The Gambia bought its first aircraft, a single Su-25 from Georgia in the first half of 2003. However, by 2007, the government had yet to announce its air force's formal establishment.

The only Su-25 sold to Gambia by Georgia. It was seen in Georgian AF colors with Georgian AF markings at Banjul Airport, Gambia on 23 April 2003. Later it was repainted with Gambian markings. Sukhoi Su-25, NATO calls it as Frogfoot, is a close air support jet aircraft which was designed and built by Sukhoi Design Bureau since the era of the Soviet Union in 1978. To conduct its duty as an umbrella of ground forces, the Sukhoi Su-25 is armed with a GSh-30-2 30mm cannon. With 11 hardpoints, the aircraft can carry two R-60 (AA-8 aphid) or other air-to-air missiles for self-defense and various general-purpose bombs, cluster bombs, gun pods, rocket pods, laser-guided bombs, and air-to-surface missiles such as the Kh-Kh-29L or 25ml. The Su-25KM reported limited success, as the Georgian Air Force decided to upgrade four o fits aircraft, while the prototype was sold to Turkmenistan; and another Su-25KM was purchased by The Gambia in 2003.

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Page last modified: 02-12-2016 15:07:51 ZULU