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Lesotho Air Wing

The Lesotho Air Wing was created in 1978 as an offshoot of the Parliamentary Police Mobile Unit and later incorporated into the Lesotho Defence Force in the mid-1980s. The Air Wing of the RLDF had [as of 1985] two Short SC.7 Skyvan STOL utility aircraft; one Beech Baron 58 short-range transport; one Bell 370, one MBB-KHI BK-117 and two MBB B0-105 utility helicopters; and three Agusta-Bell 412 helicopters.

Operational helicopters were used in border patrol and for the delivery of a quick-reaction force. One of the three Bell 412 helicopters and one of the MBB 105s were registered with the Department of Commerical Aviation in anticipation of a lucrative flying contract in support of the Highland Water Project.

Reporting indicated a low operational rate because of a lack of spare parts. Eight pilots had received training in West Germany, and seven of the pilots were being trained to bring them up to commercial standards but experienced difficulty in achieving acceptable proficiency. The Air Wing had approximately 10 foreign contract personnel who supplied support/maintenance. The entire Air Wing was based at Moshoeshoe (formerly Leabua Jonathan Airport).

A combined training exercise between the SA Air Force and the Lesotho Air Wing was executed between 25 February and 08 March 2008. The exercise took place in the mountainous areas of Lesotho. The aim of the exercise was to train junior SAAF Air Transport aircrew in unfamiliar flying environments. Some of the aspects covered during the exercise were aircraft performance in hot and high conditions (airfield elevations between 7000 and 10,400 feet above mean sea level), tactical air operations and day/night mountain flying. Between two Cessna Caravans and two Casa 212s, more than 200 hours were flown and over 600 landings were executed.

The LDF did not [as of 2008] receive US Foreign Military Financing (FMF), though it has submitted requests. FMF assistance would ensure that the LDF's effective, though resource poor, Air Wing is adequately equipped and trained to work toward common goals. The Air Wing's primary missions are border patrols to combat transnational crime, search/rescue operations, disaster/medical response, and transportation of emergency food, education, and election-related materials to remote regions. The Air Wing is uniquely poised to play a significant role in the national response to one of the world's worst HIV/AIDS pandemics.

The Air Wing has several U.S. Army-trained technicians and pilots and uses the Army maintenance management systems as a model for its own maintenance program. Lesotho's Air Wing -- comprised of a small rotor wing fleet (six helicopters) and a fixed wing fleet (three transport airplanes) -- was under stress and in need of additional helicopters, light aircraft, and aircraft replacement parts. FMF funding for helicopter pilot training and training on specific military hardware systems such as aircraft night vision goggles would also assist the Air Wing in its mission.

By 2010 the Air Wing was equipped with four transport aircraft (three CASA 212 Aviocars and one Gippsland GA-8 Airvan) and half a dozen helicopters, including three MBB BO-105s and three Bell 412s.

Eurocopter Southern Africa Ltd. (ESAL) said in 2014 that it planned to establish a permanent base in Kenya to conduct maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) on all Airbus helicopters in Africa and parts of the Middle East. In recent years, the company had supplied the the EC135 to the Lesotho Defense Forces Air Wing. "We expect to sell more helicopters to the Lesotho [Defense Force] in the medium term. They have aging aircraft to replace. They are still using an EC135 to replace a BO 105, an older, German-built light utility helicopter, ESL spokesman Linden Birns said.the Mountain Kingdom

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Page last modified: 20-11-2017 19:52:26 ZULU