By Kofi Ampeah-Woode
The Ghana Air Force, has delved onto its drawing board to dust off and actualize an old plan, which has led to the Service, developing a strategic route, to re-supply Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) troops on United Nations (UN) Missions, and also afford the opportunity to connect West to East Africa, through airpower that is smart, soft and responsive.
On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at 0400 hours, Wing Commander (Wg Cdr) John William Quainoo, with GAF’s CASA C-295, led a team of eight of the “Winged-Soldiers”, from the Air Force Base (AFB), Accra, with a representative from the International Peace Support Operations (IPSO) of GAF, to actualize what had been deemed possible, but hitherto remained on the drawing board.
The trip – a request to deploy Ghana’s CASAs for a UN Mission towards East Africa, was also a key opportunity, to manifest the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) – Air Vice Marshall (AVM) Frank Hanson’s vision, whom upon assumption of office, stated as part of his objectives; to enhance Peace Support operations – taking keen interest in supporting GAF troops on the Mission areas, in every way possible.
Speaking in a conversation with Peace Journal, Wg Cdr Quainoo, stated that the trip was unique in the sense that it is a proof-of-concept, affording the Air Force, the opportunity to use Entebbe, in Uganda, as a Staging Point, from where they could reach all the mission areas in East Africa.
The Commanding Officer (CO) further stated that, should Ghana strategically deploy its CASA C-295 in Entebbe, it could serve missions in Darfur in South Sudan, Kenya, Congo, Central Africa Republic (CAR) and Somalia, whiles previously, the farthest they had gone was Kinshasa, since there was no mission beyond.
In reference to the decision to pull out the old plan and work at it, Wg Cdr Quainoo said “we had constraints, in that we did not have Overflight and Landing Clearance in the CAR, as of the time we were ready to start the trip, and we were time-bound, and so in planning, we considered staging through to also test the said plan, so it was more like killing two birds with one stone”.
Flying via the plan, the CO said, the supplies – time critical items, which troops need to further re-supply to other troops at various cut-off locations – were delivered on time, to relieve the peacekeepers’ stress.
It is generally believed that military pilots are ‘rough’ as compared to commercial and private airlines, since the latter have designated routes and so, learn and familiarize with them, whereas their military counterparts operate mostly, in not-too-familiar routes, thus requiring hectic planning and considerations.
In 2020, the Air Force had two trips to Bentiu, in South Sudan, which had been the farthest the Service had done, in terms of re-supply to troops of GAF, in any mission area, however, prior to that, the farthest had been to Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then they did Juba, also in South Sudan.
In 2000, the Air Force did its first two sorties to Ghanaian soldiers in Bentiu, South Sudan, with the normal route being Accra, refill in Douala, Cameroun, then to Bangui – Central Africa Republic, do a sleep over, move on the next day to Juba, where supplies are inspected, then fly one-hour-thirty-minutes, to the mission area, in Bentiu, deliver the items, go back to Juba, then if the time is appropriate, return to Ghana.
Wg Cdr Quainoo said that the total flight time from Accra to Bentiu and back, accumulated flight time of around 11 hours 30 minutes (with fair weather) one-way, a return trip would, thus take about 23 hours, considering time-on-ground and the limits to how much time can be spent in the air and work hours (Crew-Duty time; when decision is made to fly and Flight Duty time; aircraft airborne and landing).
The crop of pilots, backed by the leadership of the Air Force, affords the ‘winged soldiers’, the opportunity to continue to do exploits, however, aviation remains quite an expensive venture, with aircrafts to be serviced regularly to be up and flying, spare backing to be kept, crew recurrency training and fuel, to be able to work efficiently, the CASA Captain said.
To tout the successes of the Air Force, and possible impact on Ghanaian local aviation, Wg Cdr Quainoo concluded that “we have had requests from local airlines in Ghana, to second pilots for them, and other professionals, so it is an area that we can tap into”.
Here is a list of the team: Colonel Francis Sasu – IPSO, Wg Cdr John William Quainoo – Captain, Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Divine Kwabena Kwakye Akoto – Co-Pilot, Sqn Ldr Eric Ofori Amo-Henaku – Co-Pilot, Sqn Ldr Nana Yaw Ofori Addo – Co-Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Emmanuel Mensah – Flight Engineer, Warrant Officer (WOI) Nyinaku Ebenezer – Technician, WOI Amedome Jackson – Operations Clerk and Sergeant Adonu Steven – Technician.