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Building Africa's Airlift Capacity: A Strategy for Enhancing Military Effectiveness

Building Africa's Airlift Capacity: A Strategy for Enhancing Military Effectiveness

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Published by Davin O'Regan
Growing security threats posed by agile and maneuverable forces such as narcotics traffickers, coastal pirate gangs, and nonstate militias have underscored the critical importance of security force mobility to monitor and protect Africa's enormous land mass and more than 30,000 km of coastline. While commonly viewed as too expensive, airlift assets provide vital capabilities and multiply the effectiveness of Africa's resource-limited militaries and collective peace operations.
Growing security threats posed by agile and maneuverable forces such as narcotics traffickers, coastal pirate gangs, and nonstate militias have underscored the critical importance of security force mobility to monitor and protect Africa's enormous land mass and more than 30,000 km of coastline. While commonly viewed as too expensive, airlift assets provide vital capabilities and multiply the effectiveness of Africa's resource-limited militaries and collective peace operations.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Davin O'Regan on Aug 30, 2012
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A PublicAtion of the AfricA center for StrAtegic StudieS
no. 22 / AuguSt 2012
Building Africa’s Airlift Capacity: A Strategy for Enhancing MilitarEffectiveness
, D
m. p
 African states’ ability to respond to violent conflict, transnational threats, natural disasters, and other security challenges is severely constrained by limited airlift capacity. 
Like multilateral institutions elsewhere, the African Union and Africa’s Regional Economic Communitiesshould look to partnerships and resource-pooling arrangements to leverage airlift capabilities. 
In the near term, large-scale African peacekeeping and humanitarian operations will rely on a combinationof airlift support from “anchor states” and external partners, the mobilization of which can be streamlinedby creating strategic airlift framework agreements.
In April 2012, the Economic Community o WestArican States (ECOWAS) declared its readiness to deploy3,000 troops to northern Mali in response to seizures o territory by Tuareg separatists and Islamist militias. Letunanswered was the question o how ECOWAS wouldtransport these troops and their equipment to Mali. Onlyairlit resources would be able to deliver personnel andheavy equipment into the area o operations (AO) in atimely manner, provide operational mobility within theAO against dispersed and heavily armed irregular orces,monitor a geographic area larger than France, and sustainoperations or months or years. The inability to respondto these challenges to territorial control, in turn, urtheremboldens such separatists and other spoilers.Similar challenges are aced in other inaccessiblecontexts o instability in Arica, including Somalia, theDemocratic Republic o the Congo (DRC), and Darur,Sudan, where poor roads and rugged terrain make convoysslow, ineective, and vulnerable to landmines or ambush.In certain cases, the government or rebel ghters maydeny peacekeepers and aid workers access to land-basedinrastructure, making air transport the only viable methodo moving personnel and supplies.For each Arican Union (AU) peacekeeping missionover the past decade, the AU has been required to engagein complex and lengthy negotiations with internationalpartners to secure the airlit assets needed to transportArican troops and material into and out o the AO. Thesedelays oten occur at the height o a crisis, precludingdecisive action and putting civilian lives at increased risk.The Arican Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation inDarur (UNAMID), or example, took nearly 2 years toreach just 68 percent o its mandated deployment levelsdue to stalled political negotiations and a lack o helicopter
Colonel Birame Diop is the Regional Director of the African Institute for Security Sector Transformation inDakar as well as a member of the Senegalese Air Force withmore than 7,000 flying hours. David M. Peyton is a Writer-Editor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS).Colonel Gene McConville is a career U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer and a Senior Military Advisor at ACSS. Specialthanks to the Program on Irregular Warfare and SpecialOperations Studies at the Institute for National StrategicStudies for its support of this research.
22dicult to halt without aircrat capable o detecting vesselson illicit transit routes. Estimates are that approximately80 percent o cocaine traveling rom Latin America toArica moves by sea and the remaining 20 percent by air.
 Without air assets to monitor these routes, transnationalcriminals will continue to make the apt calculation thatArican states are enabling environments or illicit activi-ties.Airlit is particularly important to Arica’s securitycontext given the geography o the continent. Arica rep-resents one-th o the world’s total land mass and is hometo 30,490 kilometers (18,945 miles) o coastline, densetropical areas, and expansive deserts, rendering land-basedtransportation an expensive and inecient alternativeto air travel. In short, airlit capacity is a strategic orcemultiplier or resource-constrained Arican security sectors.
Airlit capacity entails both strategic airlit to delivertroops and material to an AO, usually by large jet-poweredaircrat, and tactical airlit to support operations thereater,typically by turboprop aircrat and helicopters. Recognizingthis and the scope o complex emergencies that it aces,the AU set the goal o establishing a Rapid DeploymentCapability o the Arican Standby Force (ASF) in 2007that would rely on airlit to deploy 2,500 personnel, includ-ing peacekeepers, police, and civilians, to a crisis within 30days o an AU mandate.
Depending on the operationaldemands o a given crisis, this could be achieved with amixture o airlit assets.At the continental level, airlit platorms such as theAntonov An-124, Boeing C-17, and Ilyushin Il-76 (seetable 1), which are capable o transporting equipmentinto and out o an AO or 1 brigade (approximately 3,000troops), would be most ecient. Military airliters arecongured to transport equipment and palletized cargomore eciently than passengers, so commercial aircratare needed to transport personnel. This requires aircratcapable o carrying at least 1 company (130 troops) thatcan make multiple roundtrips in rapid succession.At the subregional level, airlit capacity is needed torespond to crises and other transnational security chal-lenges that exceed individual states’ capacity, such asnarcotics tracking, stabilization operations, and majortransport to support peacekeepers in remote regions o Darur.
 Once deployed, the ability o Arican peacekeepers tocarry out civilian protection mandates is severely limitedby a lack o strategic and tactical airlit. UNAMID mis-sion commanders have consistently reported an inabilityto deend civilians without helicopters to transport troopsand equipment over Darur’s vast and dicult terrain.
 During the rainy season, many roads in Darur becomeimpassible, severely curtailing peacekeepers’ maneuver-ability and eectiveness.Airlit resources are also needed to protect the lives o Arican peacekeepers. In July 2008, a UNAMID convoywas ambushed by armed militants or almost 3 hours, re-sulting in 7 deaths and 19 casualties. Without helicoptersto stage a rescue or reinorcement mission, the convoywas let deenseless. Tactical airlit is needed to ensure thatpeacekeepers are, at a minimum, capable o providing se-curity or themselves, a prerequisite or deending civilians.United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has similarly called or more helicopters in theDRC’s Kivu region,
where a UN stabilization missionhas struggled to prevent armed groups rom targeting civil-ians in remote areas.Insucient airlit assets have also impeded Aricangovernments’ ability to interrupt transnational crime,including piracy, illegal shing, oil bunkering, toxic wastedumping, and illicit tracking. Reports o piracy o thecoast o Nigeria have more than doubled since 2011.
 Moreover, piracy incidents o o Arica’s west and eastcoasts oten occur more than 70 nautical miles rom shore,making them dicult to monitor using land- and sea-basedsurveillance equipment.Arica’s growing narcotics tracking threat will be
3natural disasters. This requires medium-sized aircrat suchas the Airbus A400M and C-130 Hercules to transport 1 to2 battalions (at least 1,500 personnel) and their equipmentover medium distances on short notice, ideally 14 days.Once in an AO, security orces require airlit supportrom helicopter systems, ideally large rotary-wing airliterssuch as the CH-47 Chinook. Helicopters enable troopsand equipment to be inserted into and extracted romrugged areas as well as provide ground units mobile aerialsurveillance. Most xed-wing aircrat, in contrast, requirewell-maintained runways and provide more transient,intermittent reconnaissance.At the national level, Arican states must be pre-pared to airlit troops and material or disasters, respondto localized crises beore they escalate, patrol borders,monitor maritime areas as part o antipiracy and exclu-sive economic zone surveillance, and conduct evacu-ations. The ideal size o a national airlit feet variesgreatly according to a country’s geography, population,and overall security environment. Smaller Arican statesshould at a minimum maintain the ability to transport acompany-sized orce anywhere within their territory ina single day. Larger Arican states or those that regularlyace national security emergencies should be capableo transporting a battalion-sized orce in the same timeperiod, making successive roundtrip fights as needed.Platorms that meet these criteria include the C-130Hercules, EMB 110 Bandeirante, CASA C-295, andsmall- or medium-sized helicopters such as the Mi-17,SA 330 Puma, and UH-60 Black Hawk (see tables 1and 2).“Low and slow” airliters are well suited to the con-tinent’s unconventional security threats and should beprioritized over costly attack aircrat that risk drainingdeense budgets o limited resources. Contemporarywarare in Arica rarely involves airspace challengedby an adversaries’ ghter aircrat, making attack and airdeense systems virtually irrelevant. Instead, Aricancountries must have the capacity to ace threats posedby irregular orces.At present, the majority o Arica’s air orces are notequipped with the needed spectrum o air systems andtrained personnel to support national or regional mis-
ArratApprxmate st per arratSpefatns
Antonov An-124$30-32 Million
Max paylad
: 300,000 lbs
: 350
: Large cargo aircrat capable o transporting heavy, oversized loads.
 e  a  y i  l  i  f   t  
Boeing C-17Globemaster III$202–270 million
Max paylad
: 164,900 lbs
: 134
: Capable o rapid strategic delivery o troops and cargo to main operating bases orto orward bases.Ilyushin Il-76$3050 million
Max paylad
: 114,640 lbs
: 140
: Designed to deliver heavy vehicles and machinery to remote, poorly-servicedairfelds.Airbus A400M$120130 million
Max paylad
: 81,600 lbs
: 116
: Capable o perorming tactical airlit, long-range transport, and air-to-air reueling.
M e  d i   um S i   e  d i  l  i  f   t  
Lockheed C-130H$12–48 million
Max Paylad
: 42,000 lbs
: 92
: Capable o operating rom rough, dirt strips and airdropping troops and equipment.EADS CASA C-295$24–35 million
Max paylad
: 20,400 lbs
: 71
: Capable o rapid-response missions with cargo, equipment and soldiers, as well asmedevac duties and airdrop delivery.Embraer EMB 110Bandeirante$1 million
Max take weht
: 12,500 lbs
: 18
: General purpose light transport aircrat.
i   g t  i  l  i  f   t  
Hawker BeechcratSuper King Air 350$7 million
Max take weht
: 15,000 lbs
: 15
: Modular crat commonly used or surveillance and reconnaissance.
: Cost and specications vary by model, age, capabilities, and other customizations. Ranges listed are approximations gatheredrom
 Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft
, military procurement records, and other databases.
“contemporary warare in Aricararely involves airspace challenged byan adversaries’ fghter aircrat”

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