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By Timothy Sibasi-Political Risk Analyst

The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF, Gen David Muhoozi, has flagged-off a UPDF Aviation Unit due to deploy under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The unit under the command of Col Moses Amanya was flagged off at Nakasongola UPDF Air Force Wing.

The CDF said that the operations against the Al-Shabaab insurgents will be much easier with the presence of air support.

“The presence of airpower will offer us extensive asymmetric advantages over the unconventional and `dispersed enemy in Somalia. With air assets, we will be able respond quickly with precision fires or inject a quick reaction force once the enemy assembles,” he said.

He added that the presence of air assets will also not only guarantee dominance of firepower for the UPDF over the enemy but also provide marked advantage on technical intelligence, among other benefits.

“Once eventually fully injected on the operation theatre with all the assets, we are confident that you will provide the ground forces with the necessary firepower that was missing to subdue the enemy. Airpower is also an important intelligence capability, enhancing surveillance and reconnaissance that we have been operating without for over a decade,” he said, urging the Air Force team to fully cultivate the advantages they can offer to the ground forces so as to bring a quick end to the Al-Shabaab menace.

How the U.S. Africa Command’s Air component financed the training

The UPDF Aviation air force team earmarked for arrival in Mogadishu this week has been part of the 10 year training conducted by the U.S. Africa Command’s air component that Air Forces Africa.

Gen. Mike Callan who has been in charge of the training started with a tour of the airfield and logistics hangars at Entebbe Air Force Base in 2010. During the tour the team met with a representative of the U.S. State Department-contracted Dyncorp Corp which supports the UPDF with aerial resupply and troop movements of Ugandan, Burundian and Somali forces in and out of Mogadishu supporting the United Nations-Africa Union Mission in Somalia.

“Uganda is one of the countries supporting the UN’s AMISOM mission currently,” Gen. Callan said. “Though the airlift is contracted, it is good to have the understanding of those ground based missions and capabilities of UPDF as we pursue future air force and joint initiatives.”

While the UPDF boasts o professional, well-trained army, their air forces are in essence only five years old and looking to build capacity. “We’ve been working with their army forces for some time, providing great training opportunities through the Department of State-funded International Military Education and Training, or IMET program and multi-national peacekeeping operations. Now they would like for us to do that with their air forces,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Creg Joachim, Defense and Army Attache, U.S. Embassy Kampala.

Details of the Memorandum Of Understanding

The Commander Air Forces, Lt Gen Charles Lwanga Lutaaya said the deployment is based on a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding between the African Union, United Nations and Government of Uganda.

The MOU authorized the aviation services to include, but not limited to, timely evacuation from hostile environment, transportation of dangerous goods, quick insertion and extraction of troops, aerial surveillance and reconnaissance, armed escorts, armed air reconnaissance, main supply routes support, combat search and rescue, support for airmobile operations, close air support, deterrence operations, air cover, armed patrols, interdiction and troop resupply in hostile environment missions and transportation of personnel and cargo.

Lt Gen Lutaaya noted that the UPDF Aviation Unit should have deployed earlier but it was affected by a setback of the 2012 aircraft crash on Mt Kenya during deployment phase.

“Despite the air crash set-back, UPDF-AF vision was not exterminated. We learnt from that tragedy and have put energies together over time with the support from our partners to form an Aviation Unit that is ready to deploy for AMISOM operations,” said Lt Gen Lutaaya.

The occasion was attended by among others, the Joint Chief of Staff – Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu, Chief of Staff Land Forces – Maj Gen Leopold Kyanda, who also represented the Commander Land Forces, Chief of Staff Air Forces – Maj Gen Charles Okidi and Chief of Personnel and Administration – Maj Gen George Igumba.

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Patson Baraire Mushaija

South-West Correspondent African Dossier News Agency

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