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Five-year plan for GDF Air Corps

GROUNDED: The un-serviceable Bell 412 helicopter at the Air Corps headquarters, Timehri.

The purchasing of additional aircraft for the Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) Air Corps will be part of a five-year strategy to be drafted and presented to government, according to army Chief-of-Staff Brigadier Mark Phillips.

“We are working with government in terms of building the Air Corps over the next five years,” he said when asked by Demerara Waves Online News.

Phillips said presentations have been already made to the Defence Board under the new administration that was elected to office in May, 2015. “The whole aim is to, in a structured way, look at developing the Air Corps,” he said.

The Chief-of-Staff declined to say whether the GDF was interested in purchasing military helicopters like those Suriname has purchased from India. Instead, he said the purchasing of new craft for the GDF would be done based on a threat analysis. “What we gonna do is look at the tasks for the Air Corps, look at the threat to Guyana and those analyses will guide our development of the Air Corps,” he said.

Phillips deemed it “too early” to say whether the GDF would instead be buying civilian aircraft for the Air Corps, and stressed that much would depend on examining the mission and tasks of that section of the GDF.

The Chief-of-Staff said the army was currently considering what should be done with the Bell 412 helicopter that had been purchased in 1981 and has now been deemed “unserviceable.”  “The discussion we are having ourselves and with the Defence Board will determine the way forward as it pertains to that aircraft,” he said.  He said an assessment has already shown that that chopper requires “structurally and engine-wise will need a lot of repairs.”  “The cost-benefit analysis now being done but the inspection would have shown that extensive maintenance, extensive repairs need to be done,”  he said.

Aviation experts said that model helicopter was no longer being manufactured and a newer model could cost at least US$14 million.

The Chinese-built Y-12 plane is currently in the hangar for repairs. The GDF’s Air Corps also operates  two Bell 206 helicopters and one Sky Van plane but that type of aircraft is no longer being manufactured.

While neighbouring Venezuela has large military aircraft for combat and transport, military experts here say Guyana cannot afford to buy similar types because of both the initial price and very astronomical maintenance cost.