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GDF purchasing aircraft

FILE PHOTO: Guyana Defence Force paratroopers jumping from the army’s Skyvan. (Demerara Waves photo)

Four fixed wing aircraft, including Skyvans that are no longer manufactured are being purchased for the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) to move troops and assist in search and rescue, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said Friday.

“I don’t believe that they are making new Skyvans these days and they are very good factory-tested quality aircraft,” he told a post-cabinet news conference.

Under the Agency Head of Defence and Security Support,  the GDF needs GY$$484, 239, 000 to make final  payments for the aircraft. The army has already spent GY$213,885 from its 2018 capital programme on initial payments.

He said the two Britten-Norman Islanders and two Skyvans-all reconditioned- have had a history of serving Guyana “extremely well” based on the conditions under which they have to fly and the GDF has “competency” in both types.

“We want to ensure that we can provide safe aircraft for our soldiers and, in some cases, when we have to take in civilians as well into our hinterland locations. When we have to search and rescue, when we have to deliver items to our border troops- that we are in a position to do so and do so efficiently,” he said.

The now un-serviceable Bell 412 helicopter in use several years ago. (Demerara Waves photo)

Several weeks ago, Harmon had downplayed the need to purchase helicopters especially to assist in search and rescue operations, saying instead that the priority is on acquiring fixed wing planes. The National Air Transportation Association, an organisation of almost all domestic airlines, has been appealing to government to purchase a helicopter that is suitable for search and rescue over Guyana’s densely forested and mountainous interior.

A new Bell 412 helicopter costs about US$5 million, while a serviceable one can fetch a price of US$3.5 million.