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Guyana Defence Force’s air corps, coast guard in major upgrade

Last Updated on Monday, 26 June 2023, 9:29 by Denis Chabrol

Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Omar Khan (5th from left) and National Security Advisor Captain Gerry Gouveia (7th from left) with pilots and other member of the defence force at the Eugene F’ Correia ‘Ogle’ International Airport with the plane shortly after its arrival.

The Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) Coast Guard and Air Corps are undergoing major upgrades as part of an integrated approach to counter illegal activities, patrol the country’s borders and move troops and equipment, a well-placed source said Monday.

The latest addition is the Beechcraft King Air 350, which was seized in 2017, and fully-refurbished at a cost of US$2 million in the United States (US). The source said refurbishment of the plane was a cost-effective decision as all of the major components were now zero-timed and the price of a new aircraft of that type is about US$7 million.

Other industry sources said the actual cost of refurbishing the plane was US$7 million and the cost of a new plane is US$9 million.

“The plane right now is like a brand new plane,” the official said on condition of anonymity.  Four Guyanese pilots, according to the official, have been trained to fly the Beechcraft.

That plane returned to Guyana last week and, according to well-placed sources, would provide quick-response and full aerial patrol of Guyana’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone and other border areas.

The GDF at the weekend confirmed that King Air 350 “was ferried to the United States on August 6, 2021 to undergo a complete refurbishment” and the “the aircraft will be officially commissioned in early July.” The plane, which had had Brazilian registration marking PR-IMG, is now registered locally as 8R-GPW.

While the Bell 412EPI helicopter has a maximum speed of 124 knots and could rescue persons, the source said the Beechcraft , with a speed of 230 knots, is better for quick response and search. “Planes like this are ideal to do border patrols and marine search

According to the security sector official, the Guyana government has also decided to buy two Dornier 228 planes from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) from India for US$8 million each. Negotiations with India are said to be still underway for financing to acquire those two 19-seater Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) planes to replace the outdated SkyVans  to move troops and equipment
The GDF’s Coast Guard is also  expected to acquire another Bell 412 EPI at cost of US$9 million, in another week, the source said.
Along with the aircraft, the source said the US$11.5 million Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV), being built by the American company, Metal Shark, is due to arrive in Guyana next month. The source attributed the delay in the production of the vessel to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. “This vessel will allow us to patrol the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), keep an eye on the rigs and counter illegal fishing,” the official said. “This vessel will be the most modern vessel and will allow the Coast Guard to dominate the sea-space,” the official added.
The Guyana government official has not ruled out two more OPVs being acquired.

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June 2023