Aircrafts of Cameroon Air Force (French: Armée de l’Air due Cameron, AdAC) have fallen into disrepair following the country’s inability to pay for maintenance services.
Cameroon’s Air Force operates fairly outdated and aged aircrafts fleet, with focus primarily on transport and utility. None of it’s six Atlas Impala jet trainers purchased from South Africa in 1997 is operational.
Out of it’s six Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, 2 are currently inoperable.
Since the end of the oil boom in the 1980s, Cameroon has been unable to procure much needed aircraft in sufficient numbers and most of its current inventory is at least two decades old. The most recent additions to the inventory is a few ultralight aircraft used for light training and scout.
The air force includes three main aerial bases, in Yaoundé, Douala, and Garoua (Cameroonian Air Force Base 301), located within each military region. All three airbase are timeworn and not well maintained, with no stopping systems, radio-navigation installations, or lighting apparatus.
Also, Cameroon’s three C-130H Hercules aircraft as well as several other types including DHC-5D Buffalo aircraft have been grounded since 2001.
Sabena Technics and South Africa’s Denel had previously been the primary maintenance providers for the C-130s, although in 2013, the Portuguese aircraft services firm Aeromec was awarded a contract to provide maintenance to the three Hercules aircraft, and work was carried out in Cameroon while heavier and more technical work in Portugal.
Another five-year multi-million contract was awarded to UK-based Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group last year, for the maintenance, training, and support of the country’s Lockheed Martins C-130H Hercules aircraft fleet.
In the contract, Cameroon’s C-130H fleet will be maintained in Marshall ADG Cambridge facility in the United Kingdom, and Cameroons Air Force logistics partner Aeromec will also participate.
Marshall ADG will also provide technical training to Cameroonian Air Force personnel to handle front line maintenance and support.
However, it appears that Cameroon’s defence ministry is unable, due to lack of funds, to meet its contractual obligations to both Marshall Aerospace and Aeromec, forcing suspension of work on the C-130 fleet.
Cameroon’s three C-130H transport aircraft are aged between 38 and 42 years, and based at Douala/Aeroporte and assigned to 22ème Escadron Aérien, with two squadrons: 221 Escadrille de Transport and 222 Escadrille de Reconnaissance.
Poor maintenance caused a Hercules aircraft transporting ninety-one Defence Forces personnel serving in the UN-supported Multinational Joint Task Force of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to suffer a runway excursion on Sunday, 2 August last year, at the Maroua airport in the Diamaré Division of the Far North Region.
A similar issue occurred in 2019, where a Chinese-made Harbin Z-9 multipurpose helicopter belonging to the Cameroonian Military crashed on 13 May in the North West region, killing at least one government official.
Part of the reason for the lack of funds to properly cater for its military needs is that in 2019, the United States government halted it’s military assistance to Cameroon following the country’s continous human rights violation.
The US has been under severe criticism for supporting the brutal Paul Biya regime which has seen Cameroonian military repeatedly targeting civilians.
The US State Department said on 6 February, that it has withdrawn some military assistance which includes a C-130 transport aircraft training programme, the delivery of four Defender patrol boats, nine unidentified armoured vehicles, and an upgrade to the Cessna 208 surveillance aircraft to be operated by the Rapid Intervention Battalions.
Furthermore, an offer for Cameroon to join the State Partnership Program (SPP) has also been withdrawn, which will involve American states’ National Guards paired with another country’s armed forces, delivery of certain equipment and helicopter training.
Candice Tresch, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, cited the Leahy Law, noting “the U.S. government does not provide assistance to security force units or individuals where we have credible information that the unit committed a gross violation of human rights.”
Before the halt on aids to Cameroon, the United States was the chief supplier of military equipment and training to the Cameroonian military. Members of the BIR, an elite force has received various type of assistance from the United States, equally the US donated two Cessna 208 ISR to the Cameroonian Air Force.
In September 2017, elements of the U.S Military Special Force were spotted in Cameroon fighting Boko Haram.
Since the US withdrew its military financial aids to Cameroon, China stepped in to fill the vacuum and bolster its own influence in the region.
Subsequently, the Chinese government signed a military assistance agreement with Cameroon, the agreement includes a donation of CFA4.5 million ($8 million) to Cameroon. However, the impact of this agreement is yet to be felt.
Other aircraft in the Cameroonian inventory includes and 1 Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma transport aircraft, 1 Piper PA-23, 1 Aérospatiale Alouette II, 2 Joker 300, 7 Humbert Tétras for training and 2 Bell 206 as observation and liaison aircraft. All these aircraft are currently in varying degrees of serviceability.