Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni recently commissioned the country’s first locally overhauled Mi-24 combat helicopter on April 18, 2023.
The ceremony was held at the Nakasongola Air Base, where the helicopter was overhauled by the National Enterprise Corporation (NEC), the production and commercial arm of the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF).
The Mi-24 helicopter is a key asset in Uganda’s military arsenal and has been used extensively in counter-insurgency operations against rebel groups in the country.
The overhaul of the helicopter was carried out by NEC in a joint venture with Proheli, a Russian aviation support company. The joint venture established a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility for the Mi-24 in Uganda, which has now successfully overhauled the first helicopter.
Last year, Uganda, along with the military’s commercial arm, the National Enterprise Corporation-NEC and Pro-heli International commissioned the helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul plant at the Nakasongola Air Force Base.
The overhaul of the Mi-24 involved a complete teardown of the helicopter, followed by an inspection and repair of all its components. The helicopter’s engines, avionics, and weapons systems were also upgraded to enhance its operational capabilities. The helicopter was then subjected to a series of flight tests to ensure that it was fully operational and could meet the demands of its intended mission.
The successful overhaul of the Mi-24 is a significant achievement for Uganda’s defense industry and highlights the country’s commitment to developing its indigenous defense capabilities. The establishment of the MRO facility has created employment opportunities for Ugandans and has also helped to transfer critical technical skills to the country.
In his remarks during the commissioning ceremony, President Museveni praised the efforts of NEC and Proheli in overhauling the Mi-24, stating that the successful overhaul was a testament to the country’s ability to develop its defense industry. He also emphasized the importance of investing in local defense industries, stating that this was critical for the country’s security and economic development.
“I saw the potential of convergence of interests. We have no problem with Russia and vice-versa,” said Museveni. “I thank the Russian Government for supporting us and building the Mi-24 facility.”
The aircraft was seen fitted with new dust filters, indicating possible foreign deployment. The aircraft was also upgraded for day and night operations and “will be used to curb the persistent cattle rustling and during other operations against terrorists in the region,” the UPDF said.
The Chief of Staff – Air Force Brigadier General David Gonyi – said the new facility – commissioned in January 2022 – will improve on the turnaround time taken to repair a helicopter as instead of three years, it took one year and three months to overhaul the first Mi-24.
“With this facility, serviceability in the Air Force will increase and thus increase on combat readiness,” he explained.
The commissioning of the overhauled Mi-24 is a significant milestone for Uganda’s defense industry and highlights the country’s potential to become a regional hub for defense manufacturing and maintenance. The successful overhaul of the helicopter has demonstrated Uganda’s ability to develop its indigenous defense capabilities and could potentially lead to more opportunities for local defense firms to participate in similar projects in the future.
Last year, Uganda began acquiring Mi-28N Havoc attack helicopter from Russia.
Three Mi-28s were seen at Entebbe Air Base on 15 June during a visit by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. An additional three airframes are said to be en route to the country.
The Mi-28s were subsequently commended for it’s performance on the battlefield against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during the graduation ceremony of its pilots and engineers. The Mi-28N Havoc has proven to be an invaluable asset to the Ugandan Air Force, helping to ensure the safety of Ugandan citizens and the security of the nation.