Benin’s plans to buy Russian Mi-171 transport helicopters have been set back by the war in Ukraine. State firm Russian Helicopters, whose production lines have been disrupted by the conflict, has failed to provide the helicopters Benin needs to strengthen its air force in the fight against armed groups in the north.
Benin’s government has made the strengthening of its air force a priority in recent months. In his quest for 10 helicopters, the military chief of staff Fructueux Gbaguidi turned to European manufacturer Airbus – which in February delivered him two of its H125 aircraft – while still eyeing a possible deal with Moscow.
Russian Helicopters has run into numerous difficulties in its bid to supply Benin with two Mi-171E civilian transports for military repurposing, under a proposal made to air force chief Colonel Hermann William Avocanh.
The company has been unable to secure the necessary export licenses from the Russian government, and it is also facing delays in the delivery of components from Western suppliers. As a result, it is unclear when – or if – the helicopters will be delivered to Benin.
The setback is a blow to Benin’s security forces, who are struggling to contain the growing threat from armed groups in the north of the country. The groups, who are linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, have carried out a number of attacks in recent months, killing dozens of people.
The government is hoping that the new helicopters will help to improve its ability to track and target the groups. However, with the delivery of the helicopters now uncertain, it is unclear how long Benin will have to wait for the reinforcements it needs.
Mi-171Sh military transport helicopter is designed to perform delivery of manpower, transportation of cargoes and materials inside the cargo cabin or on the external sling as well as for airdropping of tactical troops, airlanding of reconnaissance and sabotage groups and destruction of ground objects.
The helicopter can be operated for medical evacuation, delivery of the emergency medical healthcare onboard, provision of the search and rescue missions in combat conditions.
Mi-171Sh features high transport capabilities, it can be effectively employed in special operations, it is self-sufficient and has an out-of-hangar storage capability.
A lot of African militaries rely heavily on Soviet-built equipment which has mostly been passed down to surviving states such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Czech, and Georgia.
An unintended consequence of Russia’s “Special Military Operations” in Ukraine is that African militaries will have to look elsewhere for critically needed platforms and spare parts to keep their military equipment in working order.
Earlier in March, the Chinese government donated four NORINCO Type PMR-50 drone to the Benin Republic to improve its security and crime detection amid the emergence of terror activities around the country. While France handed nearly a dozen Forward Armored Vehicles (VAB) over to the Beninese Armed Forces.
In 2018, the Benin Armed Forces (FAB) received a number of weapons and ammunition from Russia. The arms and trade agreement between both countries was signed in October 2010. According to a news report by Interfax-AVN news agency on 15 August, the weapons include man-portable air defence launchers, man-portable anti-tank rocket launchers, handheld anti-tank grenade launchers, and infantry flamethrowers.