Mauritania turns to vintage classic for ISR needs
Mauritania's latest ISR aircraft is a Basler BT-67 – the turboprop-powered conversion of the 1935-vintage Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota!
To produce a BT-67 Basler Turbo Conversions refurbish, strengthen, lengthen (by 40 inches, ahead of the wing) and modernize the basic Dakota airframe, while the avionics are upgraded, and the wingtips and leading edges are modified. Most obviously the original Wright Cyclone radial piston engines are replaced by 1,281-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprop engines driving five-bladed Hartzell constant speed propellers. This gives the BT-67 much improved hot and high and engine-out performance, and frees the aircraft from reliance on old fashioned Avgas, allowing it instead to operate on more easily obtainable Jet A1. Maintainability and reliability are also considerably enhanced.
Delivered in 1999 to replace ex-French air force Dakotas, the Mauritanian BT-67 was originally used in the transport role, but has now undergone an ISR conversion, with an undernose L3/Wescam MX-15 sensor turret, and unspecified communications and datalink equipment to allow the aircraft to download sensor imagery to Special Forces units on the ground. Mauritania has taken delivery of two MX-15 sensors, but it remains unclear what the second will be used for, or what aircraft type it will be fitted to.
Mauritania’s armed forces are heavily committed to Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS), part of America’s Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). Under this, the United States and its partner nations in the Sahara/Sahel region of Africa are undertaking counterterrorism operations and are attempting to interdict the trafficking of arms and drugs across central Africa.
Though it has a light attack/air policing element with Embraer Tucanos and Super Tucanos, the Force Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie (Islamic Air Force of Mauritania) is primarily structured for transport and ISR operations.
A pair of Cessna AC-208B Combat Caravans initially bore the brunt of the ISR mission, but these have been augmented by the new A-29 Super Tucanos (which are fitted with FLIR Systems Star SAFIRE III FLIR turrets), two Airbus Military CASA C212-200 maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft and now by the BT-67.