Why Africa is a land of opportunity for ADS
Africa is a key market for Airbus Defence and Space. Jon Lake explores the company's current situation and looks at opportunities within the continent.
Traditional markets for Airbus Defence and Space (ADS) – typically in Europe – are growing slowly.
Jean Pierre Talamoni, the company’s head of sales and marketing, estimates that two thirds of new military market opportunities over the next 10 years will be in Asia and the Middle East/North Africa region.
However, Talamoni does not expect to sell combat aircraft or tankers to Africa (as opposed to the Middle East).
This leaves the company’s tactical transport aircraft – principally the C295 and CN235, and also the heavy-lift A400M – as the main target for Africa.
Fernando Ciria, the company’s head of marketing, tactical airlifters and ISR, outlined ADS’ current penetration of the African marketplace, and expressed his view that Africa was a “very promising region” with a real prospect of achieving many further orders in the next few years.
In early July 2016, Airbus provided a market snapshot that showed that the company had 57 aircraft in service in Africa, comprising 29 C295s, 10 CN235s and 18 C212s, serving primarily with the air forces of 13 African nations.
ADS says that there are 148 C295s and 236 CN235s flying today, and these have accumulated 250,000 and 1.35 million flying hours respectively. Africa, thus, accounts for about 20% of the global C295 fleet, and 4% of the CN235 fleet.
Egypt is the most important customer on the African continent, operating 21 C295s (of a total order for 24, with the final three to be handed over by the end of 2016), with five more C295s in service in Algeria (one was lost in 2012), and three in Ghana.
Egypt is the world’s largest C295 operator and is a repeat customer for the type, having ordered its 24-aircraft fleet in five separate batches.
The aircraft can be configured with a removable VIP transport interior and a side air stair can be installed in place of the port para door.
Egypt currently operates eight or nine DHC-5 Buffalos and about 21 Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The C295s are taking over missions previously undertaken by both types, being significantly cheaper (about one third of the cost) than a C-130, and more capable than a DHC-5.
Egypt may acquire additional C295s and has been identified as a potential customer for the bigger A400M Atlas airlifter. It has been reported that the Egyptian Air Force is actively seeking up to 12 A400Ms at a cost of €150 million ($168m) each for a total of €1.8 billion ($2bn).
These may not necessarily be new, additional production aircraft. The Spanish Air Force reached an agreement with Airbus to buy 14 A400Ms out of its original commitment for 27, and the remaining 13 could be sold to other customers – subject to an agreement by the manufacturer and by the Spanish Government. Other A400M customers may also reduce the number of aircraft being taken.
Algeria’s C295s serve with 590 Escadron de Transport Tactique at Boufarik, near Blida, augmenting three squadrons of C-130H Hercules, and an Il-76 unit.
Ghana has acquired three C295s, which it operates on behalf of the United Nations, mainly supporting the Multidimensional Integrated UN Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), flying cargo and passengers between two main hubs in the face of a terrorist threat to main supply routes.
Under present arrangements, the Ghana Air Force supplies an aircraft, which flies 80-100 hours each month, including 10 days of high-intensity operations (eight hours a day) and 15 days of low-intensity operations (five hours a day), as well as three days of maintenance and a basic A-check inspection every 300 hours.
Five of the African CN235s serve in Morocco, according to ADS (though other sources suggest that six or even seven are in service), with two in Botswana, and single examples in Cameroon and Gabon.
The African CASA C212 fleet is divided between Zimbabwe (seven in service), South Africa (three), and in Angola, Botswana, and Lesotho (two each).
There are also two commercial operators of ADS aircraft types, Aero Service, in the Republic of Congo, operates a pair of C212s and Fortune Air, in South Africa, flies a single CN235.
A single C212 in Senegal and a CN235 in Burkina Faso were manufactured by Indonesia’s PTDI, and are not included in the ADS figures.
The C295 and CN235 are also in use on the continent with a number of non-local, non-African air forces.
The Portuguese Air Force, for example, has used the C295 to support the MINUSMA mission in Mali because it is cheaper to operate than the C-130, while Spanish Air Force C295s have been used to support humanitarian missions in Africa, operating from Gabon and Senegal.
Spain has also used CN235 Persuader MPAs for anti-piracy patrols around Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, and off the Kenyan and Seychelles coasts, as part of its contribution to the European Union’s Operation Atalanta.
Though Fernando Alonso, head of military aircraft at ADS, admitted that C295 sales have been “very thin on the ground” this year, he said that he was hopeful of repeat orders in Africa, proudly pointing to the fact that half of the customers for ADS tactical transport aircraft had placed repeat orders – something that he described as “unique in this market segment”.
Moreover, in the past, annual C295 sales have fluctuated between five and 30 aircraft, and in 2016 ADS will deliver a single winglet-equipped C-295W to Mali, as well as three aircraft to Egypt, while Indonesia has ordered two aircraft.
Ciria confirmed that there were ‘many’ on-going campaigns and that the company had received some requests for information (RFIs) and requests for proposal (RFPs), making 2016 something of a blip in the C295s fortunes.
ADS expects some new orders to come from existing customers for fleet expansion, and some to come from new customers, perhaps replacing fleets of very old transport aircraft in Africa, which still include examples of the G222, An-24/26, DHC-5 Buffalo, and even the DC-3/C-47 Dakota.
Africa represents a very hard environment for transport aircraft, with climate ranging from desert to tropical, and an average elevation of 2,000ft. ADS believe that the C295 is the perfect tactical airlifter to replace all of these older types in Africa, being rugged, reliable, well priced and very well suited to African conditions, and with formidable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) potential to meet new and emerging requirements.
ADS has identified a particular requirement for maritime patrol and border surveillance aircraft, and is actively marketing the MPA derivatives of its CN235 and C295. It is also promoting a specific C295 special mission version for ground surveillance, especially to monitor the illegal trafficking of people, drugs and weapons, and to monitor and prevent the flow of new terrorist groups across national borders.
The new Border Surveillance C295 would be fitted with a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar, with ground moving target indicator (GMTI), as well as an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) and laser designator turret.
The aircraft would have the fully integrated tactical system (FITS) and a wide band video link. The type would also offer electronic surveillance measures (ESM), electronic intelligence (ELINT) systems and communications intelligence (COMINT) capabilities.
Though coy about the details, Airbus confirmed that it was also working on weaponisation of the C295, working on a case-by-case basis “according to customer wishes”.
Piracy is now being contained off the Horn of Africa due to greater stability on land and multinational sea and air patrols, but ADS noted a shortfall of maritime patrol capability in the Gulf of Guinea where piracy, kidnapping and the destruction of offshore oil and gas facilities, is a growing problem. In the region, only Nigeria has any maritime patrol capability (in the shape of a pair of maritime patrol-configured ATR42 aircraft, though these are heavily tasked with overland ISR).
The company believes that there is a pressing need for the C295 MPA in the region for anti-piracy missions but also for fisheries protection, environmental protection, and search-and-rescue missions.
ADS also believes that there is an obvious requirement for border surveillance and maritime surveillance capabilities in the Mediterranean, where illegal migration and drug trafficking are a growing problem. It is understood to have been talking to Morocco about the C295 MPA.
Cash-strapped South Africa ought to be a great market for ADS with outstanding light transport, airlift, maritime surveillance and tanker requirements, though there are no current, on-going, active, and funded requirements.
The company demonstrated the C295 to the South African Air Force in 2012 to meet its requirement for a light transport and maritime surveillance aircraft. The existing motley fleet, including about six C-130B Hercules and three Dakotas, is in urgent need of replacement.
Denel Aerostructures continues to work on the A400M, even though South Africa cancelled its order for eight A400Ms in 2009. A smaller A400M order is still believed to be possible and Germany has reportedly offered South Africa some of its A400M production slots.
The South African Air Force lost its aerial refuelling capability in 2007 with the retirement of its Boeing 707s, and SAAF Gripens were forced to land to refuel when they were deployed to the Central African Republic in 2013. ADS hopes for an eventual A330MRTT order to restore this vital capability.
While Ghana acquired and operated C295s on behalf of the United Nations, ADS believes that there are other humanitarian agencies that could make use of the C295 and CN235 in Africa, including the Red Cross, the World Food Programme, and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which currently rely on elderly aircraft like the An-24, HS-748 and DHC-5.