Xian MA-60 for Djibouti
The Republic of Djibouti has received a Xian MA-60 twin turboprop transport, which it has put into service in the VIP, personnel transport and cargo transport roles. According to some sources the aircraft will be the first of a pair of MA-60s for the Djibouti air force.
Djibouti has been to war with Eritrea over the Ras Peninsula (which both countries claim) and faces the threats of regional terrorism and maritime piracy, placing a heavy burden on the small armed forces, even given the presence of French and US bases in the country. With a recognition that Djibouti will increasingly have to share the burden of its own defence, the nation is progressively enhancing and upgrading key military capabilities.
The Force Aerienne Djiboutienne (Djibouti Air Force) has only 250 personnel and until recently operated about a dozen aircraft from its sole base at Ambouli, forming a branch of the Army, rather than an independent force in its own right.
Before the arrival of the MA-60, African Aerospace estimates that the air force consisted of a single Mil Mi-8 ‘Hip’ transport helicopter and two Mil Mi-24 ‘Hind’ attack helicopters, two Let L-410 Turbolet VIP transports, two Eurocopter AS355F Ecureuil helicopters, and single examples of the Cessna 206 and Cessna 208 Caravan. All operated from the sole air force base in the town of Ambouli.
In September 2013 Xian Aircraft entered into a deal to sell a single Modern Ark (MA) 60 (MA60) twin-turboprop transport to the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC), for onward sale to the Republic of Djibouti.
The MA60 is a stretched version of the Xian Y7-200A, which was in turn a Chinese derivative of the Ukrainian Antonov An-24.
The aircraft was originally scheduled to be delivered in May 2014, but was formally inaugurated during a ceremony on 18 June, attended by President Ismail Omar Guelleh and the commander of the Djibouti Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Wahib Moussa Kalinleh.
“The acquisition of this equipment is timely at the time when the DAF is experiencing difficulties in transporting logistics for the benefit of our contingent deployed in Somalia in line with the AU's peace mission," Kalinleh said, adding that the MA60 would "consume less fuel and offer more security" than the existing LET 410.
An MA-60 similar to those heading for Djibouti