American Rushes to Help After a Storm Nearly Wipes Out the Chadian Air Force
U.S. airmen build shelters, train Chadians on new planes
On July 1, 2017, severe wind and heavy rain inflicted significant damage to a large number of Chadian air force aircraft stationed at N’Djamena air base. Three of the air force’s six Fennec helicopters and several hangars were seriously damaged or even totally destroyed.
Less severe damage was observed on at least one MiG-29, one PC-12 and two Su-25s that were struck by debris as hangars collapsed over them.
These losses represented a major blow to Chad’s campaign against the Boko Haram militant group. Recognizing this, the U.S. military rushed to help the Chadians rebuild.
At the request of Chadian government, representatives of U.S. Africa Command traveled to N’Djamena during the summer of 2017. And on Jan. 7, 2018, airmen from the 635th Material Maintenance Squadron, based at Holloman in New Mexico, deployed to the Chadian capital.
Their main goal was to build maintenance shelters and conduct training for Chadian airmen. The 635th MMS team started work on three large maintenance shelters to house some Chadian aircraft. The work is schedule to be done by mid-February 2018.
At top — two C-208 aircraft at Adji Kossei air base in N’Djamena. Above — an MX-15 camera on a C-208 aircraft parked at Adji Kossei air base. U.S. Air Force photos by Tech. Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez
Beginning December 2017, the Chadian air force took delivery of two Cessna 208Bs equipped with MX-15 cameras. The aircraft come courtesy of a U.S. military assistance program that began with the delivery of two each Cessna 208Bs to Niger in 2013 and Mauritania in 2015. The following year, the Ugandan air force also received two of the Cessnas.
Between Jan. 8 and 19, 2018, the U.S. Air Force sent eight airmen from the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron to Adji Kossei air base in N’Djamena to advise Chadian crews on the Cessnas’ operations and maintenance.
The planes are in high demand as the war on Boko Haram escalates. Beginning in early 2015, the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram stepped up its incursions onto Cameroonian soil. On Jan. 18, 2015, the militants attacked two villages near the border with Nigeria and kidnapped around 80 people.
Airmen from the 635th Material Maintenance Squadron work on maintenance shelters to house some Chadian aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo
The attack convinced Chadian leaders to intervene. A contingent of 2,500 Chadian soldiers equipped with some 400 vehicles deployed to Maltam, 80 kilometers inside Cameroon.
At the same time, a second Chadian contingent settled in the Lake Chad region. On Jan. 30, 2015, fighting broke out in Fotokol in the far north of Cameroon. Chadian air force Su-25s and helicopters flew into action, tracking and striking the militants.
In early March 2015, Chadian troops and aircraft drove the Islamists from Dikwa town in northeastern Nigeria. After suspected Boko Haram militants bombed government facilities in N’Djamena in June 2015, the Chadian air force retaliated.
Which is all to say that the Chadian air force is indispensable in the ongoing campaign against Boko Haram. Chad knows it. The United States knows it. Rebuilding the storm-damaged Chadian air force is a top priority.