China to add new planes to GDF fleet
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THE Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is poised to receive two new planes, courtesy of the Chinese Government. Information reaching the Guyana Chronicle is that two Chinese-made Harbin Y-12s will be received by the Force.GDF’s Public Relations Officer, Major Earl Edgehill, confirmed the much needed upgrade to the Force’s current fleet, but was unable to say when the equipment will be delivered or ready for utilisation.

Edgehill told the newspaper that the planes will be very beneficial to the Army. “Any and all additions to our current fleet of aircraft, ships or trucks will improve (the Force’s) capability.”

It will not be the first time that the Army will be handling the Chinese equipment, having purchased a Y12 in 2001. In 2014, it was reported that that plane was experiencing corrosion of its fuselage, but continuous repairs by overseas contractors saw it receiving an extra five-year life span at the time.

Around that same period, members of the GDF had called for an upgrade of their fixed-wing equipment, following a crash that left one of the Army’s main air support, a Cessna 206 with extensive damage.
Without their own airlift, the Guyana Chronicle was made to understand that the Force would sometimes have to secure the services of private carriers if the need arose. More recently, a Commission of Inquiry into the landing of an illegal plane found to be used for drug smuggling, recommended increased aircrafts for the Army in a bid to better monitor and protect the territory. The plane had landed at an interior location in the country for a number of days without the consent or knowledge of security or aviation authorities.

The COI found that an active and equipped Air Force would help to properly man the region, since the country’s civil aviation arm is unable to do. The last report on the GDF fleet had noted that the Force was utilising a 1960s British-made Skyvan with several years of operation, the “corroding” Chinese Harbin Y-12, a single-engine Cessna 206 seized during a drug raid and helicopters that included a Bell 412. The Harbin Y12 is a 17-seater twin-engine turboprop utility aircraft. It is notable for space and said to be suitable for the GDF to transport equipment and army personnel.

Back in October, former GDF Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier, George Lewis had told the Guyana Chronicle that the army was hoping to boost its surveillance capacity with the acquisition of new fixed and rotor wing aircraft in 2017. This, he said, was in keeping with the advancement of its national mandate, which among other things, include combating the narcotics trade.

The GDF currently operates two helicopters, the GDF One and GDF Two; while its Bell 412 helicopter has for months been unserviceable. In addition, the GDF operates several fixed wing aircraft. In its proposal in the 2017 National Budget, the army had requested funding for the acquisition of additional rotor wing aircraft, models which capabilities are said to be significantly advanced, as compared to the current Bell 206 helicopters on the army’s roster.

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