Niger Expands Airlift Capacity With C-130H
Niger improved its capacity for national defense earlier this month when it added another C-130 Hercules aircraft from the United States during a handover ceremony at Air Base 101 in the capital, Niamey.
The aircraft is part of Niger’s effort to modernize its Air Force and confront extremist groups operating in the northern parts of the country. Niger returned its first C-130H to service in January after repairs and refurbishment by the United States. A third C-130H is expected in 2022.
“Niger, in its fight against armed terrorist groups, benefits at different levels from the expertise and assistance of the United States,” Nigerien Defense Minister Alkassoum Indattou said during the handover ceremony.
Along with its predecessor, the new aircraft expands vital logistics capability for Niger in northern and eastern regions where extremists are active.
Niger shares borders with seven other nations. It’s part of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, which also includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. Niger also participates in peacekeeping missions in Mali and the Central African Republic.
The C-130H allows the Niger Air Force to airdrop troops and equipment in hostile areas. The aircraft can operate from underdeveloped landing strips and be quickly reconfigured to deliver cargo, vehicles and personnel.
“This type of aircraft, which is the pride of the air forces around the world, strengthens the operational capacities of Niger Air Force in this period of security and health challenges, which weigh heavily on development prospects,” Indattou said.
Along with providing the two C-130H aircraft, the U.S. has trained nearly 20 Nigerien pilots and more than 30 support staffers to operate the aircraft. It also has provided $17 million in upgrades, including a new C-130 hangar at Air Base 201 in Agadez in central Niger and a refurbished hangar in Niamey. A spare parts hangar is planned for Niamey.
Construction of a new hangar for C-130Hs at Air Base 101 is to start in 2022.
“Strategically, the Nigerien Armed Forces have shown tremendous dedication in professionalizing its forces,” said Susan N’Garnim, chargé d’affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Niamey. “Doing so ensures their women and men are prepared to fight security threats in the Sahel.”
N’Garnim praised the role that Niger’s first female C-130 pilot, Capt. Ouma Laouali, and other female Air Force officers have played in the success of the C-130H program.
“Considering our nations’ strong partnership in Niger’s aviation programs,” N’Garnim said, “I am reminded of a Hausa proverb: ‘Zamu Hada Qarfi da Qarfe,’ meaning ‘We will stand together.’”
The U.S. has partnered with the Niger Air Force since 2013 to help return C-130s to the air and train pilots at the Little Rock Air Force Base in the U.S. state of Arkansas. Since 2017, the Indiana National Guard has partnered with Niger through the State Partnership Program, which promotes joint training and knowledge exchanges.
U.S. military officials said this partnership has been a productive one and praised Niger as a leader in Sahelian security.
“We proudly stand alongside our Nigerien partners as we celebrate the enhanced strength of our coalition force,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James Kriesel, the National Guard assistant to the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. “Niger has built a defense framework committed to amplifying regional security and stability throughout the Sahel.”