Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has commissioned a helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility, which is refurbishing Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) Mi-24 helicopters.
The facility was formally opened by Museveni at Nakosongola Air Base on January 22. It is a joint venture by the UPDF’s commercial arm, the National Enterprise Corporation (NEC) and Pro-Heli International, a Russian company.
According to Pro-Heli, the company has been partnering with Uganda since 2016. Its core products and services are the overhaul of Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters. “This overhaul is fully certified and gives the same TBO [time between overhaul] and extension of the service life as any plant in Russia.”
Pro-Heli also sells and orders spares and executes “all types of routine maintenance according to the technical specifications of the manufacturer.” The company can also modernise or upgrade Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters.
During the commissioning, Museveni said the MRO facility will be developed into a hub not only for the entire East Africa, including United Nations Missions that use Russian helicopters, but for the entire continent.
He added that it will save Uganda a lot of money, as it costs around $3.5 million to transport and overhaul a single helicopter outside of Uganda.
“A huge saving will be made on the costs currently incurred by the ministry of defence/UPDF on clearing, handling and freight of the helicopters to repair stations abroad which is not less than $1.2 million one way, for each helicopter,” said Major General Sabiiti Muzeyi, the general manager of Luwero Industries, a subsidiary of NEC.
“For example, the helicopter currently being worked on in the hanger here was recently ferried to the Nakasongola facility just on a low loader at a cost of just $520 equivalent,” he said.
Muzeyi added that the first Mi-24 is being overhauled under the supervision of Pro-Heli expatriates, but the first 15 local technicians are also working on the helicopter and in the long run the facility will do all work by itself. Technicians have been trained in various fields, including engine, airframe, avionics, instrument, electrical, armament and ground support equipment maintenance.
“This facility being commissioned today is able to do major repairs, service and overhaul of Mi-17 (Mi-8) and Mi-24 helicopters. This in turn saves the country loss of money in transportation and general turnaround time,” said Valari Copcin, the chief executive Officer of Pro-Heli.
“Assets will no longer be grounded for long periods due to lack of spares and technical expertise input as this can be now sourced from the MRO expertise,” said UPDF Air Force Commander, Lieutenant General Charles Lutaaya.
The UPDF has about a dozen Mi-24/35 attack helicopters in service along with several Mi-8/Mi-17s, several AB 206 Jet Rangers, half a dozen Bell 205s and a couple of Bell 212 helicopters. Five refurbished Huey II helicopters were delivered from 2017.
Uganda is making great strides in growing its military industrial base and becoming more independent. NEC, in partnership with the United Arab Emirates’ Streit Group, will soon be opening an armoured vehicle factory (NEC-Streit Uganda Ltd).
In August 2018, Uganda officially launched an Armoured Vehicle Manufacturing and Assembly Facility in Maga Maga. Its first product was the Mamba-based Nyoka armoured personnel carrier created in collaboration with South Africa’s Twiga Services and Logistics via its Ugandan sister company Impala Services and Logistics.
In October 2021, the UPDF commissioned the locally manufactured Chui (Leopard) infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), which is based on Twiga’s recently launched Nyati. The Chui is manufactured by the Armoured Vehicle Manufacturing and Assembly Facility.
- A Tell report