Air Platforms

UPDF Air Wing to move main base

25 February 2014
It was revealed during Museveni's visit to Entebbe that the UPDF has acquired a flight simulator to train its Su-30 pilots. Photo: State House Uganda

Uganda will begin moving its main air base from Entebbe International Airport just south of Kampala to Nakasongola in the centre of the country in March, the country's New Vision newspaper reported on 23 February.

It was revealed during Museveni's visit to Entebbe that the UPDF has acquired a flight simulator to train its Su-30 pilots. (State House Uganda)It was revealed during Museveni's visit to Entebbe that the UPDF has acquired a flight simulator to train its Su-30 pilots. (State House Uganda)

President Yoweri Museveni expressed his approval of the plan during an air force graduation ceremony at Entebbe on 21 February. "A lion stays in the wilderness, not in town. If you see a lion staying in town, that means it is in a zoo. It is only proper that you move to Nakasongola," New Vision quoted him as saying.

Museveni added that the move would reduce the risk of accidents at Entebbe, which is also used as Kampala's international airport and as the main hub for UN air operations in the region.

Built during Idi Amin's presidency in the 1970s, Nakasongola Air Base has a 3 km runway and taxiway, yet the Ugandan People's Defence Force (UPDF) Air Wing currently has no aircraft stationed there. Satellite imagery shows the construction of the main hangar has been completed and another three buildings have been built nearby since January 2011, but more work needs to be done before it can operate Uganda's Sukhoi Su-30MK2 multirole fighters.

A satellite image of Nakasongola Air Base in central Uganda taken on 20 December. (CNES 2013 - Distribution Astrium Services/Spot Image)A satellite image of Nakasongola Air Base in central Uganda taken on 20 December. (CNES 2013 - Distribution Astrium Services/Spot Image)

Located 150 km north of Entebbe, Nakasongola would be a better base than Entebbe for sorties over South Sudan and the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): the two other countries where the UPDF Air Wing has been operating in recent years.

Since a split in South Sudan's ruling party escalated into a major rebellion in December, Uganda has forward deployed several helicopters at Juba international airport and its Su-30s have reportedly been carrying out long-range strike missions.

Human Rights Watch released a statement on 15 February that Russian RBK-250-275 cluster bombs with AO-1SCh anti-personnel bomblets had been used in South Sudan since December and called on the governments of Uganda and South Sudan to investigate. The bombs can be dropped from Russian fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft, including the Mi-17 helicopters operated by South Sudan if they have been fitted with weapons pylons.

Uganda, which has signed but not ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, has denied responsibility.



(359 words)
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