Light Air Transports for Ghana
In September 2009, a US DSCA request for 4 C-27J aircraft plus ancillaries and support, at a price of up to $680 million, sparked considerable controversy in Ghana. As we noted at the time, a DSCA request is not a contract. It’s a legal notice under American export laws, and if Congress does not block the sale within 30 days, negotiations may begin.
Ghana is a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea. Its parliament was chosen to host President Obama’s 2009 Africa speech, and the DSCA describes the country and the sale as “…a U.S. Government partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and democracy in Africa.” As of 2011, however, Ghana is not listed or cited among the C-27J’s buyers or operators. On the other hand, it has become a confirmed buyer of Airbus Military’s rival C-295.
Ghana Needs Transports
Ghana is looking to supplement or replace its 3 aged Fokker F27 transports, whose production line closed in 1987. Note, also, that Ghana’s Air Force uses its assets in a number of quasi-civil roles as well, some of which would be well suited to the C-27J’s capabilities. The DSCA cited their need to “deploy troops to protect its borders against turmoil spreading from neighboring countries,” adding that light transports “will enhance Ghana’s ability to participate in peacekeeping operations by increasing its cargo, material, and troop transport, maritime patrol, tactical operations, and medical evacuation capabilities.”
Alenia Aeronautica’s C-27J Spartan won the USA’s Joint Cargo Aircraft competition, via a partnership with L-3 Communications Integrated Systems of Greenville, TX. L-3 was slated as the prime contractor for Ghana’s C-27J sale, hence the DSCA request, but much of the manufacturing would have taken place in Italy, with final assembly at at Cecil Commerce Center in Jacksonville, FL.
In the end, however, Ghana appears to have bought its transports from a vendor that wasn’t subject to disclosure rules.
Contracts and Key Events
Aug 4/11: Airbus Military announces that:
“The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Ghana has signed a contract with Airbus Military for the acquisition of two C295 aircraft… to be delivered from the beginning of 2012. His Excellency Minister of Defence Lt Gen. JH Smith, said the C295 will enable the Air Force to move troops and other security agencies across the country and within the West African sub-region. The aircraft will also be used for medical evacuation, paratrooping, training and humanitarian operations including assistance to organizations such as National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and the peace mission of the United Nations. The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Ghana is a new Airbus Military customer.”
Queries to Alenia North America have confirmed that Ghana is not currently a C-27J customer. Conveniently, there is no requirement to publicly report the Ghana contract’s potential value, and no details were forthcoming from Airbus. American military export laws have been used to void the sale of C-295/C235MPA planes to Venezuela, but sales of these planes have never required full DSCA disclosure as a Foreign Military Sale request.
Sept 17-18/09: A controversy erupts in Ghana, as government spokespeople characterize the DID report as false. Unfortunately, the US DSCA is an official source, and subsequent reports from Ghana confirm the country’s interest. From Ghana’s Daily Guide: “Ayariga Exposed over Mills Jet“:
“While Mahama Ayariga, Presidential Spokesperson, and Samuel Okudzeto, a deputy Information Minister, aggressively denied the media reports about the Spartan aircraft government intends to purchase, Defence Minister Major-General (Rtd) Joseph Henry Smith, deputy Chief of Staff Alex Segbefia and Chief of Defence Staff General Peter Augustine Blay, said there were indeed efforts to purchase the planes, and that President Mills had been personally informed of developments so far.”
Ayariga’s statements were first carried by Peace FM, whose report includes an audio recording of their interview with Ayariga. Read “Ayariga: Gov’t Has Not Ordered Any Jet.”
Sept 9/09: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announces [PDF] Ghana’s official request for 4 C-27J light tactical transports, to be delivered with 10 Rolls Royce AE-2100 engines (8 + 2 spares), 4 of BAE’s AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing Systems, 4 AN/ARC-210 VHF/UHF Multimode Integrated Communication Systems without COMSEC (COMmunications SECurity; encryption), 4 of Raytheon’s AN/APX-119 Identification Friend or Foe Digital Transponders with mode 1,2,3a, 3c; plus commercial GPS navigation, a VIP module and observation windows, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support.
The estimated cost is $680 million, but a DSCA request is not a contract. If Congress does not block the sale within 30 days, negotiations may begin. L-3 would be the prime contractor, and implementation of this proposed sale will require up to 14 U.S. government and contractor representatives to participate in bi-annual Program Management Reviews (PMR) in Ghana and the USA.
While $680 million may seem like a large sum for 4 aircraft, it’s worthwhile to recall 2 key facts. One is that this is not a contract, and the actual price in any negotiated contract can be very different. The other consideration to keep in mind is that in many cases, the training, spares, and support elements of a contract for new aircraft will be at least as important as delivery of the aircraft themselves. The base price to buy a plane off the production line is one thing. The full price to induct a new plane type, stockpile the spares needed to keep the fleet running smoothly, train military personnel to fly and maintain the aircraft, and purchase future support from a contractor is always a higher number when all is said and done. Countries or airlines that focus on the aircraft buy and skimp on the rest often end up with shiny new planes that aren’t ready to fly very often. If they’re lucky enough to avoid accidents.
If and when a contract’s amount and terms are negotiated and made public, it will provide more visibility into the components, and value, of a C-27 deal.