APNU/AFC denies initiating process to purchase Bell helicopters
Bell helicopters sale
– former Govt was looking to purchase heavy-lift helicopters – Harmon
In light of the announcement that Guyana will be purchasing four Bell military helicopters as part of a deal to boost Guyana’s military capabilities, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon on Saturday said that the former Government was not seeking to purchase this modernised model but rather, heavy-lift helicopters.
The former Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency under the APNU/AFC Government stated that disccussions were initiated under the previous Administration but the agreement was approved under the new PPP/C Government to the tune of US$256 million.
The deal was made with the United States (US) Department of Defence and include four helicopters, including two Bell 412Epi and two Bell 429 helicopters, plus related equipment.
At a recent press conference, Harmon noted “I’m not aware that an approach was made to purchase helicopters like this. I’m aware that at every stage along the way, we were interested in what we call heavy-lift helicopters that will do search and rescue and troop changeovers.”
While Harmon could not say how much the helicopters of their choice would have cost, he said the coalition’s plan was to sell the unserviceable ones in the air corps and use the funds to purchase accordingly. He said the exact model was never considered.
“We never got to a point to say whether we were buying this or that,” Harmon then clarified.
According to the Department of Defence, colloquially known as the Pentagon, the US Congress received the required certification informing them of the possible sale of the helicopters.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve security of Guyana, which is expected to grow to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in South America. The sale will improve Guyana’s capability to meet current and future threats.”
“Guyana will use the enhanced capability to strengthen its homeland defence; conduct maritime surveillance, patrol, and interdiction; counter narcotic trafficking and transnational criminal organisations; deter regional threats; and support coalition partners overseas. Guyana will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces,” the DOD also said, adding that the sale will not alter the basic balance of military power in the region.
According to the Department, the principal contractor will be Bell Helicopter Textron Incorporated (BHTI). It added that the quoted cost is the highest estimation of quantity and dollar value, while the actual cost may be even lower depending on several factors including Guyana’s requirements if and when the sales agreement is concluded.
It was announced last year November that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) would be selling an unserviceable Bell helicopter, as part of its plans to upgrade its aircraft fleet. Back in September 2017, Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Retired Lieutenant Colonel Egbert Field had cause to lament the deteriorated state of the GDF’s helicopters.
He had said at the time that Guyana did not have an adequate search-and-rescue helicopter, that there was no navigational aid at the main airport outside a certain radius, and that this risky situation has been ongoing for years without rectification.
With the advent of the oil and gas sector and the heating up of Venezuela’s claims against Guyana, it has become increasingly clear that Guyana must build its defence capabilities.
During his visit this year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed a maritime patrol pact with Guyana to guard against narcotics and other regional security threats.
According to President Dr Irfaan Ali, the maritime pact would see joint patrols to interdict narcotics trafficking. The President also noted that it would allow for the improvement of technical and human capabilities in monitoring Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
That move, he noted, augurs well for stronger collaboration and broader technical assistance to help combat both domestic and transnational organised criminal networks.