…in US$256M deal aimed at boosting Guyana’s defence
Guyana will be the recipient of four Bell military helicopters, plus support equipment, as part of a US$256 million sale approved by the United States (US) Department of Defense to boost Guyana’s military capabilities.
The details of the sale were announced on Saturday in a Department of Defense (DOD) statement. According to the particulars of the sale, Guyana will get four helicopters, including two Bell 412Epi and two Bell 429 helicopters, plus related equipment.
The entire deal is estimated to cost US$256 million.
According to the DOD, colloquially known as the Pentagon, the US Congress received the required certification informing them of the possible sale of the helicopters on Saturday. The DOD went on to speak of the benefits of the deal to Guyana.
“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 organizations; 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.
“An important element of search-and-rescue, which is a helicopter in the event of a crash…I don’t know why the GDF equipment was allowed to deteriorate to the point where they do not have a serviceable helicopter for search and rescue – which is the Bell 412 helicopter,” Fields had expressed.
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.