Jordan Boosts Air Fleet With UH-60s, STOL Transports and UAVs

 - May 12, 2016, 7:00 AM
One of Jordan’s recently received UH-60As is accompanied by an AH-1F during a flypast at the SOFEX event near Amman. (Photo: David Donald)

Jordan has established a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) as part of an initiative to prevent the spread of Daesh and other extremist groups into the kingdom. Assisted in its implementation by the U.S. and UK, the force comprises regular army units that can be deployed rapidly to counter incursions along Jordan’s long and remote borders with Iraq and Syria.

To provide mobility for the QRF, the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) is acquiring a fleet of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The U.S. has provided eight UH-60As from U.S. Army stocks, the first of which arrived last November and the last in March. The aircraft are reported to have been supplied under a “no fee” lease arrangement. In the first quarter of next year eight new-build UH-60Ms are due for delivery, procured through U.S. Army channels and associated with a U.S. grant to Jordan to enhance its counter-terrorist capability. Jordan’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) also operates UH-60L Black Hawks.

The QRF’s UH-60As made their public debut during the SOFEX special forces exhibition held this week at Amman-Marka Airport. Protection for the UH-60s during operations is provided by the RJAF’s Bell AH-1F Cobra gunships. Although some have been passed on to Pakistan, Jordan has built up a sizeable force of Cobras, including some ex-Israeli aircraft provided via U.S. channels. The fleet is undergoing an upgrade program in the U.S. that adds a glass cockpit and Hellfire missile capability. The first six are understood to have already entered the modernization process.

Border security constitutes a considerable part of Jordan’s current military activity, not only to prevent incursions but also to stop the smuggling of drugs and other contraband. Some of the country’s Iomax AT-802i aircraft and Cobras are forward-deployed for border patrols, and the two Airbus/Orbital ATK AC-235 light gunships are routinely employed on border patrol. The AC-235 has also been used operationally in Yemen. Jordan has announced plans to convert at least one of two new Airbus C-295s to light gunship configuration, but the modification contract has not yet been awarded.

Another type that has recently entered RJAF service is the Sikorsky/PZL-Mielec M28. The STOL utility transport has been used by U.S. Special Operations Command (designated C-145) for some years, and it is likely that Jordan’s two aircraft are also used for special forces and border patrol support. The aircraft were received in December 2014 and December 2015, and Jordan hopes to acquire more.

As for UAVs, the RJAF is using the Schiebel Camcopter and Leonardo/Selex ES Falco for surveillance. It has been reported that Jordan has also ordered CASC CH-4B armed UAVs from China, and the type was being promoted at SOFEX. CH-4Bs have also been acquired by Egypt and Iraq, and reportedly by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The hasty acquisition of these fixed-wing, armed MALE UAVs appears to be a response by these countries to delays by the U.S. in approving the export of comparable equipment to the Middle East region.