An Oryx medium transport helicopter of the South African Air Force was hit twice in the main rotor blades during operations against the ADF on Saturday, 17 September, according to people familiar with an internal MONUSCO report on the incident.
The helicopter was conducting airlift operations around the Beni area in support of Operation Usalama, the joint MONUSCO and FARDC mission against the ADF rebel group. During one of the landing approaches, small arms fire was received from the surrounding area and the troops on the ground waved the aircraft off. After returning to Beni Mavivi Airport (FNZP) a visual inspection discovered two strikes by small calibre ammunition on the main rotor blades, but no other damage.
Reports from MONUSCO troops on the ground also indicated that earlier that day FARDC troops had attempted to force the same helicopter to airlift them out of the area, even though the flight had been intended as a casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) only. The situation was resolved after MONUSCO troops from the Tanzanian battalion intervened. There is no indication that the two incidents were linked, though it does suggest a disturbing breakdown in FARDC cooperation and discipline.
Saturday’s incident is not the first time an SAAF Oryx has been hit by small arms fire in the Beni region, indicating the difficulty MONUSCO forces are experiencing in their attempt to pacify fighters for the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In May last year an Oryx helicopter carrying the then MONUSCO Force Commander, Lt Gen Santos Cruz, was hit in a fuel tank by small arms fire between Kazaroho and Sesele.
The Oryx involved was serial number 1227, flying as UN 827.
Cover image: A MONUSCO helicopter lands inside Nyamulagira crater to pick-up a team of vulcanologist after an assessment mission, © MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti