African Defense recently sat down with OGMA (Portugal) President Rodrigo Rosa and talked about the MRO requirements of African air forces.
African Defense: Can you explain OGMA’s general approach to Africa? How important is Africa to the company and how long have you had an established history in Africa?
Rosa: In 2016, OGMA is celebrating it 98th year in business. Our relationship with Africa has been decades in the making going back to the network we had established with the Portuguese Army and then, as it became of separate force in the 1950s, with the Portuguese Air Force.
As the Portuguese colonies began establishing their own air forces and acquiring their own aircraft, they turned to OGMA. We worked with them with a variety of support and service contracts and other provisioning as they needed.
Even after privatization we maintained these contracts, many rooted and built on the relationships that were very important to us and our customers. These countries had a relationship with OGMA from the very early days of their growing air forces and used our experience to maintain their aircraft. They’re confident in the experience of OGMA, especially, for example, with their C-130s.
African Defense: How many African customers do you have right now?
Rosa: We are currently working with five countries in Africa. Over our history we have done business with 12 African nations.
African Defense: OGMA has recently talked about its goals to increase business and look for new customers. How are you going about doing that—finding new customers in Africa? Do you work through the Portuguese Air Force or can you work directly company-to-government?
Rosa: We do not work through the government or through the Portuguese Air Forces, not any more.
We have our own dedicated commercial team which identifies opportunities in the defense and civil markets. Once potential clients have been identified we like to visit the client in person, deliver our presentation, show them our experience. We really want to understand what they need then we can best deliver a solution that meets their needs and is within their budget.
We also come with great references— both military and civilian and with range of aircraft that we are capable of working on.
We have invested a great deal to make sure that we are a full service provider and can fulfill any requirement they have.
African Defense: While touring your aircraft maintenance hangars there was a variety of both military transport and fighter aircraft as well as commercial airliners. However, it was surprising at how many C-130s were being worked on and from how many different countries. Tell me about the kinds of C-130 work OGMA can perform.
Rosa: It’s a mix. Some of our clients are looking for basic upgrades and modernization while others are in need of deep maintenance and overhaul of the entire aircraft.
Since most of our customers represent repeat business for us, there is already a deep level of trust and understanding between the customer and OGMA. When we provide them with a proposal it takes into account what their operational needs will be and what their realistic budget is. We will build solutions to satisfy everything for them.
We are capable of doing A, B, C and D checks in-house. We have the internal engineering capacity to virtually rebuild an aircraft from the ground up. In fact we recently had one C-130 that had to come to us by boat it was in such tough condition. When we’re done with it, it will fly home to Africa.
African Defense: You currently have a contract with the Cameroon Air Force. What can you tell me about that arrangement?
Rosa: Currently we have contracts with several African countries, many of them have some internal capability and can manage part of the work on their own but would turn to us for work as needed.
For example, several countries come to us looking for full fleet service and we are able to come to agreeable terms that provides them with a complete package that covers all major areas of the C-130. In some cases we send teams there for project work, for example if they have an AOG (aircraft on the ground) but in most instances, the aircraft come here to Portugal.
African Defense: Another interesting project touching on Africa is the work you are doing for the French Air Force on their Puma helicopters stationed in Djibouti.
Rosa: As you said, this is a French Air Force program for their Djibouti-based Pumas.
Pumas, like many other aircraft types, are not new to us. We have done work on that helicopter type many times at our facilities.
This requirement is for the work to be performed in-country so we send out small teams of specialists that travel to Djibouti to perform the work on-site and then return home. Most of the time, these trips are relatively short and do not require the team to be gone for long periods of time.
The French are also using Pumas in French Guyana. We have a similar contract arrangement for the aircraft stationed there.
African Defense: What are the particular challenges in doing business in Africa? Is financing a critical issue?
Rosa: Financing is one of the most important challenges.
Many times there are very unstable budgets. Sometimes you will have a customer that has some of the funding available from their own budgets and some additional funding is coming from other sources, such as military funding.
African Defense: Do you see opportunity to increase OGMA’s business in Africa? Do you see your footprint in Africa grow?
Rosa: For sure there are opportunities in Africa—both with military air forces and with commercial aviation as well.
For example, there are several F-16 operators which we are taking a look at. We are very experienced with the aircraft.
Another great opportunity is with the Embraer Super Tucano. One of the demonstrator aircraft is currently based here with us and we are quickly embracing that work. As more and more African countries acquire the aircraft, it certainly opens up more opportunity for us to work with those air forces. This is a very important part of our future strategy.
Something else not to be overlooked is our strategic location. African countries have turned to us for a long time so it is very common and natural for them to come to Portugal, to come to OGMA for their maintenance, repair and overhaul needs.