The Government is making moves to replenish its fleet of aircraft, with plans on the table to buy a number of refurbished, fixed-wing aircraft to be used by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).During a post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister of State Joseph Harmon revealed that Government is looking to purchase two skyvans. In addition, the State is also looking to acquire two Islander aircraft.When asked, Harmon noted they would serve a variety of functions. According to the Minister, these range from the aircraft performing search and rescue operations to delivering items to border troops.“They are fixed-wing aircraft. They are two Skyvans and two Islanders. These aircrafts actually serve Guyana; serve the conditions under which we have to fly in Guyana, extremely well. The GDF have a competency in both the Islander and the Skyvan because they operated these machines for many, many years.”“In fact, we still have one of the Islanders flying. But we want to ensure that we can provide safe aircraft for our soldiers. In some cases where we have to do search and rescue, when we have to deliver items to our borders troops that we are in a position to do so and do so efficiently.”It was revealed that the GDF had requested some $484.2 million for these aircraft when Government tabled supplementary estimates for current and capital expenditure. Over $200 million from its 2018 capital programme was supposed to meet initial payments.Additional sums are expected to be used to close the deals. Their request came under the Agency head of Defence and Security Support. Authorities have been frank that Guyana’s aviation capacity is in need of a boost.Aviation sectorAt a press conference last year, Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Egbert Field, had lamented the deterioration of the Defence Force’s helicopters, noting that the situation has not been rectified for years.“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,” he had said.In a letter to the media, one operator had highlighted some of the deficiencies in the sector. Roraima Airways CEO, Captain Gerry Gouveia had zeroed in on problems such as the lack of effective search-and-rescue operations.In recommendations accompanying his criticisms, Gouveia had urged the authorities to boost Guyana’s national rescue capability by acquiring an appropriate/suitable helicopter to execute timely and safe extractions from the jungle if the need arises.It is understood that besides one Bell helicopter that was out of commission, the GDF air corps boasts a smaller Bell 206. It also has two Skyvan 8R-GRR models, a Cessna and a Harbin aircraft.SecurityBesides search and rescue, there is also a security element. In 2017, there were back-to-back discoveries of illegal aircraft and airstrips in Guyana’s hinterland regions. This had prompted Government to announce it was formulating a National Border Security Plan.Besides the use of satellite imagery, high-tech aircraft field sensors, and an integrated network of spies to address national security issues affecting Guyana, the general objective was to increase aerial capacity.Last year, a twin-engine Beechcraft aircraft was discovered in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo). It was registered to Banco Brandesco –one of Brazil’s largest banks. No trace of narcotics was found on the plane, but identification cards of Venezuelan and Brazilian nationals were discovered on board. An illegal airstrip was also unearthed in Rupununi, Region Nine by members of the Guyana Defence Force on August 5, 2017.