Kampala — The United States army plans to construct a hangar in Soroti District for the five UH-1H Huey II helicopters given to Uganda last year by Washington as part of efforts to bolster the ongoing fight against al-Shabaab militias in Somalia.
The US army Corps of Engineers, the engineering and construction arm under the Department of Defence, on April 16 put out notice for a contractor for "market research purposes only" for designing and construction of the hangar in eastern Uganda.
According to the notice, a copy seen by Daily Monitor, the contract is for "design-build construction of a new hangar for no more than three (3) Huey II helicopters in Soroti, Uganda. The facility shall consist of a new helicopter hangar with maintenance capabilities and apron" with the facility expected to accommodate up to 12 staff.
The notice indicated the contract price to be in the ranges of Shs1.8b and Shs3.6b. The notice further indicated that the purpose of market research "is to gain knowledge of interest, capabilities and qualifications of contractors who have the capabilities to complete a project of similar magnitude."
"The government must ensure there is adequate competition among potential pool of responsible contractors. Prior government contract work is not required for submitting a response under this sources sought announcement."
A spokesperson of the US Mission in Kampala Phil Dimon told this newspaper by email that "hangar in Soroti serves the purpose of housing the five helicopters provided by the U.S. government last year."
Mr Dimon said in November 2017 the US government provided five Huey II helicopters, valued at $80m (approximately Shs292b) to Uganda to directly support the UPDF and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) operations.
"The handover was an indication of the critical role Uganda plays in AMISOM. Defeating al-Shabaab is a top U.S. security priority in East Africa, and we have to ensure that AMISOM has the capability to accomplish this mission," he added.
The UPDF spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire when asked why the hangar should be situated in Soroti rather than at Nakasongola or Entebbe military base, said "there is flying school in Soroti that has been used for many years and any support towards the existing facility is welcome."
Uganda has about 6,000 troops in Somalia and is the largest troop contributor to the 10-year-old AU-led mission. Other troop contributing countries include Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi and Djibouti.