We are all familiar with today’s international superpowers, such as the United States, China, and Russia, with their arsenals of nuclear weapons and military fighter jets. However, when it comes to Africa, you may know little to nothing about the military capabilities of the continent’s governments. This post will analyze the African countries with the most powerful air forces today.
The Air-force is important to a country’s defense and protection. Their duties include air support for ground troops who may have been outmaneuvered by a clever enemy, Reconnaissance and border patrol duties, Intelligence gathering and Surveillance operations, Air defense- including air to air combat, Military Transport, Search and Rescue, Disaster Relief, and so on.
Most African countries have Air-forces, but what countries on the continent have the best Air-forces? That question can be rephrased as to what countries have the most populated, equipped, motivated, and prepared Air-force on the continent?
Do you know the best air force in Africa today is the Egyptian air force? Now you know, so let us delve into knowing the rest best air forces in Africa as of today.
In this article, we highlight the Top 10 Most Powerful Air-force in Africa. We talk a little about what makes them tick – the personnel strength, aircraft fleet, budget, as well as highlight a few missions that they have undertaken, by which they might have earned themselves some reputation as Air-forces to reckon with on the continent and beyond.
Top 10 Best Air Forces In Africa
1. Egyptian Air Force
- Aircraft: EAF has 1,136 aircraft as of 2016.
- Manpower: EAF has 30,000 active and 20,000 reserve personnel.
- Aircraft include; Alpha jet, Ka-52 Alligator, E-2HE 2K, Mirage 2000, Beech craft 1900, M-324, Mirages, etc
- Aircraft Suppliers; Egypt purchases aircraft from France, Russia, the United States, Germany, Spain, Canada, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Italy.
- Missions/ Engagements; Nigerian civil war, North Yemen civil war, Six-Day war, Intervention in Yemen, Shaba 1, etc.
Egypt unquestionably possesses Africa’s greatest air force presently. According to Yuval Steinitz, former chairman of Israel’s Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Egyptian Air Force has approximately the same number of modern warplanes as the Israeli Air Force and significantly more western tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft batteries, and warships than the Israel Defense Forces.
The Armed Forces’ stockpile contains equipment from a variety of countries. Additionally, some are manufactured in Egypt, with the M1 Abrams tank serving as a famous example. They maintain an inventory of around 1,200 air-crafts in their fleet, and 764 of these are classified as combat air-crafts.
2. Algerian Air force
- Aircraft: AAF has 621 aircraft.
- Aircraft include: Su-24, MiG-29, Su-30, Mi-24, Mi-28, MiG-25, Su-30, King Air, etc
- Manpower; AAF has a total number of 14,000 personnel.
- Aircraft Suppliers: AAF purchases aircraft from the United States, Spain, China, South Africa, Italy, France, Russia, etc.
- Base:11 bases
- Annaba (DABB), Biskra (DAUB), Bousfer (DAOE), Boufarik (DAAK), Chief (DAOI),
Algeria, like Egypt, is located in North Africa and actively invests in its military. Algeria has the continent’s greatest military budget, according to data.
The country’s Air Force (Algerian Air Force) is Africa’s second-largest. Algerian Air Force struck a $1.9 billion deal with Russia in 2007 to purchase 49 MiG-29SMT and six MiG-29UBT.
It is worthy of mention that the Algerian Air-force has over the years increased its capabilities by acquiring many fighter jets as well as Surface to air missile systems to secure its skies. Their strengths include Modern aerial equipment -including fighter jets and transport aircraft, they have a robust defense budget, as well as a High aircraft maintenance culture.
3. Ethiopian Air force
- Aircraft: ETAF has a total number of 86 aircraft.
- Aircraft used by ETAF include Su-25, MiG-23, MiG-21, Su-27, Aermacchi SF-260, Mil Mi-24, etc.
- Manpower: ETAF has 5000 personnel.
- Aircraft Suppliers: ETAF purchases aircraft from the Soviet Union, Russia, United States, France, Ukraine, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
- Airbase: Gode Airport, Bashir Dar Airport, Alula Aba Mega Airport, Herar Meda Airport
Missions/ Engagements; Ethiopian civil war, Gugsa Wales Rebellion, Second Italo-Ethiopian war, Ethiopian civil war, Ogeden war, etc.
Ethiopia boasts one of Africa’s most powerful militaries, with a $340 million defense budget. The military of this country possesses approximately 560 tanks and 81 aircraft.
Ethiopian Air Force is commanded by approximately 3,000 members, making it the continent’s third-largest force.
The Ethiopian Air-force has been involved in the following engagements: the Ethiopian Civil War, Ethiopian-Somali War, Ethiopian -Eritrean War.
4. South African Air force
- Aircraft: SAAF has 229 aircraft.
- Aircraft include BAE Hawk, JAS 39 Gripen, Rooivalk, Agusta A109, C-47TP, C-47TP Elint.
- Aircraft Source: Apart from manufacturing its aircraft, SAAF purchased aircraft from Sweden, the US, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, etc.
- Missions/Engagements: World War I, World War ii, Korean War, Angolan Bush War, South African Border War, etc.
- Manpower: SAAF has 10,815 active personnel and 831 reserve personnel.
The South African Air-force is one of the oldest Air-forces on the continent, having been founded in 1920. South Africa boasts one of the continent’s most powerful aviation forces. With 213 aircraft and an estimated $4.96 billion military budget, this country’s air force is a force to be reckoned with on the continent.
By recalling past events, South Africa had six nuclear devices at one point before signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991 and this agreement resulted in the destruction of nuclear weapons.
5. Nigerian Air force
- Manpower: Nigerian Air Force has a total number of 18,000 active personnel.
- Aircraft source: Nigeria purchases aircraft from China, Pakistan, France, Germany, the United States, Austria, etc.
- Base: 17 Bases
- NAF Abuja
- NAF Port Harcourt
- iii. NAF Kano
- NAF Yola
- NAF Benin
- NAF Unguwan etc.
Missions/Engagements: Nigerian civil war, Liberian civil war, Sierra Leona civil war, Niger Delta conflict, Orlu crises, Boko Haram insurgency, etc.
You may be curious as to whether Nigeria’s air force is the most powerful in Africa. Nigeria is the continent’s largest populous country and one of the most economically successful in the area.
As may be assumed, its air force and military, in general, are among the most powerful on the continent. It has a 300-strong air force. The military of the country established itself as a peacekeeper on the continent.
The Nigerian Airforce has undertaken the following engagements: Nigerian Civil War, Liberian Civil War, Sierra Leone Civil War, and the Niger Delta Conflict. They were involved in the Northern Mali War, and are currently involved in the Boko Haram War.
It is always fascinating to find out the position Nigeria holds amongst Africa’s best air forces. Undoubtedly, Nigeria is the most dominant African country in terms of population and economic potential. nigeria’s air force is regarded as one of the strongest military units Africa boasts of. Although Nigeria has a high rate of corruption, its government has managed to spend a considerable amount on the military sector.
6. Kenyan Air force
- Aircraft: KAF has total number of 152 aircraft.
- Aircraft Source: KAF purchased aircraft from the United States, China, Canada, Netherlands, Italy, France, UK and Germany.
- Aircraft include: Northrop F-5, Bell AH-1, Cessna 208, Scottish Aviation Bulldog, Short Tucano etc.
- Laikipia Air Base
- Moi Air Base
iii. Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mombasa
- FOB Mandera
- FOB Wajir
Missions/Engagements; Kenyan Air Force participated in Operation Linda Nchi, AU Mission in Somalia etc.
Kenya Air Force is ranked sixth among the continent’s best air forces in 2022. The force’s troops are deployed on peacekeeping missions throughout the world.
7. Morocco Air force
- Aircraft; RMAF has 347 aircraft.
- Aircraft include; KC-130, CH-47, SA 330, SA 342, AH-64E Apache, etc.
- Manpower; The Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) has a total number of 13,500 personnel.
- Aircraft Source; RMAF purchases aircraft from France, the US, Israel, China, Turkey.
- Base; 12 bases
- Casablanca Aeronaval Base, Agadir South Area Headquarters, Rabat North Area Headquarters, Sale’ BAFRA, etc.
Mission/Engagement; Western Sahara war, Sand war, Six-Day war, and Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.
Morocco’s armed forces are referred to as the Moroccan Armed Forces. Its Air Force component is Africa’s seventh-largest. It operates approximately 323 aircraft.
8. Tunisian Air force
- Aircraft; Tunisian air force has 159 aircraft.
- Aircraft include; Aermacchi MB-326, Northrop F-5, G-222, Super Hercules, etc.
- Manpower; Tunisian air force has a total number of 4,500 personnel.
- Aircraft Source; Tunisia purchases aircraft from France, the US, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Italy, etc.
- Base; Four Main Bases
- Gafsa Base
- Bizerte Base
- iii. Sfax Base
- Sidi Ahmed Base
Mission/Engagement; War on Terror
Tunisia’s Air Force is Africa’s eighth largest, with 154 aircraft and four unmanned aerial vehicles. This force is beneficial on both an internal and exterior level.
Within and beyond North Africa, Tunisia possesses one of the best air forces. The country has strengthened its air force with quite a number of UAVs and aircraft. Besides that, the country has more sophisticated armaments in its arsenal. Tunisia’s air force is best known for its vibrant operations aimed at safeguarding the country’s internal and external territories.
9. Angolan Air force
- Aircraft; National Air Force of Angola has a total number of 310 aircraft.
- Aircraft include; Su-25, Su-22, Su-27, MiG-23, MiG-21, Mi-8, An-12, An-26, C-130 Hercules etc.
- Luanda Base
- Catumbela Base
iii. Belas Base
- Luena Base
- Lubango Base
Mission/Engagement; Angolan civil war
Angola is Africa’s seventh-largest country by population. It is located in Southern Africa and boasts as one of the countries with the best air force in Africa.
This country’s defense spending exceeds $4 billion. The Angolan Air Force owns around 270 aircraft, 15 attack helicopters, and 82 fighters.
10. Libyan Air force
- Aircraft; Libyan air force has a total number of 120 aircraft.
- Aircraft include; Su-22, Su-24, C-130 Hercules, L-100 Hercules, An-72, ll-76, MiG-21, MiG-25, Mil Mi-24/3c.
- Manpower; Libyan air force has a total number of 4,500 personnel.
- Aircraft Source; Libya purchased aircraft from the United States, France, Russia, Poland, Italy, Turkey, and the Soviet Union.
- Base; 13 Military Airbases
- Al-Jufra Air Base
- Ghadames Airport
iii. Ghat Airport
- Al-Watiya Air Base
Missions/Engagement; Libyan civil war, Uganda-Tanzania war, Libyan-Egyptian war, Chadian-Libyan conflict, etc.
Libya ranks tenth as the continent’s strongest aviation force. With the 2011 Libyan revolution, this may come as a surprise to many.
However, some say that the country’s personnel outnumber its artillery and ammunition.
When it comes to its air force, it boasts about 600 aircraft and 121 helicopters. Their defense budget is in the neighborhood of $880 million.
So, we have all examined the ranking factors and that’s all about the countries with the best airforces in Africa. Thanks for reading