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Algerian Air Force

The Algerian Air Force (QJJ - al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Jaza'iriya ) has responsibility for defending the country's air space, supporting ground forces, supplying military transportation and cargo airlift, and carrying out land and maritime reconnaissance. In late 1993, the air force was equipped with some 193 combat aircraft and more than fifty attack helicopters, flying from about fifteen air bases. The service has expanded steadily since its inception in 1962, when Egypt donated five MiG-15 jet fighters and supplied a training mission. As more MiGs arrived, Algerian pilots were sent to Syria and Egypt and later to the Soviet Union for flight training. Others received flight training and technical schooling in France. With the help of Soviet advisers, a pilot training school was eventually established at Tafraoua near Oran. The Air Force Academy and a technical training school are also located at the Tafraoua complex.

By 1965 the rapid build-up in military materiel in Algeria as the result of Soviet aid placed Morocco at a clear military disadvantage in terms of hardware, organization and training in both air and ground. Morocco was apprehensive regarding its ability in the future to deter aggression and defend its territory. The principal problem for the US and France lay in meeting Morocco’s concern over the Algerian air force, which now included MIG-21’s and IL–18 bombers. The French said they are not interested in helping Morocco in this field. On 26 January 1965, US Secretary of Defense McNamara approved an $11 million grant-credit arrangement ($5 million grant and $6 million credit) recommended by the Department of State to help Morocco develop a deterrent to the Algerian air threat by acquiring a squadron of 12 F–5s. By 1968 the Algerian Air Force, thanks to Soviet generosity, was infinitely superior to the Spanish Air Force, which had obsolete equipment.

In the second half of the 1970's, the Algerian Air Force, in rivalry with Morocco - its neighbor to the west - underwent considerable modernization. Personnel increased to 7,000, as against 4,500 in 1976. Almost all the combat fleet was of Soviet origin, including one reconnaissance squadron with 10 MiG 25-R Foxbat B's; four interceptor squadrons with about 70 MiG 21 Fishbeds, including some 10 MiG 21-F Fishbed C's (daytime interception) delivered since 1965-1966 and some 60 MiG 21-F Fishbed J's, received gradually since 1974. Algeria also had nine fighter-bomber squadrons distributed as follows: two squadrons equipped with 40 MiG-23—BM Flogger F's (the export version of the MiG-27 Flogger D), based at DiChela; three squadrons equipped with 60 MiG-l7F Fresco C's; two squadrons equipped with 20 Sukhoi Su—7 BM Fitter As and 20 Sukhoi Su-20 Fitter C's; two squadrons specialized for anti-guerrilla warfare equipped with 26 CM—l70 Fouga Magisters (including 5 in the prestige flight). Two squadrons of Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle bombers (24 planes), delivered in the 1960's, seemed to be in reserve while awaiting definitive withdrawal from service. In the 1980s, the Algerian Air Force was expected to replace its MiG l7-F's and Su—7 BM' s with Sukhoi Su—20/22 Fitter F's or H's. The combat planes were equipped with AA-2 (K-13) Atoll and AA-22 Advanced Atoll air-to—air missiles.

Algeria was seeking in the 1980s to modernize is transport capacities, which were limited by the aging of the materiel; a purchase order for six Lockheed C-130 H Hercules was presented to the United States government in September 1981, with a view to gradual replacement of the Antonov AN—l2 Cubs. The first planes were delivered in 1982. At that time, the fleet was composed of two transport squadrons. One, responsible for heavy transport, comprised 8 Antonov AN-l2 Cubs, and the other did tactical transport with l0 Fokker F-27 Mk 400's and l F-27 Mk 600, one of which was equipped for reconnaissance. Six Ilyushin IL-14 Crates were also in the inventory, but were in process of withdrawal from service. VIP transport was occasionally done by F-27 Friendships, among the 10 mentionned above, and principally by one Ilyushin IL-l8 Coot, 3 Beechcraft SuperKing Airs, 3 Beechcraft Queen Airs, l Dassault Mystere-20, l Grumman Gulfstream2, and l Rockwell 690 Turbo Commander. There was also a Beechcraft King 100 equipped for radio calibration. Two Beechcraft Super King Air 200-T were equipped with Omera radar and Dalia countermeasures (Thomson—CSF [General Radio Co]) for maritime surveillance were delivered in 1982.

For basic flight training, the Algerian Air Force had 19 Yak 11's and Yak 18's, Max and Moose; 6 Beechcraft T-34 C Turbo—Mentors, delivered in 1979; and 3 Beech Sierra 200's, based at Oran, where the national pilot—training school was located. For advanced training, there were some 20 single—seater MiG-l5—bis Fagots and two—seater MiG-l5 UTI Midgets, and several MiG l7—F Fresco C's, MiG 21-U Mongol A's and Sukhoi SU—7 UMK Mujiks.

For tactical transport and assault, Algeria had about 28 Mil Mi—4 Hounds still in service, out of the 40 delivered to it. These machines were gradually withdrawn from service and replaced either by the Mi—8 Hip, 12 of which were inservice by 1982, or by the Aerospatiale SA—330 Puma, 5 of which were then operational. For liaison, Algeria used six Hughes 269 A's. For heavy transport, four Mil-6 Hooks were available. Algeria had received 25 Mil Mi—24 Hind D's to equip two squadrons of combat and anti-tank helicopters. These machines had AT—2 Swatter and AT—6 Spiral missiles . A further order of 24 was planned.

In terms of number of planes, the Algerian Air Force was at the head of the Maghreb's air forces. Its combat—helicopter fleet gave it an anti-tank capacity superior to that of its neighbors. Likewise, its possession of MiG-25's gave Algeria indisputable superiority in the area of aerial reconnaissance. It should be pointed out that these last—named planes were probably piloted by Soviets. For the training of its forces, Algeria had technical and military assistance from the USSR. Furthermore, some 30 planes of the MiG 21 Fishbed type were piloted by pilots of Palestinian origin.

According to The Military Balance, 1993-1994, in 1993 air force combat capabilities were built around three fighter/ground-attack squadrons and eight interceptor squadrons equipped exclusively with Soviet aircraft. The most advanced of these, although they had been in the inventory for more than a decade, were fourteen MiG-25s and three MiG-25Rs in a reconnaissance configuration. The fighter squadrons also included ninety-five MiG-21s and twenty MiG-23s. The fighter/ground-attack squadrons included forty MiG-23s and ten older Su-24s. The basic weapon of the fighter aircraft was the Soviet AA-2 (Atoll) and AA-6 air-to-air missiles.

The main pillar of the air force's transport capability in late 1993 was the fleet of sixteen Lockheed C-130 Hercules purchased from the United States. These were supplemented by six Soviet An-12s of comparable load capacity. Two Super King B-200s were outfitted for maritime reconnaissance.

The helicopter fleet in late 1993 comprised five squadrons of heavy- and medium-attack helicopters of Soviet manufacture, as well as a small number of transport helicopters. Air defense was under a separate command. It consisted of three brigades equipped with 85mm, 100mm, and 130mm (KS-12, KS-19, and KS-30) Soviet antiaircraft guns; and three SAM regiments, one equipped with Soviet SA-3, SA-6, and SA-8 SAMs.

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