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Botswana Air Arm

Botswana Defence Forces Air Wing was formed in 1977. The Botswanan Defense Force Air Wing provides air support for the Botswanan ground forces and the police. The original air order of battle consisted of twelve BNG BN2A-21 Defender transport aircraft, supplemented in the mid-1980s with six BAC Strikemaster light attack jets. By the late 1980s the air arm, still based in Gaborone, included about a dozen Bell helicopters, four CASA light trans- port aircraft, and eleven British-made Strikemaster light attack jets.

The BDF Air Arm was significantly upgraded in 1996 by the acquisition from Canada of thirteen CF-5A/D Freedom Fighters, Botwana’s first modern combat aircraft. This was followed the next year by the addition of three surplus US Air Force C-130B transport aircraft. These two systems represented a quantum increase in Botswana’s air combat and airlift capability.

By 2004 the Botswana Defence Force Air Arm, a force of about 500 personnel organised into five squadrons, was based at Thebephatshwa Air Base near Molepolole (about 50 km north- west of Gaborone). As of 2005 the Air Wing was organized into three branches: the operational squadrons, air base security, and logistics. There are nine operational squadrons: five transport squadrons, one fighter squadron, one training squadron, and one VIP flight unit.

The Air Wing had a strength of approximately 500 as of 2005, although this number was expected to double with the incorporation of new aircraft. Ground crew and pilots were trained in the United States, United Kingdom, and South Africa. Several pilots attended flight instruction in Canada following the delivery of CF-5 aircraft in 1996. Flight training is conducted on the forces seven PC-7s.

Squadron Aircraft Base
Z1 Squadron BN-2 Molepole
Z3 Squadron BN-2 Molepole
Z10 Squadron C212, C-130 Molepole
Z12 Squadron BN-2 Molepole
Z21 Squadron AS350BA, Bell 412SP Molepole
Z28 Squadron CF-5A/B Molepole
Z2 Squadron BN-2, CN235M Gaborone
Z7 Squadron PC-7, A152 Gaborone
VIP Flight B200, Gulfstream IV, B412EP Gaborone
Six squadrons (five transport and one fighter) were based at Mapharangwene, also known as Molepole as of 2005. The base was built by foreign contractors between 1992 and 1996. Three squadrons (one transport, one training and one VIP transport) were based at Gaborone’s Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. The air wing also used airfields in Francistown and Maun.

It maintained significant alternate air bases at Francistown and Maun and had access to smaller airfields around the country. It had an inventory of about 45 operational aircraft. Since the mid-1990s, Air Arm upgrading gave it the ability to lift significant numbers of ground force troops throughout the country (and throughout the region). It was able to provide significant aerial reconnaissance and logistic support to ground forces. Its ability to provide air defence or close air support is less clear.

Botswana Air Arm uses a upside-down tricolor (black-white-blue) triangle accompanied with Yugoslav-like tail stripes of blue-white-black. Aircraft are marked in the national colors of blue - for the sky - and black and white for racial unity. The wings and fuselage use the colors in the form of a triangle. A thin stripe of blue over white over black is painted across the fin and rudder. All squadrons are designated with a “Z”, which has no meaning but is just used as a designation for “squadron”. Main base is Molepolole which was built mostly by foreign contractors from 1992 and was finished round 1996. Other bases used are the International Airport at Gaborone and Francistown.

Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, first born son of Botswana's founder President, underwent flight training, in Gaborone and thereafter Antwerp, Belgium, in 1974-75., and has since maintained his status a qualified pilot. In April 2001, the Ombudsman advised President Mogae that Vice President Khama should not pilot Botswana Defense Force (BDF) aircraft because, as a civilian, the BDF could not hold him accountable for loss or damage. Instead, Mogae praised Khama's skills as an airman and the Vice President continued to fly himself around the country, including campaign events in BDF aircraft. As much to the point was that Khama's airborne mobility gave him an instant advantage over opposition parties, campaigning.

Primary Airports

Coordinates Elevation Runway
L x Wm (f t)
Condition Aircraft
Francistown 21096S 027285E/ 1,000 m (3,283 ft) 2,200 x 30 (7,218 x 98) Asphalted Concrete Operational: daylight only C-17, C-130, C-21, C-9, Jeepesen
Kasane 17500S 025098E/ 1,002 m (3,289 ft) 2,000 x 30 (6,562 x 98) Asphalted Concrete Operational: Daylight, VFR only C-17, C-130, C-9, C-21
Sir Seretse Khama Intl (Gaborone) 24334S 025553E/ 1,005 m (3,299 ft) 3,000 x 45 (9,843 x 148) Concrete Operational C-17, C-5, KC-135, C-130, C-21, C-9, Jeepesen

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