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Royal Jordanian Air Force

The Royal Jordanian Air Force was charged with the missions of air defense of territorial integrity, close support of the army, tactical bombing, and airlift of troops and supplies. A country without a strong air force is at the mercy of the enemy. Air power has come to play a dominant role in the military and political strategy of modern nations. Men of vision and foresight, like the kingdom's founding father late King Abdullah, has set the goal to have a unique and a highly skilled air force.

On the 22nd of July 1948, the nucleus of the Jordanian Royal Airforce was established by an initiative from King Abdulla Bin Al-Hussein , Grandfather of King Hussein. This newly-established force consisted of some Helicopters to be used in training, moving of troops and correspondence. At the end of 1949, a group of young Jordanians were sent overseas to receive training as pilots and maintenance officers, and this first group was consisting of 5 pilots and 3 co-pilots.

The air force began operations in 1949 as a component of the Arab Legion. Designated initially as the Arab Legion Air Force, the service depended in large part on pilots and other technical personnel seconded to the legion from the RAF. Eventually, selected volunteers from the legion were trained at the unit's airfield near Amman, and some were sent to flight and technical schools operated by the RAF in Britain. Growing unrest in the Middle East soon convinced the Jordanian government of the need to expand the air force's mission to include combat capability, which was achieved in 1955 with a British gift of nine Vampire MK 9 fighter-bombers.

When His Majesty King Hussein took over legislative authorities, he started by reinforcing the Airforce by combat aircraft, and train in each version of these aircraft starting by the helicopter and ending by aircraft. In 1972, the RJAF was recognized to cope up the extension and included building new airfields. New versions of aircraft were added; such as U.S. F-5, C-119 Airlift and C-130 At the same time, the computer system was entered to improve the services level and most focus was on continuous technical training, besides, make sure of enough reserve of well-trained pilots at high modern level. In 1974, most steps had been done in all areas to include development in training equipment in order to get enough local training.

Since its inception, the air force has struggled to develop and maintain a level of combat capability that would be viable against potential enemies in the region. The primary perceived threat has been the superior air power of Israel. The constant modernization of aircraft and associated weaponry essential to afford Jordanian pilots some chance of success has posed a severe challenge.

To preclude a future recurrence of the 1967 disaster, Jordan installed surveillance radars to cover most of the country, constructed hardened shelters to protect all combat aircraft, and implemented plans for the emergency dispersal of the air force. When the October 1973 War broke out, Israel refrained from attacking the Jordanian bases and Hussein's air force did not play an active role in the war.

In 1988 the air force was organized tactically into four fighter-ground-attack squadrons of F-5Es and F-5Fs, two fighter squadrons of Mirage F-1s, an advanced training squadron of F-5As and F-5Bs, a transport squadron, and four helicopter squadrons. The main air bases were King Abdullah Air Base at Marka near Amman, King Hussein Air Base at Al Mafraq, and Prince Hasan Air Base at pumping station H5 in the desert east of Amman. These bases were all in the north within a few minutes' flight time of either Israel or Syria. Other bases were at Azraq ash Shishan, also in the eastern desert, and dispersal bases at King Faisal Air Base, Al Jafr and at Al Aqabah in the south. The tactical fighter squadrons operated from the bases at Azraq ash Shishan, Al Mafraq, and pumping station H5. In addition to serving as home for the air force headquarters, King Abdullah Air Base near Amman accommodated the service's transport squadron and its liaison and air rescue units.

Training of flight personnel, formerly accomplished in the United States and Britain, in the later 1980s was conducted in Jordan. The Royal Jordanian Air Academy at King Abdullah Air Base provided cadets with both military instruction and an academic education over a twenty-seven month period preparatory to being commissioned as second lieutenants. Initial flight training consisted of 250 flying hours in British Bulldogs, followed by training on Spanish C-101 Aviojets that could be fitted as light fighters and reconnaissance aircraft. Pilots who qualified for jets progressed to F-5As and F-5Bs at Al Mafraq in a five-month course in tactics and weapons employment before being assigned to combat squadrons.

The Syrian Air Force [prior to the disasterous civil war] had a decisive edge over Jordan's because of its larger inventory of advanced combat aircraft - further enhanced by the delivery to Damascus of the MiG-29. In the event of a Syrian-Jordanian confrontation, the larger size and superior equipment of Syria's air force probably would more than compensate for the greater skill of Jordanian pilots. Jordanian air defenses were woefully inadequate - despite deliveries of Soviet air defense equipment such as mobile SA-8 and SA-13 surface-to-air missile systems - and would be easily overwhelmed in a Syrian airborne attack. The Soviets had dramatically increased their efforts to rebuild and improve Syrian air and air defense capabilities following Syria's poor performance in the 1982 war in Lebanon against the Israelis. Syria had received new radars, new fighter-interceptors, helicopters equipped with electronic countermeasures, and an automated air defense command and control system. This would allow Syria easily to defeat any Jordanian attack.



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