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Ugandan Peoples Defence Air Force - History

The Uganda Air Force traces its origins from the Armed Forces Act, which was passed by parliament in January 1964. The gist of the Act underscored the necessity of defending Ugandas airspace, a need paramount for modern warfare, since World War 1. At this point in time, the cold war eventualities had necessitated post colonial states to establish strong armies that would defend the territorial integrity of African countries.

Significant is that, cross border incursions were prominent as colonial borders had fueled interstate wars. It was therefore a critical moment for most states to develop their Air forces. In line with this, Uganda, the Federal Republic of Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan invested in War planes with prime aim of fighting strategic wars.

On January 18, 1965, Prime Minister, Apollo Milton Obote formally inaugurated the Uganda Air Force at a function in which he was represented by his Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Hajji Akbar Adoko Nekyon.

On September 3, 1964 the government owned newspaper, Uganda Argus invited suitably qualified Ugandans to join the force. The original force was built around officers drawn from the command and administration of Uganda Army general headquarters and the Uganda Police Force. From the army came Major Kanuti and Capt Andrew Tindikahwa whereas from the Police Air Wing came four officers, including Smutts Guweddeko who later rose to command a fully fledged air force at the rank of a Brigadier. The recruits underwent basic military training in Jinja and those selected as pilots and technical crew left for training in Czechoslovakia.

Although relations with Britain remained important, Uganda broadened its foreign military relations during the 1960s. Israel, China, and the Soviet Union substantially increased military assistance. Israel and Uganda established diplomatic ties in 1962, and the two nations soon concluded agreements to train Ugandan intelligence, police, military, and paramilitary personnel. In August 1963, four Ugandans qualified as pilots on a Piper Super Cub in Israel.

The army, which had been progressively expanded under Obote, was further doubled and redoubled under Amin. There were periodic purges, when various commanders were viewed as potential problems or became real threats. Each purge provided new opportunities for promotions from the ranks. The commander of the air force, Smuts Guweddeko, had previously worked as a telephone operator. After 1973 - following Amin's break with Israel, the United States, and Britain the Ugandan-Soviet relationship became far more visible. Hundreds of Ugandan army and air force recruits went to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe for training. Soviet fighter aircraft, missiles, and armored personnel carriers were delivered to Amin.

By mid 1970s the Entebbe headquartered force had grown by leaps and bounds, with well-established bases at Gulu and Nakasongola. But disaster struck in 1976, when the Israelis mounted an operation to rescue their hijacked citizens. Operation thunderbolt destroyed several aircrafts and what remained was taken as war booty when Idi Amin was defeated in 1979 by the Tanzanians.

The war with Tanzania began on October 9, 1978 when a small motorized detachment of Ugandan soldiers crossed the border into the Kagera Salient, the thin wedge of Tanzanian territory north of the Kagera River and west of Lake Victoria, entered the village of Kakunyu and burned two houses. On October 27 the Ugandan air force bombed the town of Bukoba, sparking a mass evacuation by the civilians that clogged the roads southward with refugees carrying all their possessions and driving their cattle before them.

President Nyerere was angered over the Ugandan bombing of the Tanzanian village during fighting between the Ugandan Army and rebel forces, and he warned of serious consequences if the raids continued. He probably would like to retaliate if there were further attacks, but his assets were limited. Tanzania had no combat aircraft. The Tanzanians shot down one Ugandan Mig. The Ugandan soldiers entered the Kagera Salient and began an orgy of rape, pillage and murder. Approximately 1,500 Tanzanian civilians were killed. On November 5, the six foot four, two hundred forty pound Idi Amin publicized a challenge to the slight, elderly Julius Nyerere to a boxing match to settle the war.

The Air Defence shot down two MI-24 combat helicopters of the Sudanese at Jabelin in spite of the fact that they were equipped with ECM (Electronic Counter-Measures); they shot down a MIG-21 at Aswa valley; they shot down Zimbabwean MIGs at Kasangulu. The only bother was the high- altitude Antonov that merely harasses our forces out of range; and terrorises civilians.

The 100mm anti-aircraft gun, although out-of-date, was bought cheaply and can be upgraded. It will turn out to be an all-weather solution to air-threats, especially the advanced ones, if it is equiped with TV cameras in addition to better radars and computers. It solves the question of range and can be immunised against ECMs of advanced aircrafts.

In early 2009 humanitarian agencies estimated that some 900 civilians were killed in the aftermath of an offensive which involved the Ugandan air force bombing five rebel Lords Resistance Army bases in northeast Congo. AFRICOMs count put the number of casualties at 600.

In October 2012 General Jim Oweyesigire, the Commander of the Ugandan Air-Force and Brigadier Moses Rwakitarate, the Chief of Staff of Uganda Air-Force, faced dismissal from the countrys commander in chief of the Armed Forces General Yoweri Museveni for ignoring technical advice and forcing the pilots to fly attack helicopters to the volatile Somalia.

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Page last modified: 13-06-2015 20:55:49 ZULU