The Top 10 best and most powerful Air Force in Africa in 2018



The Air Force is the Aerial Branch of a country’s military. Its role is to conduct air warfare, wrestle control of the skies and achieve air supremacy in a bid to win a military engagement. The Air Force conducts aerial operations which includes air interception, bombing raids, aerial interdiction, patrolling the borders, attacking enemy air and ground troops e.t.c.

Furthermore, the bulk of the Air Forces duties involves mostly un-glamorous but highly essential duties like Transportation of troops and materials, aerial refueling, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, Drones) operations, Spying on the enemy, rescuing downed airmen and crews, artillery observations, early warning flights and many more…


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The term “Air Force” may refer to a combination of various aircrafts and rotorcrafts like bombers, fighter jets, helicopters, Trainers, Transport aircraft and others.
Although, some African Air Forces possess their own Surface to Air (SAM) missile defence or Anti-Ballistic missiles and Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) such as Egypt. However, those are not considered a factor in ranking since accurate data on such assets are usually difficult to access.

Role of the Air Force

The primary role of the Air Force is to protect and defend the a nations territorial integrity against threats both ‘FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC’. Unlike few African countries like Egypt, Algeria, South Africa e.t.c the Air Force is usually relegated to support roles: assisting the Army and Navy. The general role of most African Air Force are listed below:

  • Ground support operations 
  • Close Air Support
  • Reconnaissance
  • Intelligence and Surveillance (ISR) flights
  • Maritime & Border Patrol
  • Training and Indoctrination
  • Air Defense
  • Military Transport
  • Civil support
  • Search and Rescue


Air to Air battles also known as Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM or Dogfighting) is the process of moving and turning tactically in the air to achieve a decisive advantage over an opponent. There have been few air to air battle incidents in Africa. Most African countries lack the combat experience in Dog-fighting.


Few actual air battles that has taken place in Africa includes:

  • Itallian Invasion of Egypt (Egypt vs Italy)
  • Second Battle of El Alamein (South Africa Vs Germany)
  • Operation Ironclad in Madagasca (SAAF VS Germany)
  • Border War (South Africa Vs Angola)
  • Toyota War (Libya vs Chad)
  • Boko Haram War (Nigeria Vs Chad)
  • Ethiopian-Somali War
  • Ethiopian-Eritrean War

South African Air Force has the notable distinction of dropping the first and last bomb in Africa during World War II.


The personnel involved in the smooth running of an Air Force are not just pilots and airmen, there are also a significant number of people involved which supports the Air Force and are relied upon. Such personnels include Maintenance, weapons loaders, base defence, security, logistics, intelligence, Special Operations,Cyber Space support, medicals and others.

What makes a good Air Force? There are neccesary factors that an Air Force must possess to enable it fulfil its role, this factors would be used to rank the contenders. The criterias used for ranking includes:

  1. Combat experience
  2. Equipment
  3. Training

Please note that all other aerial branches of the military which poseses aerial platforms such as Army Air Corps, Naval Aviation, Civil Aviation, Coast Guard Air Search and Rescue, Health Service, Fire Service are not listed UNLESS THEY PARTAKE IN ACTUAL COMBAT.

Combat Experience: This is the amount of time the Air Force has undertaking aerial actions against other enemy air units. Combat experience is highly important for any military branch since military dexterity is usually measured through previous battle achievements. Most professional airmen would tell you that real combat breeds confidence. Combat experience which some call ‘babtism of fire’ builds trust among airmen.


The lessons learnt during actual aerial warfare (against foreign opponents) is invaluable in combat operations.— African Military Blog


Equipment: As the saying goes, ‘you are only as good as your weapon’. The primary equipment of an Air Force is its fighter jets and Helicopters. Although, having superior fighter jets does not necessarily means superior Air Force rating, since other factors determine victory in aerial warfare such as:

  • Presence of ground support systems like (Radar, Air Defence systems -ADS).
  • Electronic Warfare
  • Airbourne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C)

Training: If you train hard, you fight Easy. — Nigerian Army 72nd Army Special force Infantry.

Training: is very important in a military. You cannot really fight  without training properly. Training enhances synergy between various units of Air Force. It helps build troops moral and confidence. There are various type of training such as Ab Initio, Basic, Advanced and Fast Jet training.

The Statistics


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No 10) Ethiopian Air Force

The 1998 war with Eritrea provided enough combat experience to learn from for many years. However, Equipment serviceability is questionable and it’s troops loyalty is usually in doubt.

Gugsa Wale’s Rebellion
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Ethiopian Civil War
Ethiopian-Somali War
Ethiopian-Eritrean War

Aircraft: 80 aircraft

Fighter/Attack 48 units:
Su-25 FrogFoot, MiG-21, MiG-23, Su-27

Helicopter(s) 33 units:
Mil Mi-24 Hind, Mil Mi-8, Mil-Mi-6

Transport Aircraft: 34 units
Trainer aircraft: 14 units
Personnel: 3,000
Defense Budget (2012): $340,000,000 (0.8% GDP)

No 9) Tunisian Air Force

A very proud force but quite small force in North African standard. However, it’s aircraft fleet is focused more on air-defense.

War on Terror

Aircraft: 148 aircraft

Fighter/Attack- 30 units:
Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II, Aero L-59T Super Albatros

Helicopter(s) 83 units:
– SA-341 10
– HH-3 10
– Agusta-Bell AB-205A 15
– AS-350B 6
– AS-365 1
– SA-313 6
– SA-316 3
– UH-1H 29
– UH-1N 2
– Agusta-Bell AB-412 4

Transport Aircraft: 89 units
Trainer aircraft: 40 units
Personnel: 3,000
Defense Budget (2012): $746,000,000 (3.% GDP)

No 8) Nigerian Air Force (NAF)

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is at its lowest posture in terms of air combat capability. Although, it does possesses certain critical skills in other tactical areas like Ground Attack. The Dassault Alpha jet trainers configured for combat are currently it’s workhorse. Some new aircraft are expected to arrive soon.

READ ABOUT: How the Chadian and French Air Force fighters intercepts Nigerian jets out of Chad 6 times this year.


  • High troops moral
  • Excellent ground attack experience
  • Airmen welfare


Nigerian Civil War
Liberian Civil War
Sierra Leone Civil War
Niger Delta conflict
Invasion of the Gambia
Northern Mali War
Boko Haram War

Total Aircraft: 110 aircraft

Fighter/Attack 31 units:
Dassault Alpha Jet, Aero L-39, CH-3 UCAV, Chengdu F-7

Helicopter(s) 39 units:
Mil Mi-24/35 Hind, Mil Mi-17sh, Agusta Westland AS 332, AW 101, AW 139, AW 109
Transport Aircraft: 53 units
Trainer aircraft: 40 units
Personnel: 25,000
Defense Budget (2012): $2,100,000,000 (1% GDP)

No 7) Ugandan Air Force

It’s ambitious aircraft acquisitions in recent years has engraved it’s name as one of the most powerful Air Force in Africa. However, Aircraft availability and sufficiency remains a problem.

South Sudan War I & II
Various Peace-Keeping operations (e.g AMISOM)
Somalian Civil War
Operation Desert Storm
Ugandan-Tanzania War
Operation Entebbe (Israeli attack)
Ugandan Bush War
Six-Day War (Uganda Vs Rwanda)

Total Aircraft: 53 units

Fighter/Attack 23 units:
MiG-21, Sukhoi Su-30

Helicopter(s) 21 units:
Bell 206, Huey II, Mil Mi-24, Mil Mi-17
Transport Aircraft: 52 units
Trainer Aircraft: 10 units
Personnel: 50,000
Defense Budget (2012): $250,600,000 (1.3% GDP)

No 6) Angolan Air Force (FANA)

With Soviet and Cuban help, this Air Force has gone through brutal war which has hardened it’s stance. It’s aircraft fleets is currently the envy of many countries in Africa. It is a direct competitor to South African Air Force and constantly challenges its dominance.

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Angolan Civil War
Congo Crises

Total Aircraft: 285-348 units:

Fighter/Attack 138 units:
Sukhoi Su-30k, Su-27, Su-22, Mikoyan MiG-23, MiG-21

Helicopter(s) 118 units:
Agusta Westland AW 139, AW 109, Aerospatiale Gazelle, Mil Mi-24 Hind, Mi-8, Bell 212, Aloutte III
Transport Aircraft: 128 units
Trainer Aircraft: 48 units
Defense Budget (2012): $3,827,000,000 (3.5% GDP)

No 5) Sudanese Air Force


Linked to several high-profile defence acquisition deals, the Sudanese Air Force is truly a force to reckon with in Africa. It possesses modern fighter jets. Although, its quite secretive in it’s aerial operations.

Darfar War
War in Yemen
Sudanese Civil War (First and Second)
Heglig Crises

Total Aircraft: 246 units

Fighter/Attack 138 units:
Mikoyan MiG-23, MiG-21, MiG-29, Sukhoi Su-35, Su-25, Su-24, Nanchang Q-5, Chengdu J-7, Shenyang J-5, Hongdu JL-9

Helicopter(s) 108 units:
Mil Mi-24, Mil Mi-8, IAR 330, PZL MI-2, Bell 212,Bell UH-1
Transport Aircraft: 52 units
Trainer Aircraft: 12 units
Personnel: –
Defense Budget:

No 4) Royal Moroccan Air Force

The Moroccan Air Force is focused on Aerial Defense and it’s F-16s are configured for long range attacks. It’s numerous Military Exercises (MilEx) with major countries like U.S.A, France and U.A.E provides valuable realistic combat training.

Sand War
Six-Day War
Yom Kippur War
Western Sahara War
Anti-ISIS war
War in Yemen

Total Aircraft: 278 units

Fighter/Attack 96 units:
Lockheed Martins F-16, Dassault Mirage F-1, Dassault Alpha Jet, F-5 Tiger

Electronic Warfare:
Dassault Falcon 20

Helicopter(s) 128 units:
Aerospatial SA 342 Gazelle, Aerospatial SA 330 Puma,Bell AB 205, Boeing CH-47 Chinook

Transport Aircraft: 158 units
Trainer Aircraft: 80 units
Personnel: 13,500
Defense Budget (2012): $3,582,000,000 (3.5% GDP)

No 3) South African Air Force

The South African Air Force (SAAF) is centered around it’s SAAB JAS 39 Gripen multirole fighter jets which is the workhorse of the fleet. South Africa has the unique distinction of being one of the oldest Air Force in Africa. The country produces most of it’s weapons.


  • Excellent fighter training
  • Combat experience
  • Electronic Warfare


  • Little Government support
  • Pilot shortages
  • Massive defense budget cuts

World War I
World War II
Korean War
Rhodesian Bush War
Mozambican Civil War
South African Border War
Operation Boleas
Battle of Bangui
M23 Rebellion
ADF Insurgency

Total Aircraft: 226 units

Fighter/Attack 47 units:
SAAB JAS 39 Gripen, BAE Hawk

Electronic Warfare:

Helicopter(s) 95 units:
Rooivalk, Oryx, Agusta A109, Lynx 300


Transport Aircraft: 109 units
Trainer Aircraft: 88 units
Personnel: 11,000 Active Servicemen, 1,000 Reserve
Defense Budget (2012): $4,785,000,000 (1.1% GDP)

No 2) Algerian Air Force

The Algerian Air Force is modernizing it’s fleet at an aggressive pace. It has over the years acquired numerous capable fighters and Surface-to-Air Missiles systems to fully secure it’s skies.

Modern aerial platforms
High defense budget
High aircraft maintenance ratio

Low combat experience

Algerian War
FFS Rebellion
Sand War
October War
Western Sahara War
Algerian Civil War
Insurgency in the Maghreb

Total Aircraft: 502 units

Fighter/Attack 187 units:
Sukhoi Su-24, MiG-29, Su-30, Mikoyan MiG-25, Yak-130

Helicopter(s) 257 units:
Mil Mi-24 Hind, Mi-28 Havoc, Bell 412, PZL Mi-2, Mil Mi-8, Mil Mi-26, Kamov Ka-27, Eurocopter AS355, Agusta Westland AS355, AW139

Transport Aircraft: 266 units
Trainer Aircraft: 68 units
Personnel: 14,000
Defense Budget (2012): $9,104,000,000 (4.5% GDP)

No 1) Egypt Air Force

The Egyptian Air Force is by and large the best and most powerful Air Force in Africa. It is very large in African standard, having more aircraft than the next four (4) Air Forces combined.

Quality fighter jets
Sufficent numbers of aircrafts
Combat experience

Mismatched aircraft fleet
Outdates fighter jets in service

1948 Arab-Israeli War
Suez Crises
North Yemen Civil War
Six-Day War
Nigerian Civil War
War of Attrition
Yom Kippur War
Shaba I
Libyan-Egyptian War
Sinai Insurgency
Second Libyan Civil War
Yemen War

Total Aircraft: 1,200 units

Fighter/Attack 764 units:

Lockheed Martins F-16, Dassault Rafale, Alpha Jet, Aero L-59, Aero L-39, Mirage 2000, Mirage 5, Chengdu F-7, Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21, F-4 Phantom, CAIG Wing Loong UCAV, CH-4B

Electronic Warfare & AEW&C:
E-2HE2K, Beechcraft 1900, C-130, Commando MK.2E, Mil Mi-8, CAIG Wing Loong, CH-4B

Helicopter(s) 257 units:
AH-64 Apache, Mil Mi-28 Havoc, Aerospatial Gazelle SA-342, Kamov Ka-50, Boeing CH-47 Chinook, SH-2G Super SeaSprite, Sikorsky UH-60, Westland SeaKing, AgustaWestland AW109, AW139

Transport Aircraft: 266 units
Trainer Aircraft: 384 units
Personnel: 50,000 (30,000 Active Servicemen, 20,000 Reserve)
Defense Budget (2014): $4.4 billion (3% GDP) plus $1.2 Billion US defence assistance


Please comment below for your suggestions, opinions and corrections.

0 thoughts on “The Top 10 best and most powerful Air Force in Africa in 2018”

  1. Part on South Africa is just nonsense. Listing combat experience as one of their strengths is just ridiculous, where and when did they get that experience, from bombing a couple helpless rebels? Put them against the Moroccan air force and they would never survive. The Moroccan air force has twice the fighter jets, real combat experience, has a lot of training hours in Morocco and participated in many exercises with advanced air forces from around the world and an abundance in highly trained pilots.

  2. We need a common defense strategy, for the whole of Africa. Imagine if what ECOWAS does is done on African level, root out rebels, strengthen common defense industry etc. Let someone then come and talk of Africa as a weak continent. Greetings to all Africans from Morocco.

  3. The Moroccan Air Force was established in 1956. Since it establishment, there have never been any known or confirmed air to air kill in history. None. Even in Yom Kippur where it deployed F5 Tiger jets.

    Meanwhile, the SAAF was established in 1920, it is one of the oldest air force in Africa.

    The service saw action in World War I
    World War II
    Korean War
    Angolan War.(SAAF shot down multiple MIGs.

    In all engagement the SAAF made numerous kills. Most notably in WWII the SAAF bombers continually harassed retreating forces towards the Tunisian border after the Second Battle of El Alamein; the South African fighters of No. 223 Wing RAF helped the Desert Air Force gain air superiority over Axis air forces. Between April 1941 and May 1943, the eleven SAAF squadrons [c] flew 33,991 sorties and destroyed 342 enemy aircraft.

    Some SAAF squadrons served with the Balkan Air Force in operations over Hungary,
    Romania and Albania.

    In 1944 SAAF'S 2nd Wing supported British operations to liberate Greece and suppress the communist coup.

    Also in 1944 A SAAF detachment took part in the Franco-American invasion of southern France.

    Having all the equipment without experience to back it up is pointless.

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