Botswana Defence Force Air Wing


Botswana Defence Force Air Wing
BDF emblem.svg
Botswana Defence Force emblem
Founded1960; 61 years ago (1960)
Country Botswana
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size5,000 personnel[1]
Part ofBotswana Defence Force
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Mokgweetsi Masisi
RoundelRoundel of Botswana.svg
Fin flashFin Flash of Botswana.svg
Aircraft flown
FighterCanadair CF-5
HelicopterBell 412SP, AS 350 Ecureuil
ReconnaissanceElbit Hermes 450, IAI Silver Arrow 180
TrainerPilatus PC-7 Mk II
TransportC-130 Hercules, Beechcraft Super King Air, Britten-Norman Defender, CASA C-212 Aviocar, CASA CN-235, Cessna O-2 Skymaster, Bombardier Global Express

The Botswana Defence Force Air Arm is the air force of the Botswana Defence Force of Botswana in southern Africa.

Chiefs of the Defence Staff Air Wing

The former heads of the Botswana Armed Forces Air Wing were referred to while in office as either General Officers Commanding or Chiefs of the Defence Staff.


The Air Wing was formed in 1960 and is organisationally part of the Botswana Defence Force.

All squadrons are designated with a Z, which is used as a designation for "squadron". The main base is near Molepolole and was built by mostly foreign contractors between 1992 and 1996. The base is a multi-stage project that included runways, taxiways, extensive shelter and ordnance storage facilities, a headquarters facility and a large complex of living quarters and support buildings. Sometimes referred to as the "Eagle" project, the base has received continual improvements since its inception. Other airports used are Sir Seretse Khama International Airport at Gaborone and Francistown International Airport in Francistown.

The backbone of the Air Wing consists of a squadron of former Canadian CF-116s which are locally designated as BF-5s. Thirteen ex-Canadian CF-116s (ten single-seater CF-5As and three trainer CF-5Bs) were ordered in 1996 to replace the Strikemasters, with another three single-seaters and two dual-seaters delivered in 2000.[Note 1] The aircraft were re-designated OJ-1 through 16. For transport, the Air Wing uses Britten-Norman Defenders, CASA C-212 Aviocars, CASA CN-235s and C-130B Hercules. The latest addition to the transport fleet was an ex-AMARC C-130 Hercules to complement the two existing aircraft.[2]

A combination of Bell 412EP and 412SP helicopters are operated by Z21 and perform a variety of functions; search and rescue, medivac, anti-poaching and troop/VIP transport. In 1993, nine ex-US Army/AMARC Cessna O-2As were delivered for use against poaching.

In 2011, Pilatus Aircraft Ltd announced that the Botswana Defence Force had selected the PC-7 MkII turboprop trainer aircraft to replace their Pilatus PC-7 fleet which has been in service since 1990. The contract value is approximately 40 million Swiss francs to procure a fleet of five PC-7 MkII turboprop trainer aircraft, with ground-based training system including computer-based training, spares, support equipment, as well as pilot and technician conversion training elements. The contract was signed in Gaborone on 13 April 2011.[3]

Botswana is also believed to operate Elbit Systems Silver Arrow[4] and Elbit Hermes 450 UAVs.[5]

Accidents and incidents

  • On 18 April 2002, an F-5 jet crashed at Thebephatshwa Air Base during a routine for the Botswana defence force day. The pilot was killed.
  • On 20 October 2011, two PC-7s of the Botswana Defence Force were involved in a midair collision over Letlhakeng 100 km west of Gaborone. Two of the four aircrew involved were killed in the accident.[6]
  • On 27 June 2014, The Botswana Defence Force Air Arm lost an AS350 Ecureuil helicopter which crashed during a routine training at Thebephatshwa Air Base. Two pilots who were on board the aircraft, were taken to hospital in a stable condition.[7]
  • On 9 February 2017, a BDF CASA C-212 crashed near Thebephatshwa village minutes after leaving the Thebephatshwa Air Base, killing all 3 people on board. The aircraft was on its way to the capital, Gaborone, which is 90 km away.[8]
  • On 27 April 2018, a day before BDF Day, a BF-5 fighter aircraft crashed at the Gaborone Golf Club during aerobatic rehearsals. The pilot was the only recorded casualty.[9]


Two BDF Air Wing C-130s

Air Bases

Maparangwane Air Base is the only full air base in Botswana. Sir Seretse Khama International Airport is a civilian airport that hosts the VIP jets and Francistown Airport is a joint civilian/military airfield with ownership by the BDF since 2011.[10]

Air defence command and control system

In 2005 Botswana Defence Force (BDF) awarded the Spanish company Indra a €7.1 million contract for the development and implementation of a full air defence command and control system. The project included the development and implementation of an operational control centre, composed of a total of nine air traffic tracking and control posts to process and concentrate the information regarding the country's air space being provided by air surveillance radars, radio communication links with the airships, and air traffic management civil systems.[11][12]


Current inventory

A Botswana Defence Force CF-5 on display
A BDF Bell 412 in 2019.
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat aircraft
Canadair CF-5 Canada fighter CF-5A 11[13] licensed-built variant of the Northrop F-5
Gulfstream IV United States VIP transport G-IV 1[14]
C-130 Hercules United States transport C-130B 3[13]
CASA C212 Spain transport 4[13] STOL capable aircraft
CASA/IPTN CN-235 Spain / Indonesia transport 2[13]
Beechcraft King Air 200 United States transport 1[13]
Britten-Norman BN-2 United Kingdom utility 1[13]
Bombardier Global Express Canada VIP transport Global 5000 1[15]
Bell 412 United States utility 6[13]
Eurocopter AS350 France utility / liaison 10[13]
Trainer aircraft
Canadair CF-5 Canada conversion trainer CF-5D[16] 3[13] licensed-built variant of the Northrop F-5
Pilatus PC-7 Switzerland trainer Mk II 5[13]

Retired aircraft

Previous aircraft operated by the Air Force were the Cessna 150, Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander, Scottish Aviation Bulldog, and Short Skyvans.[17]


  1. ^ Only 14 CF-5s (both single- and dual-seat versions) remain in service in 2009.[2]


  1. ^ IISS 2019, p. 453.
  2. ^ a b "Jane's Sentinel Country Risk Assessments Southern Africa". Ihs Jane's Sentinel. Country Risk Assessments. Southern Africa. Jane's Information Group (26): 94–96. 2009. ISSN 1754-9256.
  3. ^ "Botswana buys Swiss trainers". business news. Archived from the original on 29 August 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  4. ^ "Botswana builds UAV surveillance force". Flightglobal. Reed Business Information. 20 March 2001. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2011. According to sources in Botswana, the southern African country recently signed a contract to purchase at least three short-range systems from Silver Arrow
  5. ^ Peter La Franchi (5 June 2007). "Singapore seals deal for Hermes 450 UAVs". Flightglobal. Reed Business Information. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 9 June 2007.
  6. ^ "BDF assists plane crash victims.", Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  7. ^ "A Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Ecureuil helicopter crashed this morning (27/6/14). Two pilots who were on board the aircraft were taken to Thebephatshwa Hospital in a conscious condition". Prince Kangwane. Archived from the original on 21 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  8. ^ "BDF plane crashes, kills 3." Archived 17 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine, 10 February 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  9. ^ “PRESS RELEASE – BDF BF5 FIGHTER AIRCRAFT CRASH.” Retrieved 27 April 2018
  10. ^ Patricia Edwin. "Armed forces inherit old Francistown Airport". Archived from the original on 21 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Indra is awarded Botswana's air defence control system". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  12. ^ "Botswana (Botswana) – Jane's Land-Based Air Defence". 4 April 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "World Air Forces 2021". Flightglobal Insight. 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  14. ^ "Gulfstream IV/G400/G450". Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  15. ^ "Registration Details for OB2 (Botswana Defence Force) Dornier 328-110 - PlaneLogger". Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  16. ^ "World Air Forces 2004", Flight International, 46, 16–22 November 2004, retrieved 31 May 2015
  17. ^ "World Air Forces 1981 pg. 328". Archived from the original on 2 January 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2018.