Somali Air Force


Somali Air Force
Ciidamada Cirka Soomaaliyeed
Coat of arms of the Somali Air Force.svg
Coat of arms of the Somali Air Force
Founded1954; 67 years ago (1954)
Country Somalia
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Part ofSomali Armed Forces
Garrison/HQAfsione, Mogadishu
Motto(s)Somali: Isku Tiirsada
"Lean Together"
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed
Chief of the Armed ForcesBrigadier General Odowaa Yusuf Rageh
Chief of the Air ForceBrigadier General Mohamud Sheikh Ali
Brigadier General Ali Matan Hashi
RoundelRoundel of Somalia.svg
Fin FlashFlag of Somalia (vertical).svg

The Somali Air Force (SAF; Somali: Ciidamada Cirka Soomaaliyeed, Osmanya: 𐒋𐒕𐒆𐒖𐒑𐒖𐒆𐒖 𐒋𐒘𐒇𐒏𐒖 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒕𐒜𐒆, CCS; Arabic: القوات الجوية الصومالية‎, Al-Qūwāt al-Gawwīyä as-Ṣūmālīyä) is the air force of Somalia. The Somali Aeronautical Corps (SAC) was the name of the Somali Air Force during the pre-independence (1954–1960) period. After 1960, when Somalia gained independence, the name changed to the Somali Air Force. SAF principal organizer and the first Somalia pilot Ali Matan Hashi became the founder as well as the Chief of SAF.[1] The SAF at one point had the strongest airstrike capability in the Horn of Africa.[2] By the time Siad Barre fled Mogadishu in 1991, the air force had dissolved. The SAF headquarters was technically reopened in 2015.[3]


Following an agreement signed between the Somali and Italian governments in 1962, Somali airmen began a training regimen in Italy with the assistance of Italian technical staff and pilots.[4] Over the same period, fifty Somali cadets also commenced training in Soviet Union as jet aircraft pilots, later to be joined by more than two hundred of the nation's elite NCOs and officers for general military training.[5] Most of these personnel then returned to Somalia with the skills and knowledge that they had acquired abroad.

The Corpo Aeronautico della Somalia was established in the 1950s, and was at first equipped with a small number of Western aircraft, including two Douglas C-47 Skytrains, eight Douglas C-53 Skytrooper Dakota paratroop variants, two Beech C-45 Expeditors for transport tasks, two North American T-6 Texans (H model), two Stinson L-5 Sentinels, and six North American P-51 Mustangs used as fighter aircraft. However, all the surviving Mustangs were returned to Italy before Somalia gained its independence in June 1960.[6] The Aeronautical Corps was officially renamed as the Somali Air Force in December 1960.[7] Two Gomhouria light aircraft soon arrived from Egypt, and then later eight Piaggio P.148 trainers were donated by Italy in 1962.[7]

On 15 October 1969, while paying a visit to the northern town of Las Anod, Somalia's then President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was shot dead by one of his bodyguards. His assassination was quickly followed by a military coup d'état on October 21, 1969 (the day after his funeral), in which the Somali Army seized power without encountering armed opposition — essentially a bloodless takeover. The putsch was spearheaded by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, who at the time commanded the army.[8] Barre then proclaimed Somalia to be a socialist state, and rapid modernization programs soon followed suit. Numerous Somali airmen were subsequently sent to train abroad in countries such as the United States, Italy, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. After their training, many of these men went on to become the nation's leading instructors and fighter pilots. Fifty Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 "Frescos" were donated by the Soviets, while 29 MiG-21MFs were purchased by the Somali government.

Asli Hassan Abade was the first female pilot in the Somali Air Force. She received training on single prop aircraft, and later earned a scholarship to study at the United States Air Force Academy.

In July 1975, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that the Air Force had three Ilyushin Il-28 "Beagle" bombers (confirmed many years later by Cooper 2015), two fighter-ground attack squadrons with two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot," and a total of 23 MiG-17 "Fresco" and MiG-19 "Farmer;" a fighter squadron with 24 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 "Fishbed;" a transport squadron flying three Antonov An-2, and three Antonov An-24/26; a helicopter squadron with Mil Mi-2s, Mi-4s and Mil Mi-8s; and reported other survivors of the early years including three C-47s, one C-45, and six Italian Piaggio P.148s.[9]

Ogaden War (1977–1978)

In July 1977, the Ogaden War broke out after Siad Barre's government sought to incorporate the predominantly Somali-inhabited Ogaden region in Ethiopia into a pan-Somali Greater Somalia.[10] The Somali Armed Forces invaded the Ogaden and was successful at first, capturing most of the territory. The tide began to turn with the Soviet Union's sudden shift of support to Ethiopia, followed by almost the entire communist world siding with the latter. The Soviets halted their previous supplies to Barre's regime and increased the distribution of aid, weapons, and training to Ethiopia's newly-communist Derg regime. They also brought in around 15,000 Cuban troops to assist the Ethiopian military. By 1978, the Somali troops were pushed out of the Ogaden.

Before the war Somalia acquired four Ilyushin Il-28 "Beagle" bombers. Flown by MiG-17 pilots, the aircraft had the potential to be decisive back when they first arrived. Only three Il-28s remained in service by the time the war.[11] They supported the initial invasion, but were fairly ineffective because only high-altitude bombing runs were used. Once the Ethiopian Air Force began to contest the skies, the Il-28s were withdrawn from combat, remaining at their airfields until Ethiopian air strikes took them out. None of the Il-28s survived the war.

Status in 1980-1981

Nelson et al. stated in 1980 that sources indicated that of approximately twenty-one Somali combat aircraft, less than a half dozen — MiG—17s and MiG—21s — were kept operational by Pakistani mechanics.[12] Six Italian single-engine SIAI Marchetti SF—260W trainer/tactical support aircraft delivered in late 1979 were reportedly grounded in 1980 because of a lack of 110-octane gasoline in Somalia for the piston-engined aircraft. It was reported that the shortage of combat aircraft was being redressed in 1981 when that thirty Chinese Shenyang J-6 fighter-bombers were beginning to arrive.

The Library of Congress Country Studies wrote in 1992-93 that: "..there [were] numerous unconfirmed reports of Somali-South African military cooperation. The relationship supposedly began on December 18, 1984, when South African foreign minister Roelof "Pik" Botha visited Somalia and conducted discussions with Siad Barre. The two leaders reportedly signed a secret communique granting South African Airways landing rights in Somalia and the South African navy access to the ports of Chisimayu and Berbera. It was said that Somalia also agreed to sell South Africa eight MiG-21 fighters. In exchange.. South Africa supposedly arranged to ship spare parts and ammunition for the Hawker Hunter aircraft supplied to Somalia by the United Arab Emirates, and to be responsible for the salaries of ten former Rhodesian Air Force pilots who already were in Somalia helping to train Somali pilots and technicians and flying combat missions in the north."[13]

On 28 October 1985 a Somali MiG-21 crashed.[14]

Civil war and Issaq genocide

Up to 90% of Hargeisa (2nd largest city of the Somali Republic) was destroyed

By 1987-88 the armed forces were fragmenting, as were wider state structures, and multiple insurgencies were growing to the point of being named the Somali Civil War.[15]

In response to Somali National Movement (predominantly Issaq clan) attacks on the cities of Hargeisa and Burao, Barre responded by ordering the "shelling and aerial bombardment of the major cities in the northwest and the systematic destruction of Isaaq dwellings, settlements and water points".[16]

This aimed to explicitly hande the "Isaaq problem" whereby the Siad Barre regime specifically targeted civilian members of the Isaaq clan,[17] especially in the cities of Hargeisa and Burco and to that end employed the use of indiscriminate artillery shelling and aerial bombardment against civilian populations belonging to the Isaaq clan.[18][19]

Atrocities committed by the Barre's forces against the Isaaqs included the machine gunning from aircraft (strafing) of fleeing refugees until they reached safety at the Ethiopian borders.[20]

South African pilots pose for a picture before takeoff on another sortie in Hargeisa, 1988

Genocide scholar Adam Jones also discusses this particular aspect of the Siad Barre's campaign against the Isaaq:

In two months, from May to July 1988, between 50,000 and 100,000 people were massacred by the regime's forces. By then, any surviving urban Isaaks – that is to say, hundreds of thousands of members of the main northern clan community – had fled across the border into Ethiopia. They were pursued along the way by British-made fighter-bombers piloted by mercenary South African and ex-Rhodesian pilots, paid $2,000 per sortie.[21]

Despite the government's continued refusal to grant foreigner access to the north to report on the situation,[22] The New York Times reported that Isaaq refugees had been strafed:

Western diplomats here said they believed that the fighting in Somalia.. was continuing unabated. More than 10,000 people were killed in the first month after the conflict began in late May, according to reports reaching diplomats here. The Somali Government has bombed towns and strafed fleeing residents and used artillery indiscriminately, according to the officials.[23]


Metz et al. 1993 wrote that "[i]n 1990 the SAF was organized into three fighter ground-attack squadrons equipped with J-6 and Hawker Hunter aircraft; three fighter squadrons equipped with MiG-21MF and MiG-17 aircraft; a counterinsurgency squadron equipped with SF-260W aircraft; a transport squadron equipped with An-2, An-24, An-26, BN-2, C-212, and G-222 aircraft; and a helicopter squadron equipped with Mi-4, Mi-8, and Agusta-Bell aircraft" and had a number of training aircraft, in addition.[24] The IISS Military Balance for 1990-91 estimated that the Air Force had 2,500 personnel and a total of 56 combat aircraft: they list four Hunters, 10 MiG-17s, 22 J-6s, eight MiG-21MFs, six SF-260Ws, and a single Hawker Hunter FR.76 reconnaissance aircraft (p. 117).

By the time President Siad Barre fled the capital Mogadishu for his home region of Gedo in January 1991, the air force had effectively dissolved amid the Somali Civil War. In 1993, eight MiG-21 (six MiG-21MF and two MiG-21UM), three MiG-15UTI, one SF-260W and unknown MiG-17 wrecks were seen at Mogadishu airport.[25][26] Three Hawker Hunters, serialled 704, 705, and 711, were seen at Baidoa Airport by Australian forces during the UNOSOM II intervention, but were later removed.[27]

Relaunch in the 2010s

During the decades of the Somali Civil War, former members of Barre's vanished air force maintained contact with each other. On October 29, 2012, 40 senior Somali National Army and Air Force officers participated in the three-day Improving Understanding and Compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) workshop in Djibouti, organized by AMISOM.[28] In October 2014, Somali Air Force cadets underwent additional training in Turkey.[29]

On 1 July 2015, the Somali Defence Minister Abdulkadir Sheikh Dini reopened the headquarters of the Somali Air Force. Located in Afisone, Mogadishu, the move may help re-establish the air force after 25 years of civil war.[3]

The air force is not currently operational and has no aircraft. It is composed of approximately 170 personnel (40-50 officers ranging from second lieutenant to colonel and 120-130 non-commissioned officers and airmen). Turkey is delivering residential training to a group of young Somali air force personnel and intends to support the development of an aviation capability. The potential cumulative cost to develop a Somali air arm again, over 10 years would be $50 million.[30]

On 6 March 2020, Brigadier General Sheikh Ali met with Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan in Islamabad to discuss cooperation efforts and bilateral ties between the Somali Air Force and the Pakistani Air Force.[31][32]


Somali Air Force servicemen wore green flight suits with shoulderboards indicating their rank alongside a visored pilot mask and helmet when actively flying. The Air Force would traditionally wear a sky blue (for summer) or navy blue service shirt, navy blue trousers, beret or sidecap, shoulderboards and black boots[33] however a more formal uniform would consist of a navy blue peaked cap, blazer, trousers, black formal shoes and tie and sky blue shirt, Air Force servicemen would wear ribbons on their left breast as well as Air Force insignia.[34]

Nelson et al. estimated the Somali Air Force's aircraft in 1981 as:

Some derelict Somali An-26s in Kenya
Type Description Country of Manufacture Inventory Notes
Combat aircraft
MiG-17 "Fresco" fighter-bomber  Soviet Union 27[35]
MiG-21MF "Fishbed J" MiG-21bis Fishbed L Mach 2.1 fighter-bomber with AA-2 Atoll anti-aircraft missiles 9[14] or 29
Shenyang J-6 Mach 1.3 fighter-bomber  China 30
Aermacchi SF.260W Single-engine light attack craft  Italy 6
Hawker Hunter ground attack fighter/reconnaissance/trainer aircraft  United Kingdom 8
Transport aircraft
Antonov An-2 "Colt" Single-engine light transport  Soviet Union 3
An-24/-26 Twin-turboprop transport
Douglas C-47 Skytrain Twin-engine transport  United States
C-45 Twin-engine light transport 1
Aeritalia G.222 Twin-turboprop transport  Italy 4
Mil Mi-4 "Hound" Twelve-seat transport  Soviet Union 4
Mil Mi-8 "Hip" Twin-engine medium transport 8
AB-204 General utility helicopter  United States /  Italy 1
AB-212 4
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15UTI "Fagot" Two-seat advanced jet trainer  Soviet Union 4
MiG-21UM Mongol B Two-seat advanced jet trainer 20
Yakovlev Yak-11 "Moose" Single-engine, two-seat advanced trainer  Soviet Union
Piaggio P.148 Single-engine, two-seat primary trainer  Italy 6
SIAI-Marchetti SM.1019 Single-engine training, observation, and light attack aircraft

The SAF purchased two Piaggio P.166-DL3 utility aircraft and two P.166-DL3/MAR maritime patrol aircraft in 1980.[36]

An Air Defence Command - seemingly a fourth service - was formed by the late 1980s. In 1987, according to U.S. DIA records, it was 3,500 strong, headquartered at Mogadishu, with seven AA gun/SAM brigades and one radar brigade.[37] Eight years later, the Somali Air Defence Force operated most of the surface-to-air missiles. As of 1 June 1989, the IISS also estimated that Somali surface-to-air defence equipment included 40 SA-2 Guideline missiles (operational status uncertain), 10 SA-3 Goa, and 20 SA-7 surface-to-air missiles.[38]

Ranks of the Somali Air Force

Rank group General/flag officers Field/senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
 Somali Air .navbar{display:inline;font-size:88%;font-weight:normal}.mw-parser-output .navbar-collapse{float:left;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .navbar-boxtext{word-spacing:0}.mw-parser-output .navbar ul{display:inline-block;white-space:nowrap;line-height:inherit}.mw-parser-output .navbar-brackets::before{margin-right:-0.125em;content:"[ "}.mw-parser-output .navbar-brackets::after{margin-left:-0.125em;content:" ]"}.mw-parser-output .navbar li{word-spacing:-0.125em}.mw-parser-output .navbar-mini abbr{font-variant:small-caps;border-bottom:none;text-decoration:none;cursor:inherit}.mw-parser-output .navbar-ct-full{font-size:114%;margin:0 7em}.mw-parser-output .navbar-ct-mini{font-size:114%;margin:0 4em}.mw-parser-output .infobox .navbar{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .navbox .navbar{display:block;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .navbox-title .navbar{float:left;text-align:left;margin-right:0.5em}v
  • t
  • e
  • Blank.svg 15-Somali Air Force-MG.svg 14-Somali Air Force-BG.svg 13-Somali Air Force-COL.svg 12-Somali Air Force-LTC.svg 11-Somali Air Force-MAJ.svg 10-Somali Air Force-CPT.svg 09-Somali Air Force-1LT.svg 08-Somali Air Force-2LT.svg
    Lieutenant general
    Sareeye Guud
    Major general
    Sareeye Gaas
    Brigadier General
    Sareeye Guuto
    Gashaanle Sare
    Lieutenant colonel
    Gashaanle Dhexe
    First Lieutenant
    Laba Xídígle
    Second Lieutenant
    Rank group Senior NCOs Junior NCOs Enlisted
     Somali Air Force
    07-Somali Air Force-CWO.svg 06-Somali Air Force-WO3.svg 05-Somali Air Force-WO2.svg 04-Somali Air Force-WO1.svg 03-Somali Air Force-SGT.svg 02-Somali Air Force-CPL.svg 01-Somali Air Force-PFC.svg No insignia
    Chief Warrant Officer
    Musharax Sarkaal
    Warrant Officer Class 1
    Sadex Xarígle
    Warrant Officer Class 2
    Laba Xarígle
    Warrant Officer Class 3
    Sadex Alífle
    Laba Alífle
    Lance Corporal

    See also


    1. ^ Luigi Pestalozza, The Somalian Revolution, (Éditions Afrique Asie Amérique latine: 1974), p.27.
    2. ^ The Soviet Union in the Horn of Africa: the diplomacy of intervention and Disengagement by Robert G Patman - p. 184
    3. ^ a b "Somalia Reopens Air Force Headquarter". Goobjoog News. 1 July 2015. Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
    4. ^ Italy. Centro di documentazione, Italy. Servizio delle informazioni, Italy; documents and notes, Volume 14, (Centro di documentazione: 1965), p.460.
    5. ^ John Gordon Stewart Drysdale, The Somali dispute, (Pall Mall Press: 1964)
    6. ^ Cooper 2015, p. 13.
    7. ^ a b Cooper 2015, p. 14.
    8. ^ Mohamed Haji Ingiriis (2017) Who Assassinated the Somali President in October 1969? The Cold War, the Clan Connection, or the Coup d’État, African Security, 10:2, 131-154, DOI: 10.1080/19392206.2017.1305861
    9. ^ IISS, The Military Balance 1975-76, IISS, London, 1975, p.43.
    10. ^ Cooper 2015.
    11. ^ Cooper 2015, p. 31.
    12. ^ Nelson 1982, p. 249.
    13. ^ Metz 1993, p. 213.
    14. ^ a b "Mikojan MiG-21 Użytkownicy cz. 2". Retrieved 23 May 2020.
    15. ^ Robinson 2016, p. 241.
    16. ^ Richards, Rebecca (24 February 2016). Understanding Statebuilding: Traditional Governance and the Modern State in Somaliland. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-00466-0.
    17. ^ Reinl, James. "Investigating genocide in Somaliland". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
    18. ^ Fitzgerald, Nina J. (1 January 2002). Somalia: Issues, History, and Bibliography. Nova Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59033-265-8.
    19. ^ Geldenhuys, p.131
    20. ^ Ghalīb, Jama Mohamed (1 January 1995). The cost of dictatorship: the Somali experience. L. Barber Press. ISBN 978-0-936508-30-6.
    21. ^ Jones, Adam (23 July 2004). Genocide, war crimes and the West: history and complicity. Zed Books. ISBN 978-1-84277-190-7.
    22. ^ Lefebvre, Jeffrey A. (15 January 1992). Arms for the Horn: U.S. Security Policy in Ethiopia and Somalia, 1953–1991. University of Pittsburgh Pre. ISBN 978-0-8229-7031-6.
    23. ^ Times, Jane Perlez, Special to the New York (13 August 1988). "Over 300,000 Somalis, Fleeing Civil War, Cross into Ethiopia". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
    24. ^ Metz 1993, p. 205.
    25. ^ "Wrecked aircraft at the airbase formerly used by the Somalian Aeronautical Corps and now by the Unified Task Force in Somalia". The Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
    26. ^ "The remains of six irreparable Somali Air Force Mig fighter aircraft on the edge of the airport ..." The Australian War Memorial. 24 March 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
    27. ^ "Hawker Hunter squadron left in the dessert. - Aviation - HMVF - Historic Military Vehicles Forum". HMVF. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
    28. ^ "AMISOM offers IHL training to senior officials of the Somali National Forces". AMISOM. 30 October 2012. Archived from the original on 1 January 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
    29. ^ "Somali air force cadets in Turkey". Somalia Newsroom. 23 October 2013. Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
    30. ^ "Somalia Security and Justice Public Expenditure Review" (PDF). World Bank. 31 January 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 August 2017. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
    31. ^ "Somali Air Force commander visits Air Headquarters". 5 March 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
    32. ^ "Pakistan offers support to Somalia for military training". Somali National News Agency. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
    33. ^
    34. ^
    35. ^ "Jan J. Safarik: Air Aces Home Page". Retrieved 23 May 2020.
    36. ^ Nicolli 2012, p. 89.
    37. ^
    38. ^ IISS Military Balance 1989–90, Brassey's for the IISS, 1989, 113.


    • Cooper, Tom (19 April 2015). Wings over Ogaden: The Ethiopian-Somali War (1978-1979). Africa @ War. Solihull: Helion. ISBN 978-1909982383.
    • Metz, Helen (1993). Somalia: A Country Study (PDF) (Fourth ed.). Library of Congress. Retrieved 12 July 2019. Research complete May 1992.
    • Nelson, Harold (1982). Somalia: A Country Study (PDF) (Third ed.). Washington DC.: Foreign Area Studies, American University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2012. Research complete October 1981.
    • Robinson, Colin D. (2016). "Revisiting the rise and fall of the Somali Armed Forces, 1960–2012". Defense & Security Analysis. 32 (3): 237–252. doi:10.1080/14751798.2016.1199122. S2CID 156874430.
    • World Aircraft Information Files Brightstar publishing London File 338 sheet 4
    •, Historical Somali Aircraft

    External links

    • Court Chick & Albert Grandolini, with Tom Cooper & Sander Peeters, Somalia, 1980-1996, Air Combat Information Group, September 2, 2003.
    • "/k/ Planes — /k/ Planes Episode 94: Cripple Fight!". 26 February 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
    • Somali Hunters
    • - Beechcraft missing report 1960
    • change of air force chief, 1975