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Botswana Defence Force Air Wing
Ensign of the Botswana Defence Force Air Wing.svg
Ensign of the Botswana Defence Force Air Wing
Active 1977 – present
Country  Botswana
Part of Botswana Defence Force
Roundel Roundel of Botswana.svg
Aircraft flown
Fighter Canadair CF-5\CF-116 Freedom Fighter
Reconnaissance Elbit Hermes 450/ IAI Silver Arrow 180
Trainer Pilatus PC-7 Mk II
Transport Beechcraft Super King Air/ Britten-Norman Defender/ CASA C-212 Aviocar/ CASA CN-235/ Cessna O-2 Skymaster/ Bombardier Global Express/ Lockheed C-130 Hercules

The Botswana Defence Force Air Wing is the air arm of the Botswana Defence Force of Botswana in southern Africa.


Two BDF Air Wing C-130s

The Air Wing was formed in 1977 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. The airfield near Maun is used as a forward operating location by propeller aircraft but remains unusable for its fighter squadron due to the length of the runway.

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.[1]

A combination of Bell 412EP and 412SP helicopters are operated by Z21 and perform a variety of functions, including 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.[2]

Botswana is also believed to operate Elbit Systems Silver Arrow[3] and Elbit Hermes 450 UAVs.[4]

Aircraft inventory

As of 2011, the Botswana Defence Force Air Wing aircraft inventory was:[5]

Aircraft Origin Type Version In service
Fighter aircraft
Canadair CF-5\CF-116 Freedom Fighter Canada Fighter
Advanced trainer
Pilatus PC-7 Switzerland Trainer PC-7 Mk II 5[2][7]
Bell 412SP United States Utility helicopter
VIP helicopter
Eurocopter AS 350 Ecureuil Europe Light attack\utility helicopter AS 350B
Cargo/transport aircraft
Beechcraft Super King Air United States Staff transport Super King Air 200 1[1]
Britten-Norman Defender United Kingdom Transport BN-2A 9[1]
CASA C-212 Aviocar Spain Transport C-212-300 2[1]
CASA CN-235 Spain Transport CN-235 2[1]
Cessna O-2 Skymaster United States Liaison O-2 8[1]
Gulfstream IV United States VIP transport G-IV 1[1]
Lockheed C-130 Hercules United States Transport C-130B 3[1]
Elbit Hermes 450 Israel UAV 3[4][Note 2]

The Botswana Defence Force Air Arm has lost at least two of its original 16 BF-5 aircraft. One aircraft was lost as a result of a gear-up landing and subsequent fire, and another was lost as a result of a crash during a practice flight. Both aircraft were single-seaters. Neither aircraft has been replaced, bringing the total BF-5 aircraft in inventory to 14.

Retired aircraft


  • Z1 Transport Squadron – Maparangwane Air Base (Thebephatshwa/Molepolole)
  • Z3 Transport(Liaison) Squadron, Cessna O-2A – Francistown Airport
  • Z7 Training Squadron, Pilatus PC-7MkII – Maparangwane Air Base (Thebephatshwa/Molepolole)
  • Z10 Transport Squadron, Lockheed C-130, Casa 212 and CN235 – Maparangwane Air Base (Thebephatshwa/Molepolole)
  • Z12 Transport Squadron – Francistown Airport
  • Z21 Transport Squadron, Bell 412 – Maparangwane Air Base (Thebephatshwa/Molepolole)
  • Z23 Transport/Helicopter Squadron, AS-350 – Maparangwane Air Base (Thebephatshwa/Molepolole)
  • Z28 Fighter Squadron, CF-5 – Maparangwane Air Base (Thebephatshwa/Molepolole)
  • VIP Flight Squadron – Sir Seretse Khama International Airport

Maparangwane Air Base and Francistown are the only full airbases in Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama International Airport is a civilian airport and Francistown Airport is a joint civilian/military airfield with ownership by the BDF since 2011.[8]

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.[9][10]


  1. Only 14 CF-5s (both single- and dual-seat versions) remain in service in 2009.[1]
  2. Flightglobal reports a "small number".[4]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 "Jane's Sentinel Country Risk Assessments Southern Africa". Jane's Information Group. 2009. pp. 94–96. ISSN 1754-9256. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Botswana buys Swiss trainers". business news. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  3. "Botswana builds UAV surveillance force". Flightglobal. Reed Business Information. 20 March 2001. Retrieved 2011-09-30. "According to sources in Botswana, the southern African country recently signed a contract to purchase at least three short-range systems from Silver Arrow" 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Peter La Franchi (5 June 2007). "Singapore seals deal for Hermes 450 UAVs". Flightglobal. Reed Business Information. 
  5. "Botswana military aviation OrBat". Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  6. Henk, Dan (2004). "The Botswana Defence Force: Evolution of a Professional African Military". Institute for Security Studies (South Africa). pp. 85–99. Digital object identifier:10.1080/10246029.2004.9627322. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  7. Botswana introduces new PC-7 MkII trainers -, 11 February 2013
  9. "Indra is awarded Botswana's air defence control system". Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  10. "Botswana (Botswana) – Jane's Land-Based Air Defence". 4 April 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 

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