Country Listing

Bangladesh Table of Contents


Air Force


Bangladesh Air Force ground crew maintains a Chinese-made Xian F-7 fighter
Courtesy Bangladesh Ministry of Information Defence Services


Defence Services Command and Staff College student officers pose with Bangladesh Air Force Mi-8 helicopter
Courtesy James Dunn

The Bangladesh Air Force, descended from the Pakistan Air Force, had a 1988 personnel strength of 5,000, including more than 400 officers, of whom about 175 were pilots. Like the navy, it started from humble beginnings, inheriting destroyed aircraft, damaged runways, looted stores, and neutralized maintenance facilities. After its formation as a separate service in April 1972, the air force acquired various fighters and transport aircraft from the Soviet Union. The Soviets also trained some air force pilots. Following the political turmoil of the mid-1970s, the air force looked to China for the bulk of its aircraft, as well as for training.

As of mid-1988, the air force inventory included three squadrons of combat aircraft, some of which were probably unserviceable. These squadrons included vintage MiG-21 interceptors supplied by the Soviet Union during the Mujib period. In 1978 China supplied fifteen F-6s (the Chinese version of the Soviet MiG-19) and sixteen A-5s in 1986. The Chinese-supplied fighter inventory in early 1988 totaled two squadrons, or about thirty A-5s and F-6s. Transport aircraft included one An-26 squadron supplied by the Soviets. Helicopters, used in disaster relief and troop transport operations, included thirteen American-made Bell 212s (twin-engine Hueys) and eleven Soviet-supplied Mi-8s. The air force's main operating base and headquarters were in Dhaka. Other air force bases were located at Jessore, also the site of the Bangladesh Air Force Academy, and Chittagong. Small satellite airfields, all of which doubled as civilian airports, were dispersed throughout the country. The government-owned passenger airline, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, could also be considered an air force asset during emergencies (see Civil Aviation , ch. 3). Aside from conducting relief operations, the air force's main mission is to transport troops and equipment to isolated army outposts in the tribal insurgent belt in the Chittagong Hills.

Data as of September 1988