Country Listing

Sudan Table of Contents


Air Force

The air force has been largely dependent on foreign assistance since its inception in 1957, when four primary trainer aircraft were delivered by Egypt. The British provided most aircraft and training (some in Sudan and some in Britain) before 1967. After that time, Soviet and Chinese advisers and technicians assumed a supportive role, and their equipment became the foundation for the Sudanese air force in the 1970s. These aircraft included Soviet-built MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighter-bombers and Chinese-built J-5 (essentially the same as the MiG-17) and J6 (practically identical to the Soviet MiG-19) fighter-bombers. Seven Northrop F-5Es and two F-5Fs were delivered by the United States beginning in 1981, but plans to acquire additional F-5s never materialized because funds were not available. Libya transferred five Soviet MiG-23s in 1987.

As of 1990, combat aircraft were organized into two fighterground attack squadrons (one with the nine F-5s and the other with ten J-5s), and one fighter squadron with J-6s. A second fighter squadron of MiG-21s and MiG-23s was listed, although it was believed that as of 1991 all of the MiGs were nonoperational with the exception of one MiG-23. The combat squadrons were armed with Soviet Atoll and American Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Sudan had no bomber force. In 1986 it was reported that Libyan Tu-22 bombers had been used against rebel positions in the south. Other bombing attacks were carried out by transport planes (see table 13, Appendix).

The actual state of readiness of the combat arm of the air force was uncertain, but it was believed that much of the equipment was not in serviceable condition owing to a shortage of parts and inadequate maintenance. Pilot proficiency training was limited by fuel shortages that kept aircraft grounded. A small contingent of Chinese technicians assisted with maintenance and pilot training. A few training aircraft were also supplied by the Chinese. The air force had been of little value in providing air cover for ground operations in the south. The SPLA boasted that its shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) had brought down many aircraft, claiming that several jet fighters had been destroyed, as well as a number of helicopters and transports.

The transport arm of the air force was of central importance in maintaining supply links with beleaguered southern garrisons. The single transport squadron received six C-130H Hercules transports from the United States in 1978 and 1979. Although one was damaged by an SPLA missile in 1987, the five aircraft still operational in 1991 provided airlift capability essential to government garrisons in the south. The air force also had two Canadian-built DHC-5D Buffalo transports and two Soviet An-12 heavy cargo transports, as well as four smaller Casa C-212 Aviocars from Brazil.

The air force had a number of unarmed helicopters available for ground support operations against the southern rebels, although it was estimated that as many as 50 percent were not in flying condition. The newest helicopter models were Frenchdesigned SA-330 Pumas assembled in Romania and Agusta/Bell 212s manufactured in Italy.

The two main bases of the air force were at Khartoum International Airport and Wadi Sayyidna Air Base north of Omdurman. The air force also had facilities at civilian airports, including those at Atbarah, Al Fashir, Juba, Malakal, Al Ubayyid, Port Sudan, and Wad Madani.

Data as of June 1991