East and West meet on the edge of Sub-Saharan Africa, where the Sudanese Air Force has amassed 50 years of combat experience. In the forthcoming August issue of AFM, Mohamed Adam Nour reports on this secretive air arm.
Sudan is Africa’s third largest country and the 16th biggest in the world. The White Nile and Blue Nile converge in the capital Khartoum and it is a place blessed with stunning desert landscapes, hospitable people and many historical sites. However, Sudan is also known for its enduring conflicts between government forces and armed opposition groups. In the past, war ravaged its southern half, and more recently unrest has focused on Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile state.
Sudan’s security apparatus and the secrecy surrounding its armed forces mean only limited information is generally available on the al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya as-Sudaniya, or Sudanese Air Force (SAF).
Ever since the Republic of Sudan gained independence from the UK on January 1, 1956, a series of civil wars has ripped through the country. Since its inception in 1957, the SAF has been in almost-constant action on behalf of the Khartoum government.
In summary, the SAF has played a key role in two civil wars with the south (1955-72 and 1983-2005), the conflict in Darfur (2003-) and campaigns in South Kordofan and Blue Nile (2011-). Since 2011 there’s been a (mainly political) standoff with South Sudan.
Oil was discovered in Sudan during the 2000s, leading to investments in an extensive upgrade and modernisation programme for the SAF. In particular, 2003 was a year of changes for the air force. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group launched an attack on El Fasher Airport in North Darfur and destroyed military assets, including a number of Mi-8 type helicopters. This event is considered as marking the start of the Darfur conflict. In the same year, the SAF received its first factory-fresh MiG-29SEh Fulcrum-C and MiG-29UB multi-role fighters, which were a considerable improvement over the previous obsolete equipment. The Fulcrums were probably upgraded to SMT/UBT standard. Yak-52 basic trainers arrived from Russia to replace the elderly CJ-6/PT-6s so the country could continue to train its own pilots. For advanced training, the SAF procured Hongdu K-8 jet trainers from China.
See the forthcoming August issue for a full report on the Sudanese Air Force, including extensive orders of battle and current equipment.