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Central, Eastern, & Southern Africa Database

African MiGs - Part 4
By Tom Cooper
Sep 2, 2003, 17:42

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Little is known about MiGs in service with different African air forces. Except MiGs in Algeria, Egypt, or Libya (which are described in a separate gallery, to be found in the "North and Western Africa Data-base"), for example, standard reference publications mention only the numbers of MiGs operated by different African countries: pictures are either extremely rare, or not available.

The following series of artworks is based on what little evidence about MiG-17s and MiG-21s in service with different smaller African air forces since the 1960s is available, with emphasis on unusual camouflage patterns, national markings, serials, and special unit insignia. Part 3 covers the air forces of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Note that this article formed the basis for the book "African MiGs", which is a delivering the full story of 18 Sub-Saharan air forces that flew or still fly MiGs, and specially detailing their combat operations. Details about "African MiGs" can be found HERE.

Any additional informations to this topic, including eventual corrections, would be most welcome.


Mwanza AB, Tanzania, early 1980s; Contrary to what is usually reported, Tanzania never purchased any J-7Is from China. Instead, the Jeshi La Wananchi La Tanzania (Tanzanian People's Defence Force Air Wing, TPDF/AW) was given 14 MiG-21MFs and two MiG-21Us by the USSR in 1974. Many of these were lost in different accidents due to the poor training, and two were said to have been lost when their pilots defected. Nevertheless, the few surviving examples took part in the war against Uganda, in 1978-1979, when they saw much action, even if one was shot down in a case of fratricide fire (it was lost to SA-7s fired by Tanzanian troops). The Tanzanian Army captured seven MiG-21MFs and one MiG-21U trainer from the Ugandan Air Force, as well as a considerable amount of spare parts. All of these were flown out to Mwanza AB, to enter service with the TPDF/AW. In 1998, Tanzania purchased four additional MiG-21MFs from the Ukraine, but these were reportedly in a very poor shape, and not used very often. Meanwhile, in 1980, an order for 10 F-7Bs and two TF-7s was issued to China, and in 1997 also two F-7Ns were purchased from Iran, together with four ex-Iraqi Air Force transports of an unknown type. Today, no Russian-supplied MiG-21s remain in service with the TPDF/AW, and only three or four F-7s remain operational. The TPDF/AW MiG-21MFs are now confirmed to have carried serials - in black or green - underneath the cockpit, but no details about these are known.

Tanzania, place and time unknown; exactly how many MiG-15UTI (or, according to other sources, FT-2s) Tanzania acquired, or when, remains unknown. Supposedly, by the early 1990s two remained intact, even if it is unknown if even these were operational. The markings and serials shown here were applied according to instructions from a decal sheets of the Ukrainian company Kanga, and the Canadian Hobbycraft. The exact details about their placement remain unconfirmed.

Daresalam IAP, 2004: seen at Daresalam IAP in 2004, preparing for celebrations of Tanzanian People's Defence Forces' 40th Aniversary, this F-6A is one of two that arrived from Mwanza together with three F-5s. It wears a disruptive camouflage pattern in sand, brown and green on upper sides, and light blue underneath. All the planes appeared in imacualte condition, considering they are in service since almost 30 years. No national markings or serials were apparent on either of F-6As.


Entebbe IAP, Uganda, sometimes between 1972 and 1977; the original Ugandan Air Force was formed with Israeli support, in 1964, initially operating 12 Fouga Magisters, six C-47s, and one N.2502D Noratlas, all supplied from Israel. The Israeli influence could have been also the reason for the camouflage colors of the MiG-17F seen here, which is one of around a dozen supplied from the USSR, either in 1966 or in 1972, together with some helicopters and L-29 Delfin trainers. The Israelis also destroyed at least four Ugandan MiG-17Fs during the Entebbe raid, in 1977, when their commandos were rescuing hijacked El Al passengers. The last Ugandan MiG-17Fs flew several sorties during the war against Tanzania, in 1978 and 1979. One was shot down by Tanzanian SA-7s on 11 October 1978, and the remaining two or three captured and then wrecked by Tanzanian troops on Entebbe, in April 1979.

Uganda, early 1970s; African MiGs are not very often seen in flying, but this one was - and at a very low level, sometimes in the early 1970s, when the UAF MiG-21MF was still largely intact. Ugandan Air Force acquired at least 16 (but probably 18) MiG-21MFs and at least two MiG-21Us from the USSR in the early 1970s. The Israelis destroyed seven of these during the Entebbe raid, in 1976, and at least one was lost during the war with Tanzania, in 1978. It is unknown if this example survived: the MiG-21U "U901", for example, can still be found on the scrap yard near Entebbe IAP, together with remnants of two or three other examples.

Entebbe, Uganda, 5 April 1979; this MiG-21MF was one of only seven survivors from the original batch supplied by the USSR, in the early 1970s. It was captured by Tanzanian troops at the Entebbe IAP, at the end of the war between the two countries and then flown out to Tanzania. Note that it is possible the serials of Ugandan MiG-21s were applied in a lighter color than black: eventually red or green could have been used either.

Despite some rumors to contrary, Uganda never operated any MiG-21F-13s. Nevertheless, in 1998 five ex-Polish Air Force and one ex-Polish Navy MiG-21bis were purchased, three of which were then given to IAI for refurbishment and upgrade to a standard similar to that of the MiG-29. These three aircraft were seen at Lod IAP, in Israel, last year, probably short of their delivery. Flown by - probably Byelorussian - mercenaries, they were finally delivered early this year, but one crashed on 15 July, killing the pilot.


Zambia (exact place unknown), mid-1990; The Zambian Air Force & Air Defence Command acquired 14 MiG-21bis and two MiG-21UMs from the USSR in 1976, together with additional transport aircraft, SA-3s, some anti-aircraft artillery, and other equipment. The MiG-21bis appear to be serialled in the range AF603 thru AF616; at least two serials were confirmed so far, including the AF612, shown here, and AF614, shown on an artwork published in AirEnthusiast several years ago. All ZAF&ADC MiG-21s should be stationed at Lusaka IAP. eight surviving MiG-21bis were upgraded to MiG-21-2000 standard by IAI Lahav Facility, at Ben Gurion IAP, in the mid-1990s. In the course of this process, they have got a new Elta radar, avionics, and weapons systems - including Python Mk.III air-to-air missiles.

Lod, Israel, early 1997 or 1998: in the early 1990s, all the 13 surviving Zambian MiG-21s - including two MiG-21UMs - were refurbished and then upgraded to Lancer standard at IAI, in Israel. Although photographed with their markings and serials covered, the position of these clearly indicated these aircraft to have been in use by the ZAF&ADC, even if their serials were not confirmed ever since (i.e. it remains unknown if the ZAF re-serialled its MiGs after these were returned from Israel - or not). The aircraft remain in service ever since, and should still be based at the military side of Lusaka IAP.


Gweru AB, Zimbabwe, 2000; 5th Sqn of Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) was originally equipped with 12 J-7IIs (actually a mix of J-7IINs, with four underwing hardpoints, like the example illustrated here, and "vanila" F-7IIs with only two underwing hardpoints) in the late 1980s. Initially, the aircraft were mainly flown by Pakistani mercenaries, but subsequently enough Zimbabwean pilots were trained to man the unit. Despite several reports about downing of "Zimbabwean MiGs" claimed by the rebels during the war in Congo, 1998-2000, none were even deployed in the country until January 2001, when three were lost while underway from Zimbabwe in order to participate in a fly-past at the funeral of the Congolese leader Laurent Kabila. Due to massive corruption within the Zimbabwean authorities and the military, which caused a severe shortage of funding, only six remain operational.


As always, it is impossible to realize projects like this one without a team-work. Several persons were kind to share informations about "African MiGs" and thus instrumental for the final results; my special thanks go to Mr. Pit Weinert, Mr. Tom N., Mr. Jin Ho, Mr. Chris Thornburg, Mr. Alvaro Ponte, "Pantherpilot", and Mr. Steve Touchdown.

© Copyright 2002-3 by ACIG.org

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