Air Force of Zimbabwe
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Air Force


Current Title: Air Force of Zimbabwe
Title in English: Air Force of Zimbabwe
Abbreviation: AFZ


Narrative Summary:
Summary Narrative History  

Key Dates:
November 1935    Rhodesian Regiment Air Unit established on a Territorial basis
1936    Airmen join the Permanent Staff Corps of the Southern Rhodesia Defence Forces
1936    First group of apprentices sent to RAF Halton in the UK for training as ground crew
1937    Air Unit renamed Southern Rhodesia Air Unit (SRAU)
13 May 1938    First trainee pilots awarded their wings
August 1939    Territorial Force members of the Air Unit called-up for full time service
28 August 1939    Air Unit deployed to Kenya
19 September 1939    Air Unit officially becomes the Southern Rhodesia Air Force, and Air Unit flights become No.1 Squadron
4 January 1940    Formation of Rhodesian Air Training Group (RATG) announced
April 1940    SRAF absorbed into Royal Air Force and No.1 Sqn redesignated 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron
May 1940    RATG starts training operations
1 June 1941    Southern Rhodesian Women's Auxiliary Air Services inaugurated
20 August 1941    266 Squadron RAF received the name 'Rhodesia' after its number
12 September 1941    44 Squadron RAF received the name 'Rhodesia' after its number
28 November 1947    Southern Rhodesia Air Force re-established as a permanent unit
July 1949    Auxiliary Air Force formed for refresher training of experienced aircrew
22 March 1951    First Spitfires arrive to equip two new fighter squadrons
September 1952    New Sarum air base opened
September 1953    SRAF renamed Rhodesian Air Force upon creation of Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
12 December 1953    First jet aircraft delivered - the de Havilland Vampire
January 1954    Rhodesian Air Training Group closed down
15 October 1954    'Royal' prefix added to the title of the Rhodesian Air Force
late 1957    RRAF fighter squadrons begin annual deployments to the Middle East as part of Commonwealth commitment
21 February 1959    First RRAF internal security mission - in Nyasaland
1961    RRAF Volunteer Reserve established
June 1961    First co-operation exercises with SAAF
1962    First helicopters delivered
31 December 1963    RRAF reverts to Southern Rhodesia control when Federation breaks up
28 April 1966    'Battle of Sinoia' - first notable anti-guerrilla operation by the RRAF
1 March 1970    'Royal' prefix dropped - Rhodesian Air Force. New 'lion' roundel adopted.
1973    Start of 'Fireforce' hunter-killer helicopter operations against guerrillas
1977    ComOps (Combined Operations Headquarters) formed to coordinate air-land operations
23 November 1977    Operation Dingo - attack on Chimoio guerrilla camp in Mozambique
18 October 1978    Operation Gatling - attack on Westlands Farm (Chikumbi) guerrilla base in Zambia
26 February 1979    Operation Vanity - attack on guerrilla base Vila da Lusa in central Angola
3 March 1979    Country renamed Zimbabwe-Rhodesia but air force title unchanged
5 September 1979    Operation Uric - attack on FRELIMO base at Mapai & bridges at Barragem in Mozambique
1 October 1979    Operation Miracle - attack on ZANU guerrilla camps around Chimoio in Mozambique
18 April 1980    Air Force renamed Air Force of Zimbabwe
25 July 1982    Sabotage explosion at Thornhill air base destroys 10 aircraft and damages another four
1983-93    Support to Army operations in Mozambique
1986    First women accepted for pilot training
June 1998    Start of military intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Current Status:
The primary roles of the AFZ are interception and close air support. The AFZ plays a major role in supporting the Zimbabwean Army, and did so successfully in Mozambique and the Congo. The air force is currently experiencing very low serviceability rates due to a shortage of foreign currency to buy spares.

Future Plans:
With the retirement of the long serving Hunters in 2002, it is expected that the AFZ will acquire a new multi-role fighter. This will most likely be the MiG-29, if a good price can be obtained. Rumours of the acquisition of this type have been floating around for nearly 10 years.


National Insignia:
Current --- Historical

Aircraft Serial Numbering System(s):
Serial Numbering System Explained

Unit/Base Aircraft Code System(s):
Coding system not used.


Aircraft Designation System(s):

Current Aircraft Inventory:
Table of Current Service Aircraft

All-Time Aircraft Used List:
Alphabetical Order --- Chronological Order

Aircraft NOT USED List:
List of aircraft falsely reported to be in service


Main Headquarters:
Rhodesian Defence Headquarters, Milton Buildings, Salisbury (1930s-1970?)
Air HQ, Private Bag 7721, Causeway, Salisbury(Harare) (1970-1988+)
Air Headquarters, KG6, Borrowdale Road, Harare (198?-present)

Current Organisational Structure:
The Air Force comprises the Engineering Wing (responsible for aircraft maintenance, aeronautical inspection services, Mechanical, Electrical and Ground equipment services); the Administration Wing (which supports the running of the air force and includes the accounts section, the orderly room, stores, canteens, the recruiting of personnel, and the purchasing of aircraft and equipment); the Flying Wing (includes the Flying School for new pilots, the Parachute Training School, and aircrew personnel), and the Regimental Wing (includes 201, 203 and the now defunct 203 Squadrons which are responsible for guarding air force personel and installation). The Engineering Wing is also responsble for the School of Technical Training. The Flying Wing comprises eight Squadrons deployed at two main bases, with two more smaller bases also owned by the military but without resident Squadrons.

Current Order of Battle:
Table of Current Order of Battle

Historical Orders of Battle:
Table of Orders of Battle

All-Time Flying Units List:
1 (Rhodesian) Sqn, SRAF,  Communications Flight,  
1 Sqn,  2 Sqn,  3 Sqn,  4 Sqn,  5 Sqn,  6 Sqn,  7 Sqn,  8 Sqn

Air Bases

Current Air Bases:
The main air bases are Thornhill, near Gweru, and Manyame (formerly New Sarum) near Harare, plus smaller bases at Chegutu and Chiredzi/Buffalo Range.

All-Time Air Bases Used List:
Military Air Bases Listing

More Information


'Britain's Rebel Air Force - The War From The Air In Rhodesia 1965-1980' [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Roy Nesbit & Dudley Cowderoy
Published by Grub Street, 1998 ISBN: 1 902304 05 5
* Detailed history of Rhodesian Air Force operations in the guerrilla war.

'Rhodesian Air Force: A Brief History 1947-1980'
by W A Brent
Published by Freeworld Publications, Nov 1987 ISBN: 0 620 11805 9
* Concise history of the RhAF, with details of aircraft used, units, casualties etc.

'Aerospace Encyclopedia of World Air Forces' [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by David Willis
Published by Aerospace Publishing, 1999 ISBN: 1 86184 045 4
* Includes half-a-page entry on Zimbabwe.


World Air Power Journal Vol.29 Summer 1997 (Aerospace Publishing)

Take Off No.89 (Aerospace Publishing Ltd, 1990) - Sanctions busting feature

Aeromilitaria No.1 1989 (Air-Britain)

Scale Aircraft Modelling August 1982 (Alan W Hall (Publications) Ltd)

Air September, October, November 1989 & January 1990 (WLAG)


Rhodesian Air Force Photo Feature

Old Rhodesian Air Force Sods

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First Created: 13 January 2003 - Last Revised: 9 March 2003
Copyright � 2003 John Hayles.     e-mail: