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Botswana Defence Force - Air Wing

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                                 Last update 16-06-2015

This small African country operated BAC Strikemaster for training and ground support when it decided to acquire
fighters in 1995,
there was opposition in the country (which has only 1.5 million inhabitants and a high degree of
the population living below poverty level) due to the high cost of acquisition and operation.
he government proceeded anyhow with the search of a suitable aircraft, found in the form of the Canadair CF-5.

On 14-06-96 it was announced that an order valued at USD 50m was placed through Bristol Aerospace for 10

Canadair CF-5A and 3 Canadair CF-5D, upgraded in Canada but surplus to Canadian Air Force requirement. These

aircrafts were very advanced fighters, their instrumentation being comparable to that on Canadian Boeing A/F18A, 

as they were foreseen as advanced pilots trainer before conversion to the latter aircraft. New radios were installed

and the IFF system was modified United States government approval, due to the re-export restrictions placed on

aircraft with USA origins, had to be sought before the contract was signed, approval granted by the USA Congress

on April 24th, 1996.

A new base was also needed to host the fighters and works started at
Molepole, called Thebephatshwa AB.
The first 5 Canadair CF-5A arrived
at Gaborone in March 1996 on board of Antonov An-124 transport aircrafts.
Three CF-5D followed in September 1997, the final 5 CF-5A arriving during October 1997.

The aircrafts were attached to the Z28 Squadron, formerly operating BAC Strikemaster.

A short training in the USA on the Northrop T-38A assured advanded training for Strikemaster pilots, practically all
Botswana citizens, while
an aircraft and engine maintenance basis was also built at Gaborone International Airport.

Unfortunately CF-5A OJ 2 was damaged/written-of in March 97, a few days after arrival, on landing at Gaborone,
while practising for an air-show.

A Defence Industrial Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding between Botswana and Canada was concluded
on November 15th, 1999.
Among the support equipment to be provided to Botswana were surplus CF-5 spares
and accessories, including 20 mm aircraft cannons.

Three additional single-seaters Canadair CF-5A and two double-seaters Canadair CF-5D were bought and
delivered in 2000, approval had already been granted by the USA Congress on November 7th, 1997.

Canadair CF-5A OJ 1 armed with rocket launchers - Squadron Z28 - Gaborone October 2002
Photo: Chris Knott/Collection Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

             Canadair CF-5D OJ25 armed with rocket launchers - Squadron Z28 - Gaborone October 2002
                   Photo: Chris Knott/Collection Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Bristol Aircraft Corporation is still taking care locally of the aircrafts. A team spent the majority of 2004 and early
2005 in Botswana successfully completing Periodic Inspections (PI) on three aircrafts, while another contract was
signed for the PI inspections for 3 additional CF-5s, starting November 27th, 2005.

There were 16 aircrafts in service in 2004 according to an US source.

Ascertained armament are rocket launchers and bombs. Botswana was interested in obtaining AIM-9 Sidewinders
to counter Zimbabwan MiG-21s, but there is no trace of having been supplied.

Freedom Fighters were grounded by at least late 2011 due to lack of serviceable ejector seats before three two-seaters participated at Gaborone Airport
to the Botswana Defence Day in-flight display on 26-04-14; one single-seater was on show on the tarmac.
Unofficial sources mention that there are negotions for the acquisition of 8 KAI FA-50/T-50 valued at USD 450m or 12 Saab J-39C/D  Gripen. A Korean military delegation visited Botswana between 23-28 November 2013 to discuss the deal. Additional contacs were with aircraft manufacturers in China, USA, Russia.

BASES                                                UNITS


Z28 Thebephatshwa AB - Molepole

  A flight of two or three aircrafts of one of the two Squadrons is
  maintained continously on alarm to defend the Botswanian sky.


  Badge not available

  Exact delivery date CF-5A OJ2, OJ6, OJ-7, OJ8, OJ9, OJ10, OJ11,
  OJ12, OJ13; CF-5D OJ22, OJ24, OJ25
  Construction number/Canadian serial CF-5A OJ11, OJ12, 0J13; CF-5D OJ24, OJ25
  Any additional information/corrections.