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Botswana Defence Force - Air Wing

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                                 Last update 04-10-2019


  Z28 Maparangwane 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

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.

Seleka Springs, a company owned by the President's brother, acted as the agent for the purchase; their commission

was not disclosed to the public.

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 an delivered the same year (it seems redesignated CF-5 DLIR- or BF-5 would apreciate confirmation).

HUD was installed before delivery.

A new base was also needed to host the fighters and works started at
Molepole, called Maparangwane AB.
The first 5 Canadair CF-5A arrived
at Gaborone in March 1996 on board 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 operating from Maparangwane AB, 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.

Local pilots were also trained for at least two years by Canadian pilots.

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.

Canadair CF-5D participated with US troops to the joint miöitary excercise known as Southern Acord 12, between August 1st and 17th 2012 at the Molepole/Thebephatshwa Air Base.

Four pilots and two instructors received a first refresher training course by Tactical Air Support (TacAir) starting on September
2013 at Reno-Stead Airport (USA) on Canadair NF-5B N8910, lasting 5 weeks. Each pilot received 26 hours of ground school and completed nine training flights covering bombs and weapons delivery, tactical formation, basic fighter manoeuvering and fighter squadron management techniques. The second course started end of February 2014.

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.

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.

   Two Canadair CF-5A (serials
serial OJ 10, OJ 19) and 1 CF-5D (serial OJ239)      seen on Defence Day air display on  05-04-15.

   Photo: Johnatan Maverick

On October 2017 a leaked military report informed about the problematic of replacing the existing Canadair BF-5s with a new fighter, in view on non-existing external threat.
The Air Force was tasked to research on the viability of the present aircrafts and report to the command of the Defence Forces. The report advices not to purchase new equipment but to change to the BF-5E (Northrop F-5E?) variant as the aircrafts were sustainable and relatively little expensive to maintain.
It also advised to select a new aircraft to operate intermediate training between the present Pilatus PC-7 and the Freedom Fighters. Pilots had difficulty in converting directly from the Pilatus to the Canadair aircrafts. Only five pilots, of the eleven qualified to fly the fighter, were operational and it would have taken quite a long time to reach the desired number (21), also due to the very low number (3) of hours flown each month.
At that time Squadron Z28 was not combat ready and was regarded as a training unit. The Northrop F-5 could meet the requirements of the Air Force
for a further 15 years without needing to buy a completely new type fleet at a very high price.

The report was ignored by the President who started as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces talks with the Koreans and Swedes.

On 27-04-18 on Canadair CF-5 (probably Canadair CF-5A) crashed while practising to participate
for the next-day BDF Day Celebrations. The pilot was killed.

  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.