Uganda People's Defence Force Air Forces
Founded1964 (Uganda's first air force)
2005 (current air force)
Country Uganda
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size1200 personnel [1]
Part ofUganda People's Defence Force
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Yoweri Museveni
Chief of Air StaffColonel Emmanuel Kwihangana
Fin flash
Aircraft flown
FighterMiG-21, Su-30
HelicopterBell 206, Bell UH-1, Mil Mi-17, Bell Model 214ST
Attack helicopterMil Mi-24
TrainerL-39 Albatross, SF.260
TransportCessna 208 Caravan

Uganda People's Defence Force Air Force, more commonly known as Ugandan Air Force, is the branch of the Uganda People's Defence Force that deals with the air warfare. Its headquarters is located at Entebbe, Uganda. The current air force commander is Charles Lutaaya,[2] while Emmanuel Kwihangana serves as chief of air staff.[3]


Uganda Army Air Force

The Ugandan Air Force traces its history to 1964, when the country's first air force was established with Israeli aid. This military branch was officially called "Uganda Army Air Force" (UAAF).[4] Its first aircraft was of Israeli origin, and its initial pilots trained in Israel. As Uganda's government forged closer links with the Eastern Bloc, the UAAF began to acquire more aircraft as well as support in training from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Libya. Israeli aid initially continued as well.[5] After Idi Amin seized power during the 1971 Ugandan coup d'état, the Uganda Army, including its air force, were further expanded. At the same time, corruption and infighting increased, while foreign aid began to decline, reducing the UAAF's ability to operate.[6][7]

Much of the UAAF was destroyed in Operation Entebbe in 1976, although it was subsequently rebuilt with mainly Libyan and Soviet support.[8][9][7]

By late 1978, the UAAF was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Gore[10] and consisted of several dozen MiG-21MFs, MiG-21UMs, MiG-17s,[11] and MiG-15UTIs. Some of the available aircraft were not combat-ready, however, and were abandoned during the Uganda–Tanzania War without seeing action.[12] The lack of spare parts especially affected the Mig-15s and MiG-17s.[13] The UAAF was split into three fighter squadrons.[13] However the force was effectively wiped out during the 1978/1979 air campaign of the Uganda–Tanzania War. Its pilots and technicians scattered, many fleeing abroad;[14][15] its aircraft were lost or taken by the Tanzanians.[16][17]

Air forces from 1979

After Idi Amin’s overthrow and the UAAF's destruction during the Uganda-Tanzania War, there were repeated attempts by the next Ugandan governments to organize a new air force. The new national military, generally known as Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), acquired a few helicopters and organized a small air wing. A further restoration remained impossible due to lack of funding as well as renewed internal conflict, as the country plunged into a civil war known as Ugandan Bush War.[18]

The Bush War was won by the rebel National Resistance Movement (NRM) in 1986, resulting in the organization of yet another national military. The NRM government began rebuilding the air force, but the "Ugandan People's Defence Air Force" remained extremely small until the 1990s, counting just 100 personnel by 1994.[19]

Modern air force

The modern air force, in its current form, was established in 2005 by the Defence forces Act, section (3) sub- section (2) with mission of the country's comprehensive Defence policy mainly in the threat analysis despite being a landlocked country.[20] It was formed as a statutory institute and service in the arms of the Uganda Defence Forces.[21]

In 2011, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, the central bank governor, caused large volatility in the Ugandan shilling when he told the Financial Times that President Museveni had ignored technical advice against using Uganda's small foreign exchange reserves to buy new Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft.[22]

In June 2022, Uganda took delivery of at least three Mi-28N Havoc attack helicopters from Russia.[23]

Mission of the UPDF Air Force

The UPDF Air Force's mission is to defend the country's air space, and provide support to the army's operations. Other missions include:[4][24]

Base and training facilities

The Ugandan Air Force has their training facilities located at Gulu Air Base including the equipment and additional trainer aircraft all located at Gulu, it also has it training center located there established since 2011, a five-year training programs.[25] The Gulu airport is controlled by the Air wing of the Uganda People Defence Forces.[26] The Gulu airport is at Gulu District.

Air base upgrading

As of 14 November 2019, the President of Uganda has set up a committee to upgrade the Gulu Airport to international standards; the construction will determine the features and installations of the aircraft hangars, access routes, vehicles water treatment systems, ground markings, parking areas for both aircraft and control towers, according to the President.[27][28]

As of 28 March to 31 March 2020, six training combat aircraft were upgraded by the Ukraine's state owned defence conglomerate UkrOboronProm (UOP) sending a team of 14 pilots, designer and engineer from the Odesa Aviation Plant for the operations including some available repairs. The operations was carried out in Gulu Air Base after an agreement since 2018, some of the jet amongst are Ugandan Aero L-39 Albatros; a training and light attack jet, Ugandan L-39ZA which 8 of them were overhauled, and modernized and the AI-25TL turbofan was all overhauled and upgraded into AI-25TLSh with a standard of 10% trust, improved control and modernized radio including navigation.[29]

During the passing out ceremony of the 2020 graduation set in Gulu airport, the President of Uganda had promised to start the construction of 30,000 housing units countrywide to solve the UPDF housing shortage in the country.[27]

Service contract

In March 2022, the UPDF Air Force signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Government of India, for the latter to maintain and service Uganda's Russian-made multirole Su-30MK2 fighter jets. The work will be carried out by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), based in Bengaluru, India. HAL is fully owned by the Indian government. The agreement was signed at the Embassy of India to Uganda, in Uganda's capital city, Kampala.[30]

Other affiliation

The UPDAF commended the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act signed by President Barack Obama, leading to cooperation between the Ugandan People Defence Force, Ugandan People's Defence Air Force, and Air Forces Africa for establishing good partnerships and military engagement.[31] In 2018 the UPDAF promoted 107 soldiers to commissioned and higher ranks.[32]

Air force commanders

Uganda Army Air Force

UNLA air wing

UPDF Air Force


Bell 206B JetRanger II of the Uganda Air Force
Uganda People's Defence Force Air Wing Mil Mi-24V
Uganda People's Defence Force Air Wing Sukhoi Su-30MK2

Current inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat aircraft
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Soviet Union fighter 5[38]
Sukhoi Su-30 Russia multirole 6[38] 6 aircraft ordered. One destroyed in 2020.[39]
Cessna 208 Caravan United States utility 2[38]
Bell UH-1 Iroquois United States utility UH-1H 5[38]
Bell 206 JetRanger United States utility 5[38]
Mil Mi-17 Russia utility 10[38]
Mil Mi-24 Soviet Union attack 6[38]
Mil Mi-28 Russia attack 2[40][38] 1 unit crashed in 2024.[41]
Trainer Aircraft
Aero L-39 Albatros Czechoslovakia jet trainer L-39ZA 12[38]
SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 Italy trainer 4[38]



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  2. ^ a b c Nakiyimba, Gloria (11 January 2017). "President Museveni reshuffles top military posts in Uganda, promoting Son to Senior Advisor". Tuck Magazine. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  3. ^ "Air force gets new Chief of Staff". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 2020-08-21.
  4. ^ a b "Ministry Of Defense and Veteran Affairs". Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  5. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, pp. 8–10.
  6. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, pp. 10–18.
  7. ^ a b Brzoska & Pearson 1994, p. 203.
  8. ^ "1976: Israelis rescue Entebbe hostages". BBC News. British Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 2019-08-12.
  9. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 22.
  10. ^ a b Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 50.
  11. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 18.
  12. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 19.
  13. ^ a b Seftel 2010, p. 227.
  14. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 32, 36.
  15. ^ Honey, Martha (14 April 1979). "The Fall of Idi Amin: Man on the Run". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-11-05.
  16. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 123.
  17. ^ Cooper 2004, p. 142.
  18. ^ a b Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 42.
  19. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 52.
  20. ^ "Uganda Air Force".
  21. ^ "Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces – The Mighty UPDF". Retrieved 2020-08-21.
  22. ^ Butagira, Tabu; Ssebuyira, Martin (13 July 2011). "New Russian-built jet fighters arrive". The Monitor. Kampala. Archived from the original on 2017-09-30. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  23. ^ "Uganda acquiring Mi-28N Havoc attack helicopter from Russia * Military Africa". Military Africa. 2022-06-17. Retrieved 2022-06-18.
  24. ^ "Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces - The Mighty UPDF". Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  25. ^ "Ugandan Air Force graduates new pilots". defenceWeb. 2019-11-08. Retrieved 2020-08-21.
  26. ^ Independent, The (2019-11-06). "UPDF passes out 18 combat aircraftc pilots in Gulu". The Independent Uganda. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  27. ^ a b By, Admin (21 November 2020). "Museveni passes jet fighter pilot". Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  28. ^ "Uganda to upgrade Gulu airport to meet international standards". Construction Review Online. 2019-11-14. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  29. ^ "Ukrainians wrap up Ugandan aircraft upgrade". Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  30. ^ Kenneth Kazibwe (4 March 2022). "India signs deal to maintain Uganda's fighter jets". Nile Post Uganda. Kampala, Uganda. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  31. ^ "17th Air Force engages with Ugandan Air Force leaders". U.S. Air Forces in Europe & Air Forces Africa. Retrieved 2020-08-21.
  32. ^ "100 air force soldiers promoted". Retrieved 2020-08-21.
  33. ^ a b c d Muhumuza, Rodney (15 July 2007). "What I Know: Former Air Force Commander Tells His Life Under Amin". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 2020-03-01.
  34. ^ "Magembe book tells how Amin was declared 'Life President of Uganda'". The Observer. 10 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  35. ^ "Lt Col Gore appointed air force base commandant". Translations on Sub-Saharan Africa. No. 1863. United States Joint Publications Research Service. 1977.
  36. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 36.
  37. ^ Kakaire, Sulaiman (29 May 2013). "New Army Big Wigs: Who Are They?". The Observer (Uganda). Retrieved 2015-03-10.
  38. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Embraer, In association with. "2024 World Air Forces directory". Flight Global. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  39. ^ "India to repair Uganda's Su-30 fighter jets - AeroTime". 2022-03-22. Retrieved 2023-01-24.
  40. ^ "Uganda acquiring Mi-28N Havoc attack helicopter from Russia * Military Africa". Military Africa. 2022-06-17. Retrieved 2022-06-18.
  41. ^ ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)

Works cited