Zambia Air Force
Roundel of Zambia.svg
Zambian Air Force roundel
Founded1964; 59 years ago (1964)
Country Zambia
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Part ofZambian Defence Force
Motto(s)"Defend and Support"
Lieutenant General Colin Barry [1]
Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha
Fin flash
Fin Flash of Zambia.svg
Aircraft flown
FighterHongdu L-15, Shenyang J-6
HelicopterMil Mi-17, Bell 205, Bell 206
TrainerAermacchi SF.260, Hongdu K-8, Hongdu L-15, FT-6, Aermacchi MB-326
TransportHarbin Y-12, Xian MA60, Alenia C-27J Spartan

The Zambian Air Force (ZAF) is the air force of Zambia and the air operations element of the Zambian Defence Force. Following the creation of the Republic of Zambia in 1964, the former Northern Rhodesia Air Force was renamed as the Zambian Air Force.

The primary missions of the Air Force are to defend Zambia's borders and protect its airspace. In addition, it provides various forms of air support to other government departments. It also flies reconnaissance, trooping and transport missions for the police and airlifts medical supplies and personnel to inaccessible areas. Finally, the organisation provides emergency transport whenever needed.[citation needed]


Prior to the demise of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, military air operations in the then British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia were provided by the Royal Air Force, and then the Royal Rhodesian Air Force.

The Northern Rhodesia Air Force was established on 1 March 1964, primarily operating in a liaison and transport role. It consisted of two squadrons:[2]

On 24 October 1964, on the date of the establishment of the independent Republic of Zambia, the name of the Northern Rhodesia Air Force was subsequently changed to Zambian Air Force. The early years of the ZAF saw continued close cooperation with the United Kingdom as a supplier of aircraft, and recruiting British officers still was a standard practice. Thanks to deliveries of six de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunks and other equipment, the Flying Training School was formed. These were followed by five DHC-4A Caribous. Starting in 1966, moving away from the British became a priority, and the ZAF started favouring the purchase of Italian and Yugoslavian aircraft. In this period, deliveries of Agusta-Bell AB.205s allowed for the formation of the ZAF's first helicopter squadron. Other aircraft acquired from Italy included SIAI-Marchetti SF.260s and Aermacchi MB-326GB light attack aircraft. Soko J-21 Jastrebs and Soko G-2 Galebs were delivered by Yugoslavia.[2]

In the late 1970s, relations with China increased in importance. In this period, 12 Shenyang F-5s and FT-5s were delivered, as well as 12 Shenyang F-6s. In September 1980, the USSR started the deliveries of at least 16 MiG-21bis fighters and two MiG-21UM trainers.[3]


Few details are available on force deployment, but combat elements are understood to be located at Lusaka (K-8), Mbala (F-6) and Mumbwa (MiG-21), with the small fleet of transport aircraft and utility helicopters also reportedly stationed at Lusaka.[4] Zambia Air Force's JL-10 are equipped with PESA fire control radar along with wingtip rails for PL-5 air-to-air missiles. A 23mm gun pod can be mounted on the centreline. Four hardpoints allow for various ordnance, including 250 and 500kg bombs, HF-18 57mm rocket pods, LS-6 guided bombs or the TL-10/YJ-9E air-to-surface missile.[5]

Current inventory

Zambian Air Force MA60
Zambian Air Force MA60
Zambian Air Force Harbin Y-12
Zambian Air Force Harbin Y-12
Zambian Air Force Hongdu K-8
Zambian Air Force Hongdu K-8
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Hongdu JL-10 China light attack / LIFT L-15Z 6[6][5][7]
Shenyang J-6 China fighter F-6A 10 2 FT-6’s provide conversion training[6]
Alenia C-27J Italy transport 2[6]
Beechcraft 1900 United States transport 1[6]
Cessna 208 United States transport 2[6]
Xian MA60 China transport 1[6]
Harbin Y-12 China transport 7[6]
Gulfstream G650 United States VIP transport 1[8]
Bell 205 United States utility 12[6]
Bell 206 United States utility 2[6]
Bell 212 United States utility 1[6]
Mil Mi-17 Russia utility Mi-171 5[6]
Harbin Z-9 China utility 7[6]
Trainer Aircraft
Hongdu JL-8 China jet trainer K-8 16[6]
Saab Safari Sweden trainer MFI-15 14[6]
SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 Italy trainer 12[6]
Elbit Hermes 450 Israel 3[9]

Air defence systems

Model Origin Type Variant Number Notes
Rapier United Kingdom Surface-to-air missile
S-125 Soviet Union Surface-to-air missile
M-1939 Soviet Union Anti-aircraft gun
ZPU-4 Soviet Union Anti-aircraft gun
ZU-23-2 Soviet Union Anti-aircraft gun


Commands are typically under the leadership of an Air Officer Commanding (AOC) who holds a rank of Brigadier General.


Flying units

Training units



Rank Name Period
Group Captain John Edward Kilduff 1964 - 1972
Lieutenant General Peter Dingiswayo Zuze 1972 - 1976
Major General Christopher Kabwe 1976 - 1980
Lieutenant General Hannania Lungu 1980 - 1990
Lieutenant General Herbert Simutowe 1990 - 1991
Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha[12] 1991 - 1997
Lieutenant General Sande Kayumba 1997 - 2001
Lieutenant General Christopher Singogo[13] 2001 - 2006
Lieutenant General Samuel Mapala[13][14] 2006 - 2010
Lieutenant General Andrew Sakala[14][15] 2010 - 2011
Lieutenant General Eric Mwaba Chimese[16] 2011 - 2018
Lieutenant General David Muma[1] 2018 - 2021
Lieutenant General Colin Barry[17] 2021 -



  1. ^ a b "Pres. Lungu Replaces Chimese as ZAF Commander". Zambia Online.
  2. ^ a b Cooper et al. 2011, p. 199
  3. ^ Cooper et al. 2011, pp. 199–200
  4. ^ "Defense & Security Intelligence & Analysis: IHS Jane's - IHS".
  5. ^ a b Donald, David. "China's L-15 Jet Displayed by Zambia In South Africa". Aviation International News. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "World Air Forces 2023". Flightglobal Insight. 2023. Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  7. ^ DEPT, ZAF ICT. "Past to Present". Zambia Air Force | ZAF. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  8. ^ "Zambia : The Decision to Purchase the Expensive Gulf-Stream G650 instead of ATR 72 was reckless and irresponsible". 9 January 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  9. ^ "Zambian military parades new weapons * Military Africa". Military Africa. 29 June 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Welcome to What We do Page". Zambia Air Force. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "About Zambia Air Force". Zambia Air Force. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  12. ^ "Zambia: Chiluba Sacks Vice President In Major Cabinet Reshuffle". 2 December 1997. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  13. ^ a b "People's Daily Online -- Zambian president fires air force commander".
  14. ^ a b "Zambia : President Banda retires top defense Chiefs(corrected)". 7 April 2010.
  15. ^ "ZRA boss suspended". Archived from the original on 25 December 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  16. ^ "President Sata Suspends Two Contracts". Truly Zambian. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012.
  17. ^ zamobserver (30 August 2021). "I have a lot to offer to the air force - ZAF Commander Lt Gen Colin Barry". The Zambian Observer. Retrieved 29 January 2022.