The air force has been largely dependent on foreign assistance
since its inception in 1957, when four primary trainer aircraft
were delivered by Egypt. The British provided most aircraft and
training (some in Sudan and some in Britain) before 1967. After
that time, Soviet and Chinese advisers and technicians assumed
a supportive role, and their equipment became the foundation for
the Sudanese air force in the 1970s. These aircraft included Soviet-built
MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighter-bombers and Chinese-built J-5 (essentially
the same as the MiG-17) and J6 (practically identical to the Soviet
MiG-19) fighter-bombers. Seven Northrop F-5Es and two F-5Fs were
delivered by the United States beginning in 1981, but plans to
acquire additional F-5s never materialized because funds were
not available. Libya transferred five Soviet MiG-23s in 1987.
As of 1990, combat aircraft were organized into two fighterground
attack squadrons (one with the nine F-5s and the other with ten
J-5s), and one fighter squadron with J-6s. A second fighter squadron
of MiG-21s and MiG-23s was listed, although it was believed that
as of 1991 all of the MiGs were nonoperational with the exception
of one MiG-23. The combat squadrons were armed with Soviet Atoll
and American Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Sudan had no bomber
force. In 1986 it was reported that Libyan Tu-22 bombers had been
used against rebel positions in the south. Other bombing attacks
were carried out by transport planes (see table 13, Appendix).
The actual state of readiness of the combat arm of the air force
was uncertain, but it was believed that much of the equipment
was not in serviceable condition owing to a shortage of parts
and inadequate maintenance. Pilot proficiency training was limited
by fuel shortages that kept aircraft grounded. A small contingent
of Chinese technicians assisted with maintenance and pilot training.
A few training aircraft were also supplied by the Chinese. The
air force had been of little value in providing air cover for
ground operations in the south. The SPLA boasted that its shoulder-fired
surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) had brought down many aircraft,
claiming that several jet fighters had been destroyed, as well
as a number of helicopters and transports.
The transport arm of the air force was of central importance
in maintaining supply links with beleaguered southern garrisons.
The single transport squadron received six C-130H Hercules transports
from the United States in 1978 and 1979. Although one was damaged
by an SPLA missile in 1987, the five aircraft still operational
in 1991 provided airlift capability essential to government garrisons
in the south. The air force also had two Canadian-built DHC-5D
Buffalo transports and two Soviet An-12 heavy cargo transports,
as well as four smaller Casa C-212 Aviocars from Brazil.
The air force had a number of unarmed helicopters available for
ground support operations against the southern rebels, although
it was estimated that as many as 50 percent were not in flying
condition. The newest helicopter models were Frenchdesigned SA-330
Pumas assembled in Romania and Agusta/Bell 212s manufactured in
The two main bases of the air force were at Khartoum International
Airport and Wadi Sayyidna Air Base north of Omdurman. The air
force also had facilities at civilian airports, including those
at Atbarah, Al Fashir, Juba, Malakal, Al Ubayyid, Port Sudan,
and Wad Madani.
Data as of June 1991