Somali Air Force

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Somali Air Force
Somali Airforce
Somali Air Force Emblem
Founded Pre-Independence:
Somali Aeronautical Corps (SAC), 1954-1960
Somali Air Force (SAF), 1960-1991, 2010s-present
Country Somalia
Branch Air Force
Part of Somali Armed Forces
Garrison/HQ Aden Adde International Airport
Baledogle Airfield
Nickname(s) SAF
Motto Somali: Isku Tiirsada!
English: Lean Together!
Engagements 1960-1964 Border Dispute
Ogaden War
1982 Ethiopian–Somali Border War
Shifta War
Chief of Armed forces President of Somalia
Ali Matan Hashi 1960-1978
The Roundel Roundel of the Somali Air Corps.svg
Finflash Fintail1.jpg

The Somali Air Force (SAF) (Somali: Ciidamada Cirka Soomaaliyeed, Arabic: القوات الجوية الصومالية‎‎, Al-Qūwāt al-Gawwīyä as-Ṣūmāl) is the air force of Somalia. The Somali Aeronautical Corps (SAC) was the name of the Somali Air Force during the pre-independence (1954–1960) period. After 1960, when Somalia gained independence, the name changed to the Somali Air Force. SAF principal organizer and the first Somalia pilot Ali Matan Hashi became the founder as well as the Chief of SAF.[1] The SAF at one point had the strongest airstrike capability in the Horn of Africa.[2] Following the outbreak of the civil war in the early 1990s, the air force disbanded. A reconstituted Somali Central Government later relaunched the SAF in the 2010s, with its headquarters being reopened in 2015.[3]


Following an agreement signed between the Somali and Italian governments in 1962, Somali airmen began a training regimen in Italy with the assistance of Italian technical staff and pilots.[4] Over the same period, fifty Somali cadets also commenced training in Soviet Union as jet aircraft pilots, later to be joined by more than two hundred of the nation’s elite NCOs and officers for general military training.[5] Most of these trained Somali military officials then returned to Somalia with the skills and knowledge that they had acquired abroad.

Asli Hassan Abade, a pioneer in the Somali Air Force.

The Somali Air Force was established before Somalia's independence, and was at first equipped with a small number of Western aircraft, including Beech 18s and C-47 Dakotas for transport tasks, a few Piaggio P.148 trainers, P-51D Mustangs used as fighters, and a pair of Bell H-13 Sioux helicopters.

On October 15, 1969, while paying a visit to the northern town of Las Anod, Somalia's then President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards. His assassination was quickly followed by a military coup d'état on October 21, 1969 (the day after his funeral), in which the Somali Army seized power without encountering armed opposition — essentially a bloodless takeover. The putsch was spearheaded by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, who at the time commanded the army.[6] Barre then proclaimed Somalia to be a socialist state, and rapid modernization programs soon followed suit. Numerous Somali airmen were subsequently sent to train abroad in countries such as the United States, Italy, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. After their training, many of these men went on to become the nation's leading instructors and fighter pilots. The Somali Air Force was at this time considered to be among the very best air forces on the continent.

Asli Hassan Abade was the first female pilot in the Somali Air Force. She had been training on single prop aircraft, and later earned a scholarship to study at the United States Air Force Academy.

Historical aircraft

On July 30, 1960, the following was the SAF's aircraft according to the administration of Air Defense in Mogadishu:[7]

The reference to P-51D Mustang is almost certainly in error, however. Some of these had been used by the Italian forces in Somalia in the 1950s, but it is very unlikely that any remained at independence, except possibly as scrap.

Ogaden War (1977–1978)

In July 1977, the Ogaden War broke out after Barre's government sought to incorporate the predominantly Somali-inhabited Ogaden region in Ethiopia into a Pan-Somali Greater Somalia. The Somali national army invaded the Ogaden and was successful at first, capturing most of the territory. The invasion reached an abrupt end with the Soviet Union's sudden shift of support to Ethiopia, followed by almost the entire communist world siding with the latter. The Soviets halted their previous supplies to Barre's regime and increased the distribution of aid, weapons, and training to Ethiopia's newly-communist Derg regime. They also brought in around 15,000 Cuban troops to assist the Ethiopian military. By 1978, the Somali troops were ultimately pushed out of the Ogaden.


With the fall of Siad Barre's regime in 1991 and the start of the civil war, funding for any government activity, including the SAF, ended immediately. The remains of the SAF were subsequently photographed in a derelict state at Mogadishu Airport in 1993 by U.S troops in Mogadishu.


In the early 2010s, the Somali Air Force was re-established by Somalia's central government. On October 29, 2012, 40 senior SAF and Somali National Army officers participated in the three-day Improving Understanding and Compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) workshop in Djibouti. Organized by AMISOM as part of the Somali Armed Forces' National Security Stabilization Plan (NSSP), an initiative designed to strengthen and professionalize the national security forces, the program offered a refresher course on the essentials of IHL. Officials from Somalia's Ministry of Defence also took part, with the Djibouti Chief of Defence Forces opening the workshop.[8]

In October 2014, Somali Air Force cadets underwent additional training in Turkey.[9]

On July 1 2015, the Somali Defence Minister Abdulkadir Sheikh Dini reopened the headquarter of the Somali Air Force. Located in Afisone, Mogadishu the move would facilitate the re-establishment of the air force after 25 years of civil war.[3]


The following was the Somali Air Force's major equipment in 1981:[10]

Type Description Country of Manufacture Inventory
Combat aircraft
MiG-17 Fresco Mach 0.9 fighter-bomber Soviet Union 9
MiG-21 Fishbed Mach 2.1 fighter-bomber with AA-2 Atoll anti-aircraft missiles Soviet Union 3
Shenyang F-6 Mach 1.3 fighter-bomber China 30
Il-28 Beagle Subsonic jet light bomber Soviet Union 3
SF-260W Single-engine light attack craft Italy 6
Hawker Hunter fighter, reconnaissance aircraft United Kingdom 8
Transport aircraft
An-2 Single-engine light transport Soviet Union 3
An-24/-26 Twin-turboprop transport Soviet Union 3
C-47 Twin-engine transport United States 3
C-45 Twin-engine light transport United States 1
G-222 Twin-turboprop transport Italy 4
Mi-4 Twelve-seat transport Soviet Union 4
Mi-8 Twin-engine medium transport Soviet Union 8
AB-204 General utility helicopter United States/Italy 1
AB-212 General utility helicopter United States/Italy 4
P.148 Single-engine, two-seat primary trainer Italy 6
Yak-11 Single-engine, twos-seat advanced trainer Soviet Union 20
MiG-15 UTI Two-seat advanced jet trainer Soviet Union 4
SM-1019 Single-engine training, observation, and light attack aircraft Italy 6

See also


  1. Luigi Pestalozza, The Somalian Revolution, (Éditions Afrique Asie Amérique latine: 1974), p.27.
  2. Tom Cooper, African MiGs: MiGs and Sukhois in service in Sub Saharan Africa, (SHI Publications: 2004), p.109.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Somalia Reopens Air Force Headquarter". Goobjoog News. 1 July 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Italy. Centro di documentazione, Italy. Servizio delle informazioni, Italy; documents and notes, Volume 14, (Centro di documentazione: 1965), p.460.
  5. John Gordon Stewart Drysdale, The Somali dispute, (Pall Mall Press: 1964)
  6. Moshe Y. Sachs, Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, Volume 2, (Worldmark Press: 1988), p.290.
  7. Historical Somali Aircraft
  8. "AMISOM offers IHL training to senior officials of the Somali National Forces". AMISOM. Retrieved 23 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Somali air force cadets in Turkey". Somalia Newsroom. 23 October 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Somalia: A Country Study - Army Ranks and Insignia