Most African countries do not have combat aircraft forces, but there are still rich countries in the Black Continent willing to invest in this expensive force
Militarywatchmagazine has identified five of Africa’s most formidable air forces.
The first is the Algerian air force, one of the countries with the largest fleet in Africa. The Algerian Air Force is equipped with modern weapons and equipment and has a high level of personnel training, in a way that no other air force on the continent can. The backbone of the squadron consists of about 45 Su-30MKA heavy fighters – an advanced 4+ generation version of the Su-30 family. Su-30MKA is equipped with powerful sensors, impressive flight performance and the ability to hit any target with a diverse arsenal.
The Su-30 fighters are supported by four small tactical squadrons, including MiG-29S fighters. The aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art weapons including R-27ER and R-77 long-range air-to-air missiles, in which the Su-30 can deploy Kh-31 Mach 3 cruise missiles.
Algeria also deploys the largest squadron of dedicated attack fighters in Africa, with 36 Su-24Ms. In the role of air superiority, Algeria also deploys a fleet of 15 MiG-25PDS Foxbat interceptors, considered the most modern variant, with advanced fourth-generation sensors, avionics aviation and electronic warfare systems. The MiG-25 is the heaviest combat jet in Africa and the fastest in the world, and is capable of operating at extreme altitudes and at Mach 3.2 speeds.
The most notable weakness of the Algerian air force is the lack of airborne early warning and control aircraft. To improve, it can buy KJ-500 or some similar modern vehicle. Combined with a formidable fleet of helicopters and the densest and most modern air defense network on the continent, the Algerian Air Force is a powerful force in Africa.
The second is the Egyptian Air Force, the largest in Africa to date. Egypt has invested heavily in modernizing its armed forces since a new military government came to power in 2013, although in quality it still lags some of its competitors. The Egyptian Air Force currently has about 18 fighter squadrons, although only one is equipped with modern long-range air-to-air missiles, including recently ordered MiG-29M jets.
There are nine squadrons including F-16 Fighting Falcons A and C. Due to US sanctions, Egypt’s F-16 lacks modern equipment such as air-to-air missiles. They have to depend on obsolete AIM-7 Sparrow missiles with very limited range. The other seven squadrons, including MiG-21 and J-7 fighters, which upgraded to third-generation standards, but are still very outdated by today’s standards.
Aside from the MiG-29M, Egypt’s most capable fighters are 17 Mirage 2000s and 24 Rafales. Although the Rafale has powerful sensors, it is not equipped with modern Meteor or SCALP missiles, which severely limits the aircraft’s performance. Egypt, on the other hand, relies on the Mirage 5 from the 1960s, for the air-to-ground role. Egypt’s air capabilities are expected to improve dramatically over the next decade, with the F-16 being replaced by modern light or medium jets such as the JF-17 Block 3 or the MiG-35.
Egypt has also ordered a squadron of Su-35s, along with an advanced air defense network, including the S-300V4 system and a squadron of attack helicopters including the AH-64 Apache and Ka-52 Alligator. Egypt is also the only country in Africa to deploy a modern airborne early warning and control aircraft E-2 Hawkeye.