Since independence in 1971 Bangladesh has shown remarkable progress and resilience. In doing so it has built a strong and professional military capable of defending the nation from any aggressors.
The Bangladesh Air Force (BAF), tasked with the responsibility of defending Bangladesh’s airspace has a manpower strength of 24,000 personnel operating fighters, ground attack aircraft, trainers, transport aircraft and helicopters from Eastern and Western origins.
The Bangladesh Air Force was established on the 28th of September, 1971 and formally launched on the 8th of October, 1971 by the government. Initially the BAF was composed of around one hundred highly distinguished Bengali origin officers and airmen who served in the Pakistan Air Force prior to the independence war.
Initially the air force started out with 1 C-47 Daktoa, 1 de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter and a French Aerospatiale Aloutte III helicopter given by India during the independence war of 1971. Subsequently the USSR and China delivered a significant quantity of MiG-21 fighters, Mi-8 helicopters and F-6 fighters.
In 1991 a devastating cyclone struck the coastal areas of Bangladesh, which resulted in the loss or damage of almost 80 aircraft. While at the time it limited the Bangladesh Air Force’s operational abilities significantly the organisation recuperated from the setback and now maintains a high standard of operational readiness.
The BAF is based on the rank and structure of the Royal Air Force like many former British colonies. There are four wings at each operational air base including Operations, Flying, Maintenance and Administration. Each wing is commanded by a Group Captain reporting to the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of the base with rank of Air Commodore. Like many other professional air force’s the Bangladesh Air Force keeps its operational readiness at a high level to meet any potential security threats.
The branches of the Bangladesh Air Force are:
- Administration and Training
- Air Defence Weapon Controller
- Air Traffic Control
- General Duty (Navigator)
- General Duty (Pilot)
- 1 Squadron – The Pioneers
- 3 Squadron – Unicorns
- 5 Squadron – Defenders
- 8 Squadron – Fulcrums
- 9 Squadron – Scorpions
- 11 Squadron
- 15 Squadron
- 18 Squadron
- 21 Squadron – The Avengers
- 25 Squadron – Trendsetters
- 31 Squadron – Apollo
- 35 Squadron – Thundercat
- 101 Squadon – Special Flying Unit
The current Chief of Air Staff is Air Chief Marshal Abu Esrar, BBP, ndc, acsc.
Like its sister forces in the Bangladesh military, the BAF attaches great importance to training. Training on flight safety, aircraft maintenance, tactics are imparted to personnel through a dozen purpose built institutes, wings and academies.
The flying training regime consists of the basic flying course at BAF Academy with 120 hours on PT-6 trainers, followed by jet conversion course with 45 hours flying time on the K-8Ws/Czech-built L-39ZA, then successful pilots will go on to participate in the advance jet trainer course to fly the Yak-130.
Pilots who are unsuccessful in flying fighter aircraft are usually retained to fly transport or helicopters. Such pilots also undergo on Bell 206L-II helicopters for 45 hours in six months. After successfully concluding the helicopter training pilots will go on to fly Bell 212 or Mi-17 helicopters.
BAF Headquarters is located in Dhaka Cantonment. There are numerous bases set up all over the country. BAF Base Bangabandhu/Khademul Bashar Dhaka, BAF Base Zahurul Haque Chittagong and BAF Base Matiur Rahman Jessore are named after National as well as Air Force heroes. Other major bases are BAF Base Cox’s Bazar, BAF Base Kurmitola Dhaka and BAF Base Pahar Kanchanpur Tangail. There are also several independent units and detachments in places like Moulavibazar Radar Unit (MRU), Bogra Radar Unit (BRU), No. 74 Squadron Bangladesh Air Force at Chittagong & No.71 Sqadron Bangladesh Air Force at Dhaka & Shamshernagar (Sylhet). Recently a new Forward Operations Base (FOB) at Coxs Bazar has been established in 2011.
Bangladesh Air Force Academy is the commissioned officer training academy for all branches of Bangladesh Air Force. It is located at BAF Base Matiur Rahman in Jessore.
Weapons & Equipment
The Bangladesh Air Force operates a mixed bag of Chinese, Russian, Czech and US built aircraft including MiG-29 air superiority fighters, F-7BGF-7BG1//F-7MB interceptors, Yak-130 light attack aircraft/advanced jet trainers, L-39ZA advanced jet trainers, K-8W basic/intermediate jet trainers, PT-6 primary flying trainers, C-130 long range transport aircraft, An-32 medium range transport aircraft, Let-410 transport trainers, Mil Mi-17, AW139, Bell 206 and Bell 212 helicopters.
The ground based air defence command composed of personnel from the Army and Air Force also operate numerous surface-to-air-missiles, radar, surveillance and network centric warfare equipment. FM-90B and LY-80 MR-SAM have been inducted in recent times to shore up air defences.