Botswana Defence Force
By Arnold ten Pas
The current borders of Botswana were established in 1885, after the British government declared Bechuanaland (as it was known) a protectorate. In 1962 Seretse Khama formed the Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP) and with independence in 1966 he became the first president. Following his death in 1980, Khama was succeeded as president by his vice-president, Dr Quett Ketumile Masire, a founder of the BDP. The national assembly renewed Masire's presidency in 1984 and again in 1989. In the general election of 1994 -won by the BDP- for the first time a strong opposition party emerged: the Botswana National Front. Unrest and rioting emerged in the mid-1990s over unemployment and other social ills. President Masire retired in 1998 and Festus Mogae was inaugurated in his place. Mogae brought Lt-Gen Seretse Ian Khama -commander of the Botswana Defence Force- into cabinet and later promoted him to vice-president. Divisions within the opposition parties enabled the ruling BDP to win a decisive victory in the 1999 general election, with Mogae being re-elected to the presidency by the national assembly.
The Botswana Defence Force Air Wing was formed in 1977 as a result of rising tension in the area. All squadrons are designated with a “Z”, which has no meaning but is just used as a designation for “squadron”. Main base is Molepolole which was built mostly by foreign contractors from 1992 and was finished round 1996. Other bases used are the International Airport at Gaborone and Francistown.
The backbone of the Air Wing is formed by ex-Canadian CF-116s which are locally designated as CF-5. Thirteen ex-Canadian CF-116s (ten single-seaters and three trainers) were ordered in 1996 to replace the Strikemasters, with another three single-seaters and two double-seaters delivered in 2000. For transport the Air Wing uses BN-2A/B, C212, CN235 and C-130Bs. Latest addition to the transport-fleet was an ex-AMARC C-130B to complement the two existing aircraft.
In 2000, three additional AS350BA helicopters were bought for Z21, bringing the total to eight. The single Italian built AB412 has been replaced by an Bell 412EP in VIP-configuration. Z21 has a total of six Bell 412s of which the Bell412EP is being used by the VIP-Flight. Flying training is done on seven PC-7s. The VIP flight uses besides the Bell412 a Gulfstream and a Be200. In 1993 nine ex US Army/AMARC O-2As were delivered for use in the battle against poaching.
In 2011, Botswana ordered five PC-7 MkIIs with Pilatus aircraft. The aircraft will replace the aging fleet of seven PC-7s currently I service with Z7, the training unit of the Botswana Defence Force.