Air Force of Zimbabwe
By Arnold ten Pas
The Air Force of Zimbabwe has changed several times over the last decades. In 1939 it started all as an Air Unit, later becoming the South Rhodesian Air Force. In the Southern Rhodesian Air Force, serials SR1 - SR139 were used. In 1953 Rhodesia and Nyasaland formed a federation and in 1954 the Air Force was named Rhodesian Air Force, shortly after that to be renamed to Royal Rhodesian Air Force. This meant that serials all started with RRAF during that period.
In 1963 the federation broke up and the Air Force was split up between Southern Rhodesia and the Northern Rhodesian Air Wing, later becoming Zambian Air Force. In march 1962 the serial presentation was changed into a three-digit system. On 11 november 1965 the Unilateral Declaration of Independence was signed and shortly after that the "Royal" was left out of the name of the Air Force. The serials changed again during that period, form a three-digit system to a randomized four-digit system. Shortly after Zimbabwe became independent the name was changed in to it's current name: Air Force of Zimbabwe.
Since 1998 Zimbabwe has been involved in a conflict between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and rebels from east DRC. Zimbabwe has supported DRC with troops and aircraft over the years. The Air Force of Zimbabwe of today uses two airbases, Gweru-Thornhill and Harare-Manyame.
After the Provost was withdrawn from use, 31 SF-260 were delivered to Zimbabwe as trainers. The SF-260W however is capable of carrying rockets. Advanced training is done on the Hawk Mk60's, which were delivered from 1982. Only fourteen Chengdu F-7 aircraft have been delivered in 1986, of which two are FT-7BZ trainers. Transport duties are performed by the Harare based C212's and BN-2A Islanders.
The mentioned randomized serialling was done in a special way: the squadron's number was used as a "moving digit" in the new serials. This meant that for example 3 squadron BN-2A 716 became 7136, and that BN-2A 717 became 7317