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African MiGs - Part 1 PDF Print E-mail
Contributed by Tom Cooper   
Feb 09, 2008 at 05:50 PM
Summary about all African users of MiG and Sukhoi aircraft since 1960. Part 1 covers Angola, Burkina Faso, DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, and Eritrea.
Little is known about MiGs and Sukhois in service with different African air forces. Except MiGs in Algeria, Egypt, or Libya (which are described in a separate gallery, to be found in the "North and Western Africa Data-base"), for example, standard reference publications mention only the numbers of MiGs operated by different African countries: pictures are either extremely rare, or not available.

The following series of artworks is based on what little evidence about MiG-17s and MiG-21s in service with different smaller African air forces since the 1960s is available, with emphasis on unusual camouflage patterns, national markings, serials, and special unit insignia. Part 1 will cover the air forces of Angola, Burkina Faso, Congo-Brazzaville, and Eritrea.

Note that this article formed the basis for the book "African MiGs", which is a delivering the full story of 18 Sub-Saharan air forces that flew or still fly MiGs, and specially detailing their combat operations. Details about "African MiGs" can be found

Any additional informations to this topic, including eventual corrections, would be most welcome.


Angola, 1978: in 1975 the Cubans have sent eight MiG-17s and one MiG-15UTI to Angola. These aircraft were to become the nucleus of the future Forca Aerea Popular de Angola - Defesa Anti-Aviones (FAPA-DAA), and were used extensively during the fighting in northern and central Angola, 1975-1980. Note that all the MiG-17s supplied to Angola were afterburner-less MiG-17s, not MiG-17Fs. The camouflage colors consist of either chocolate brown or (bleeched) black on sand.

Luanda, Angola, late 1970s: both the MiG-21MF C41 above, and the C48 bellow, were part of the initial batch of 12 examples delivered to Angola from Cuba. These aircraft wore no national markings, but only their board numbers, although it is possible that the dark strips of the rudder were used for identification. Both were a part of the FAR squadron commanded by Comandante Benigno Cortes, deployed to Luanda in January 1976, aboard several Soviet An-22 transports, and both were damaged in different landing incidents, the C48 having the landing gear torn off after overshooting the runway, and actually landing on the four R-13 missiles it carried bellow the wings. Another example from this - or the follow-up batch, again including 12 fighters - the C54, was shot down by UNITA, sometimes in 1986, and only one survivor is known - C53 - left in decaying condition in a forgotten corner of the Luanda airfield.

Menongue, Angola, 1983: A total of over 80 MiG-21MFs were purchased for the FAPA-DAA between 1975 and 1989, and usually delivered via Cuba. Most of them were also flown by Cuban pilots: losses during the fighting against UNITA and South Africa were heavy - especially after the CIA started supplying FIM-92A Stinger MANPADS to UNITA, in 1986. Two Angolan MiG-21s were confirmed as shot down in air combats with South African Mirage F.1s: one each in 1981 and 1982. Another is known to have been damaged, and it is possible that another was shot down during one of clandestine SAAF operations in Angola, in 1985. This example seems to have seen better times before as well: note that the ruder and the plating around the engine belong to another aircraft: obviously they were added to C326 in order to replace damaged parts.

Luanda, Angola, 1983; sometimes in 1982 or 1982 FAPA-DAA acquired a batch of between ten and 12 Su-20Ms, with which the 15th FS was organized. The unit suffered a swift loss of at least six aircraft – most lost in mishaps - by 1985, and three more by 1988, and had only two mounts left when reinforced by a new batch of Su-22M-4Ks, in 1989.

Namibia, 1989: While the Cubans were declaring their "victory" in the "Border War" against South Africa, some Angolans were certainly not sharing their feelings: a disaffected FAPA-DAA pilot flew this MiG-21bis to Namibia, in 1989. The plane overshoot on the landing, but was recovered and can now be seen at the SAAF Museum.

Luanda IAP, Angola, 1989: This MiG-21bis, probably from the final batch supplied to Angola, was cannibalized for spares and then left to rust at the military side of the Luanda airport in the late 1980s.

Angola, 1989: Contrary to what was previously believed, the first MiG-23MLs were delivered to Angola already in 1984. In fact, the FAPA-DAA suffered quite a number of losses of this type through 1984, 1985, and 1986: some in flying accidents, others to UNITA and South Africans. Interestingly, although most of the time being used for air-to-ground tasks, the MiG-23ML remained the only version supplied to Angola - except for around a dozen of MiG-23UBs, of course. If one can trust serials on all the MiG-23MLs seen so far, the Angolans received up to 80 MiG-23MLs during the 1980s alone.

Luanda, Angola, sometimes in the 1990s: in 1990 the USSR delivered 14 Su-22M-4Ks and two Su-22UM-3Ks to Angola. The aircraft entered service with the 26th Air Regiment, based in Mocamedes. During the war against the UNITA, however, they were frequently deployed to Lubago AB as well. The aircraft depicted here was seen after a wheels-up landing in Luanda, at an unknown date. Interesting is the lack of national markings: photographs of the "C518", shown here, as well as the "C517", show them without any national markings. It is possible that these were left out, or added later, but photographs of other examples from this series - including the C510 (which inherited the serial from an Su-20M, lost during the fierce battles in 1987), indicate that this was not the case. The colors used for their camouflage were also used on the Su-22M-4Ks supplied to Iraq, in 1986 (with exception of sand: Iraqi examples were painted only in green and brown). Of further interest is that on the C510 the serial is applied with an "-" between C and 510, i.e. as "C-510", but that this is not the case with either the C517 or C518. Also, the drop tanks for these aircraft were painted in brown overall. When making the wheels-up landing, the C518 carried two drop tanks under the fuselage (instead under the wings, as more usual), and UB-16-57 rocket launchers under inner underwing pylons. Some of the examples from this series were seen carrying the rails for R-60/AA-8 missiles, and others not.

Namibe/Mocamedes, Angola, 1990: the Soviets delivered 12 Su-25Ks and 2 Su-25UBKs per ship to Luanda already in 1988. The aircraft arrived together with a contingent of Soviet personnel drawn in part from the 90 OShAP, at the time based at Sital-Tchay, and were stationed at Namibe/Mocamedes AB. Known is only this one serial for Su-25Ks - B18 - and two for Su-25UBKs, I-40, and I-41. One of Angolan Su-25K was lost to unknown reasons (although claimed by UNITA) in 1992: reportedly, it was serialled P604, but this serial was never confirmed. The application of the national marking on the fin remains unconfirmed: the only photograph of this aircraft is not showing the fin area (the artwork here was prepared on the basis of an artwork published in the Ukrainian magazine Aviyatsiya & Vremya), while the few other photographs of Angolan Su-25Ks show them without the national marking - and very worn-out.

Above and bellow: Luanda, Angola, 2002; Angola purchased eight Su-27S/UBs from Russia, in mid-2000, one of which was lost already on 19 November of the same year, while flown by the Ukrainian mercenary pilot Igor Valenchenko. The UNITA claimed to have shot the aircraft down by SA-14 MANPADs. The lost aircraft reportedly wore the serial "272". It remains unknown if it was replaced by Russians or not. The Su-27UB shown here wears a pretty spectacular disruptive camo pattern in two shades of green, applied in a manner similar to that used previously on Egyptian MiG-21s, the so-called "Mauve", or "Nile Valley" pattern, and a shade of yellow, which is somewhere between light sand, tan, and lemon. Sadly, there is only one - and pretty poor - photo of them ever published, and the details of the camo pattern around the cockpit are probably not very precise. On that photo the serial is missing - it cannot be seen anywhere on the aircraft, and - strangely enough for FAN aircraft - no national markings can be made out either. (Both artworks by Jan Mikes)

Burkina Faso

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 1990s: Force Aériene de Burkina Faso is known to have operated a single MiG-17F since the mid-1980s, having two pilots qualified to fly it. The aircraft was seen in excellent condition during the 1990s, and again in 2001 - this time in "open storage" (i.e. left to rust) at Ouagadougou.

DR Congo

Gbadolite, Congo (former Zaire) Four MiG-21PFMs and a two seater were supplied to Mobutu's regime from Serbia in 1997. These aircraft were left in various stages of re-assembly at Gbadolite AB, where they remained ever since. These MiGs did not receive FAZA markings and were never flown. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)

Kinshasa, DR Congo, sometimes in 2000: DR Congo acquired four Su-25 aircraft in late 1999, and these were ever since used in the brutal war raging through the country, mainly flown by foreign mercenaries. The aircraft have got the "new" flag of DR Congo applied on the fin, this version is based on the original flag, developed in 1885 and reported to have been designed by the British explorer, H. M. Stanley. The serials are applied underneath, in white, ranging from FG-500 to FG-503.


Congo-Brazzaville, 1994: this is one of four MiG-17s of the Force Aérienne Congolaise found by UN troops in decaying condition at Pointe Noire AB, in 1994. Except "106", also "112", "118", and "120" were found, indicating that the number of MiG-17s supplied (and flown) by Cubans in the 1970s might have been around 20. All were abandoned at Pointe Noire in 1990, when FAC received 16 MiG-21bis from the USSR.

Pointe Noire, Congo-Brazzaville, 1994: together with MiG-17s also this MiG-15UTI of the FACB was found at Pointe Noire, in 1994, in derlict condition. Especially the national marking on the fin was almost completely washed out: only sad traces of red remained, while all the fields painted in yellow turned green-gray.

Pointe Noire - Agostini Neto AB, Congo-Brazzaville, 1997; This MiG-21bis, 511 (c/n N75087406) is wearing the new national markings of Force Aérienne Congolaise (Congolese Air Force), introduced only in 1991. Congo acquired 16 MiG-21bis directly from the USSR in 1990, plus several MiG-21UM trainers. Within only few years, several were lost in different accidents, and by 1997 all but two were stored in a disused hangar at Pointe-Norie airfield. Interestingly, the examples 511 and 513 carried this apparently "standardized" camouflage pattern, as seen also on MiG-21bis of Burkina Faso and Mozambique, but the example 525 - found in the same hangar on the Pointe Noire airfield - was painted light blue-gray overall. The MiG-21UM 503, as well as MiG-21bis 521 and 523, seen in 1997 at Brazzaville airfield, were also camouflaged in sand, light olive, and dark green, but the 527, seen on the same place, was painted in light blue-gray overall.

Additional details about MiG-21bis of FACB:
* total of 12 MiG-21bis and 4 MiG-21UMs were delivered
* known serials were as follows:
- 501: MiG-21UM
- 503: MiG-21UM (camouflage, old roundel)
- 5??: MiG-21UM (camouflage unclear, serial unknown, seen in 1997)
- 507: MiG-21bis
- 509: MiG-21bis
- 511: MiG-21bis (camouflage, new roundel)
- 513: MiG-21bis (camouflage, new roundel)
- 515: MiG-21bis
- 517: MiG-21bis (camouflage, old roundel)
- 519: MiG-21bis
- 521: MiG-21bis
- 523: MiG-21bis (camouflage, old roundel)
- 525: MiG-21bis (gray overall, old roundel)
- 527: MiG-21bis (gray overall, old roundel, bigger serial)
- 529: MiG-21UM (w/o in 1989)
- 530: MiG-21UM


Asmara, Eritrea, May 2000; ERAF acquired at least six, but probably eigth MiG-29As and two MiG-29UBs. Aircraft were known to have been serialled ERAF501 thru ERAF508. Five were lost in air battles against Ethiopian Su-27s, in 1999 and 2000, but early in 2002 at least four additional examples were acquired from Russia: these are obviously carrying the serials of the examples lost during the war with Ethiopia.

Komsomol'sk-on-Amur, early 2003; early in 2003, ERAF acquired an unknown number of Su-27s and Su-27UBs, including Su-27s serialled 608 and 609 (shown here), and at least one Su-27UB, indicating that probably up to ten aircraft were acquired. The first examples are already sighted at Asmara AB as well, wearing an apparently standardized splinter camouflage scheme. Note that the fin flash was applied in a different manner than on MiG-29s previously. It is also unknown if the title "ERAF" was applied anywhere on the aircraft since their arrival in Eritrea: this was a practice on most of the other types in service with the Eritrean Air Force so far. (by Jan Mikes)

As always, it is impossible to realize projects like this one without a team-work. Several persons were kind to share informations about "African MiGs" and thus instrumental for the final results; my special thanks go to Mr. Pit Weinert, Mr. Tom N., Mr. Jin Ho, Mr. Chris Thornburg, and Mr. Alvaro Ponte.
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