GABORONE, Botswana — The Zambian Air Force will take delivery of an undisclosed number of trainer, transport and fighter aircraft and aerial defense systems this year as part of a major re-equipment program to improve operational and airlift capabilities.

Addressing senior Army, Air Force and Defense Ministry officials at the belated Air Force ZAF Headquarters Annual Ball for 2014 recently held in Lusaka, recently, ZAF Air Force commander Brig.adier Gen.eral Jabes Zulu said the additional aerial defense assets will to be procured this year include a new radar system to secure national airspace.

"The expected machines include additional SF 260TW trainer aircraft, the C-27J transport aircraft, the L-15 fighter aircraft and the Mi-17 helicopters. These machines will greatly improve the aircraft capability of the Air Force and we are indebted to the government for this gesture. Allied to this is the procurement of air defense equipment such as P-18 radars," Brig Gen Zulu said.

The new acquisitions will be enable the Air Force ZAF to conduct training programmes, beef up its border patrol fleet and build enough achieve the airlift capability necessary to support external deployments, such as like the pending deployment to the United NationsUN peacekeeping mission in the Central Africa Republic. CAR).

The Air Force's ZAF combat air- fleet inventory currently includes 12 MiG 21 aircraft, while its trainer force includes 15 Chinese-made K-8 Karakourm jets, 10 Saab MFI Safari MT-15s, and 10 MB-326 GBs and six SF-260TW aircraft by Alenia Aermacchi. make up the trainer squadron.

The medium to heavy transport fleet includes five5 German Dornier 28s, and two Chinese Ma-60s and 14 Y-12 aircraft. The transport squadron also operates 18 Bell helicopter variants and seven Eurocopter 7 AS 365/AS 565 Panther aircraft.

However, most of the aircraft on the inventory have broken down and it remains unclear how many are still operating or in a serviceable condition. The lack of airlift capability for the ZAF has severely crippled Air Force its operations. In November, last year, it directly contributed to the Army's failure to deploy 400 soldiers to athe UN peacekeeping mission in the Central Africa Republic. (CAR).

That deployment is still pending because the Air Force ZAF does not have the heavy-lift aircraft required to provide supplies, perform evacuation operations and move troops to and from the country CAR during rotations.