December, 3

Top 11 Strongest Air Forces in North Africa Today

A symphony of power soars through the skies in the vast expanse of North Africa, where history echoes through the windswept deserts and the future hangs in the balance. This is not just any melody; it’s a crescendo of supremacy, a harmonious clash of modernity and tradition, and an aerial ballet that demands your attention. Welcome to the realm of North Africa’s Air Forces, where cutting-edge technology meets unwavering commitment, and the future of a region is defined among the clouds.

Speaking of the best airforces in North Africa today, who is the ‘King of the North?’ As we dig deeper into our list of the best Air Force in North Africa, let’s find out.

The List of The Top Best Airforces in North Africa

Here is a list of the air forces of North African Countries arranged in order of strength:

  1. Egyptian Air Force
  2. Algerian Air Force
  3. Moroccan Royal Air Force
  4. Tunisian Air Force
  5. Libyan Air Force
  6. Eritrean Air Force
  7. Mauritanian Air Force
  8. Malian Air Force
  9. South Sudanese Air Force
  10. Nigerien Air Force

The Egyptian Air Force is the strongest in North Africa, with a large inventory of modern aircraft, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Rafale. The Algerian and Moroccan air forces are also well-equipped and trained. The Tunisian Air Force is smaller, but it is still a capable force.

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The Libyan Air Force has recently declined due to the Libyan Civil War. The Eritrean, Mauritanian, Malian, and South Sudanese air forces are all relatively small and weak.

It is important to note that the strength of an air force is not just determined by the size and quality of its aircraft fleet. Other factors, such as pilot training, ground support, and logistics, also play a role. Let’s go into further details on each country’s Airforce in North Africa.

The Egyptian Air Force

Top Best Air forces in North Africa
A total of 16 single-set Rafale Cs and 8 two-seat Rafale Cs have been delivered to the Egyptian Air Force. (Dassault).

Egypt boasts a vast fleet of fighter jets, solidifying its position as a formidable air power in North Africa. The Egyptian Air Force is equipped with various advanced aircraft, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Mirage 2000. With over 200 fighter aircraft in its arsenal, Egypt possesses one of the region’s largest and most capable air forces.

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Egypt’s rich aviation history dates back to the early 20th century when the Royal Egyptian Air Force was established. Since then, the country has continuously expanded and modernized its air force, elevating its combat readiness and operational capabilities. As a significant player in the region, Egypt is vital in ensuring stability and safeguarding its national interests. Moreover, Egypt’s vast fleet of fighter jets serves as a defensive measure and provides the country with a force projection capability, enabling it to project power beyond its borders when necessary.

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With its commitment to excellence and a continuous focus on training and development, Egypt’s Air Force provides diverse opportunities for aspiring pilots. The tuition process offers rigorous selection criteria, stringent training programs, and advanced simulation technologies to ensure the highest proficiency standards. Aspiring aviators must meet educational requirements, demonstrate exceptional physical fitness, and pass strict medical examinations. Before being selected for flight training, each candidate undergoes a thorough evaluation, including written tests, aptitude assessments, and interviews.

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The path to joining Egypt’s Air Force demands dedication and perseverance. Once admitted, recruits undergo a comprehensive training program that includes theoretical and practical components. Aspiring pilots receive extensive instruction on navigation, aviation systems, aerodynamics, and tactical procedures. Additionally, they undergo simulation exercises to develop their decision-making skills, situational awareness, and combat proficiency. Egypt’s Air Force training program ensures its pilots are well-prepared to navigate the complexities of modern aerial warfare.

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In recent years, Egypt has also actively pursued partnerships with international defense manufacturers to expand and modernize its fleet of fighter jets. This commitment to upgrading its air force is crucial in maintaining its status as a dominant air power. Continually investing in state-of-the-art aircraft and cutting-edge technologies, Egypt strives to remain at the forefront of military aviation in the region.

Despite the undeniable strength of Egypt’s air force, it faced notable challenges in the past. However, the country’s resilience and determination to overcome obstacles have led to significant advancements and continuous improvement. Egypt’s ongoing efforts to rebuild, modernize, and expand its fleet demonstrate its commitment to enhancing its air power capabilities and ensuring regional security.

Egypt’s vast fleet of fighter jets is a symbol of its military might and a strategic asset contributing to regional stability. As the country continues to invest in its air force and fosters international collaborations, its position as a dominant air power in North Africa remains unchallenged. With its rich history, commitment to excellence, and state-of-the-art aircraft, Egypt’s Air Force is a formidable force ready to defend the nation and project its influence when needed.

The Algerian Air Force

Algeria had ordered more Sukhoi Su-30MKA fighter aircraft from Russia.

Algeria’s air force has established itself as a dominant force in North Africa, with a fleet with impressive capabilities and numbers. The Algerian Air Force (AAF) is renowned for its advanced fighter jets, transport aircraft, and helicopters, which enable it to carry out a wide range of missions effectively. Algeria has significantly strengthened its air power with a focus on modernization and strategic partnerships in recent years. They are the second top Strongest Air Force in North Africa

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One of the standout features of the AAF is its extensive fleet of fighter jets, which includes advanced aircraft such as the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30MKA and MiG-29M, as well as the French-made Mirage F1 and Rafale. This diverse lineup of fighter jets allows Algeria to effectively patrol its airspace, deter potential aggressors, and project its power in the region. Additionally, the AAF’s formidable fleet of transport aircraft and helicopters enables it to conduct vital logistical operations and support ground forces, ensuring high operational readiness.

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Another factor contributing to Algeria’s dominance in North Africa’s air power is its commitment to modernization and strategic partnerships. The country has invested significantly in upgrading its air force, acquiring advanced technology, and enhancing its training capabilities. Additionally, Algeria has forged partnerships with various countries, including Russia, France, and China, to procure modern aircraft and benefit from technical expertise. These collaborations have bolstered the AAF’s combat capabilities and facilitated knowledge sharing and the development of indigenous defense industries.

While the AAF’s dominance is well-known, lesser-known facts reveal its impressive capabilities. For instance, Algeria has a dedicated aerial refueling capability, allowing its fighter jets to operate for extended periods and project their power beyond the region. Furthermore, the AAF has developed sophisticated air defense systems, ensuring the protection of Algerian airspace from potential threats.

With its advanced fighter jets, robust transport capabilities, and commitment to modernization, Algeria’s dominance in North Africa’s air power is undisputed. As the country continues to upgrade and expand its fleet, it maintains a strong position as a regional military powerhouse, capable of projecting force and ensuring the sovereignty of its airspace.

Moroccan Royal Air Force

One of the Royal Moroccan Air Force’s four Leonardo C-27J Spartan tactical transports. (David Oliver).

Morocco’s Strategic Air Force plays a vital role in the region, ensuring the country’s security and projecting its influence on the global stage. They are the third Strongest Air Force in North Africa, With a rich history that dates back to the 1930s, the Air Force has evolved significantly over the years, modernizing its fleet and capabilities to meet the ever-changing demands of the 21st century.

One fascinating aspect of Morocco’s Air Force is its diverse range of aircraft. From advanced fighter jets like the F-16 Fighting Falcon to versatile multi-role aircraft like the Mirage 2000, the Air Force possesses a formidable arsenal. Morocco has also acquired a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), enhancing its surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

In terms of recruitment, the Air Force offers several paths for aspiring individuals to join its ranks. Prospective pilots undergo rigorous training, including theoretical instruction, simulations, and practical flight training. The admission process is competitive, with candidates needing to meet specific criteria such as educational qualifications, physical fitness, and aptitude tests. Once admitted, recruits undergo specialized training to become pilots, navigators, or technicians. The Air Force also offers career advancement and specialization opportunities, allowing its personnel to develop expertise in various fields.

Morocco’s Strategic Air Force continues to enhance its capabilities to adapt to emerging threats and ensure the country’s security. With investments in advanced technology and strategic partnerships with international allies, the Air Force remains a critical component of Morocco’s defense strategy. As the region evolves, the Air Force will strive for further modernization, maintaining its position as a powerful force in North Africa.

Tunisian Air Force

A Tunisian Air Force C-130H taking part in the annual US-led exercise African Lion. (USAF).

Tunisia’s military capabilities have steadily grown in recent years, positioning the country as a significant player in North Africa’s defense landscape. With a strong focus on enhancing its air power, Tunisia stands out for its commitment to modernizing its fleet of fighter jets. The country has made notable advancements in this area, procuring state-of-the-art aircraft through strategic partnerships with global defense manufacturers.

Tunisia’s military offers various pathways for individuals aspiring to join its ranks. The country’s armed forces are known for rigorous training programs, emphasizing discipline, physical fitness, and technical proficiency. Aspiring soldiers must meet certain criteria to be eligible for admission, including educational qualifications, physical fitness standards, and a thorough background check. The application process typically involves written exams, interviews, and medical assessments to ensure the suitability of candidates. Aspiring military personnel can also pursue higher education opportunities in defense studies at the country’s prestigious military academies.

Libyan Air Force

Libyan Air Force - Strongest Air Force in North Africa Today
A warplane belonging to eastern Libyan forces, July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

The challenges faced by Libya’s Air Force have been significant, but the country is determined to rebuild its air power capabilities. Following the 2011 revolution, the Air Force lacked resources, including aging aircraft and insufficient training. However, the Libyan government has addressed these challenges and strengthened its air force.

One of the key challenges has been the need to modernize the Air Force’s fleet. Many of the aircraft in service are outdated, making it difficult to meet the evolving security needs of the country effectively. In recent years, Libya has sought to acquire modern fighter jets and other advanced aircraft from international suppliers to enhance its operational capabilities. These efforts aim to bolster the Air Force’s combat readiness and ensure it can effectively respond to potential threats.

Additionally, rebuilding the Air Force requires a focus on training and recruitment. The recruitment process has become more stringent, with candidates carefully selected based on their physical and mental capabilities. The training programs have been revamped to align with international standards, providing Air Force personnel with the necessary skills and expertise to operate modern aircraft effectively. Despite the challenges, the Libyan Air Force is committed to rebuilding and modernizing its capabilities to ensure the country’s security in the face of regional challenges.

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Eritrean Air Force

The Su-27

Eritrea, a North African nation with a small but determined air force, has made significant strides in developing its military capabilities. With a focus on self-sufficiency and regional security, the Eritrean Air Force plays a crucial role in defending the country’s territorial integrity and safeguarding its national interests.

Joining the Eritrean Air Force requires a high level of dedication and commitment. Prospective candidates must meet certain physical and educational requirements, undergo rigorous training, and exhibit the necessary skills and aptitude for aviation. The admission process includes a comprehensive evaluation to ensure that only the most qualified individuals are selected to serve in the Air Force. Once accepted, recruits undergo specialized training in aircraft operations, maintenance, and combat tactics to prepare them for the challenges they may face in the field.

Eritrea has a rich aviation history, dating back to its struggle for independence from Ethiopia. During the armed conflict that lasted for decades, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) employed innovative tactics to counter the overwhelming air power of the Ethiopian forces. These tactics, including using anti-aircraft guns mounted on trucks, showcased Eritrea’s resourcefulness and determination, ultimately contributing to the country’s liberation.

In recent years, Eritrea has tried to enhance its air force capabilities through strategic partnerships and technological advancements. The acquisition of modern combat aircraft, such as the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27, has bolstered Eritrea’s defensive capabilities and expanded its regional operational reach. The Eritrean Air Force regularly participates in joint military exercises with neighboring countries, fostering regional cooperation and enhancing its overall effectiveness.

Mauritanian Air Force

5T-MAE - Harbin Y-12 II - Mauritania - Air Force
5T-MAE – Harbin Y-12 II – Mauritania – Air Force | By: Joan Martorell

Mauritania in North Africa possesses a modest yet strategically significant air force. Despite its limited resources and relatively small fleet, the Mauritanian Air Force has proven capable of safeguarding the nation’s airspace and contributing to regional security efforts. With a primary focus on reconnaissance and surveillance missions, the Air Force plays a vital role in detecting and countering regional security threats.

The history of the Mauritanian Air Force can be traced back to its formation in 1961. Since then, it has undergone various transformations and modernizations to enhance its operational readiness. The Air Force offers a pathway for young Mauritanians seeking a career in aviation through its tuition-free military aviation academy. Aspiring pilots undergo rigorous training, ensuring high proficiency and dedication among Air Force personnel.

Enlisting in the Mauritanian Air Force requires meeting specific admission criteria, including physical fitness, educational qualifications, and medical standards. The selection process is stringent to ensure that only the most qualified individuals are accepted. Recruits undergo comprehensive training programs, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to operate aircraft effectively. Additionally, the Air Force actively encourages and supports further professional development to ensure continuous improvement and proficiency levels within its ranks.

Despite its modest size, the Mauritanian Air Force remains integral to North Africa’s military landscape. Its commitment to self-reliance, steadfastness in the face of adversity, and pursuit of regional stability make it a noteworthy player in the region’s air power dynamics. As Mauritania continues to invest in its military infrastructure and cultivate partnerships with like-minded nations, the potential for further growth and contribution to regional security becomes increasingly evident.

Malian Air Force

Defense News Nigeria on X: "A-29B Super Tucano of the Malian Air Force" / X
Defense News Nigeria on X: “A-29B Super Tucano of the Malian Air Force” / X

One of the notable developments in the field of air power in North Africa is the evolution of Mali’s Air Force. Over the years, Mali has made significant strides in strengthening its aerial capabilities and expanding its fleet of aircraft. This progress has been particularly vital for the country’s national security in the face of various threats and challenges.

Mali’s journey towards enhancing its air power began with establishing the Mali Air Force (Force Aérienne du Mali) in 1961. Initially, the force primarily relied on a few light aircraft for reconnaissance and surveillance. However, Mali has made substantial investments in its military aircraft inventory recently. The country has acquired a variety of combat and support aircraft, including fighter jets, transport planes, and helicopters. These acquisitions have not only bolstered Mali’s defense capabilities but have also allowed for improved rapid response and mobility in addressing security issues within its borders.

Mali’s Air Force also plays a crucial role in regional cooperation efforts. The country actively participates in joint military exercises and training programs with neighboring countries, fostering collaboration and coordination in defense operations. This cooperation has proven vital, particularly in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in the Sahel region. By sharing resources and intelligence, Mali’s Air Force, alongside its regional partners, has been able to effectively counter the activities of extremist groups and maintain stability in the area.

The evolution of Mali’s Air Power serves as a testament to the country’s commitment to modernizing its defense capabilities. Through strategic investments and collaborative efforts, Mali continues strengthening its aerial capabilities, contributing to regional security and stability in North Africa. As the country moves forward, it will be intriguing to witness further advancements in Mali’s Air Force and its role in safeguarding national and regional interests.

South Sudanese Air Force

Sudan air force
Sudan received around 11 Su-24M/MDs deep penetration bombers from Belarussia. All Fencers are operated in No. 4 Squadron from Wadi Sayyidna airbase.

South Sudan’s developing air force capacity reflects its efforts to bolster its defense capabilities and safeguard its sovereignty. With a history of conflicts and regional tensions, the need for a strong air force has become increasingly apparent. The South Sudan Air Force (SSAF) offers comprehensive training programs to recruit and develop skilled personnel. Aspiring aviators undergo rigorous tuition, combining theoretical grounding with practical flight exercises, ensuring they acquire the necessary expertise to operate modern aircraft effectively.

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Joining the SSAF requires meeting specific admission requirements. Candidates are expected to possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, with a focus on subjects like mathematics and physics. In addition to academic qualifications, physical fitness standards are mandatory, as aspiring recruits must demonstrate endurance, agility, and good overall health. The admission process includes various stages, including written exams, medical evaluations, and interviews, to identify candidates with the right aviation skills, aptitude, and passion.

Since its establishment, the SSAF has made remarkable strides in modernizing its fleet and equipment. Collaborations with international partners have facilitated the procuring of aircraft and related systems, advancing the Air Force’s capabilities. South Sudan operates various aircraft, including transport planes, helicopters for various missions, and multi-role fighter jets. The acquisition of such a diverse fleet underscores the commitment of the SSAF to ensure operational versatility and response readiness. As South Sudan’s air force capacity continues to develop, the nation strengthens its ability to protect its borders, respond to emergencies, and contribute to regional stability.

By investing in developing its air force, South Sudan is rebuilding its defense infrastructure and enhancing its national security. As the country emerges from a tumultuous period, the growth of its air force serves as a symbol of resilience and determination. It is a testament to South Sudan’s commitment to building a capable and professional military force that can safeguard its interests and contribute to peace and stability in the region. As South Sudan’s developing air force capacity progresses, it is poised to play a crucial role in securing the nation’s future and fostering a safer and more prosperous North Africa.

Nigerien Air Force

Nigér receives third C-130H from the United States
The Hercules, a former USAF WC-130H 65-0985 (c/n 382-4140), will become 5UMTU with the Niger Air Force.

Niger’s Air Force, known as the Armée de l’Air Nigérienne (AAN), is crucial in ensuring regional cooperation and stability in North Africa. Established in 1961, the AAN operates nationwide from multiple air bases and has steadily developed its capabilities. The air force predominantly focuses on safeguarding Niger’s vast territory, combating terrorism, and supporting peacekeeping operations.

One intriguing aspect of Niger’s Air Force is its involvement in international collaborations. The AAN regularly participates in joint exercises and training programs conducted by regional and international partners. This cooperation enhances the air force’s operational readiness and strengthens the bonds between Niger and its neighboring countries. Niger’s Air Force also actively engages with organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, contributing to regional peace and security efforts. Such collaborative initiatives demonstrate the dedication of Niger’s Air Force to fostering stability and cooperation in the region.

Western Saharan Air Force

Western Sahara’s Air Force is a small but essential component of the region’s military landscape. With limited capabilities, it plays a significant role in defending the territory and supporting security efforts. Despite its relatively modest size, the Western Saharan Air Force has become a force to be reckoned with.

Operating a small fleet of mostly outdated aircraft, the Air Force of Western Sahara faces numerous challenges in maintaining its operational readiness. Limited financial resources and access to advanced technology have hindered its modernization efforts. However, the Air Force personnel’s unwavering dedication and resourcefulness have allowed them to maximize their existing assets.

One interesting aspect of Western Sahara’s Air Force is its emphasis on tactical operations. Focusing on close air support and reconnaissance missions, they have carved out a niche role within the region’s air power dynamics. Their pilots and ground crew are well-trained to operate in challenging environments, ensuring they can effectively respond to threats or incursions. Though their capabilities may be limited today, the Air Force of Western Sahara continues to play a crucial role in protecting the territorial integrity of the land.

It is important to note that there is no country called Western Sahara in the traditional sense. It is a disputed territory claimed by both Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Morocco controls about 80% of the territory, while the SADR controls the remaining 20%. The United Nations does not recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara and considers it a non-self-governing territory.

46 UN member states recognize the SADR, but it does not effectively control most of the territory it claims. The SADR’s government operates in exile in Algeria.

The status of Western Sahara is a complex and unresolved issue. There is no easy answer to the question of whether or not it is a country.

As we explore North Africa’s air power, it’s clear that each nation’s air force is a unique reflection of its history, challenges, and aspirations. The diverse array of aircraft, operational capabilities, and regional cooperation efforts all contribute to the complex tapestry of North Africa’s military landscape. The dedication of these air forces to safeguarding their nations and promoting regional stability is a testament to their commitment and resilience.


As we journeyed through the skies of North Africa, we uncovered the remarkable tales of air power. From Egypt’s vast fleet to the resilient Air Force of Western Sahara, each narrative paints a unique portrait of valor, innovation, and dedication. The forces continue to grow, strengthen, and reach new heights in this ever-evolving theater of the skies. Together, they form the guardians of a region’s dreams, preserving sovereignty and fostering cooperation.

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