Royal Jordanian Air Force

Royal Jordanian Air Force

The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) (Arabic: سلاح الجو الملكي الأردني, Transliterated: Silah al-Jaw Almalaki al-Urduni in Arabic) is the Aviation branch of the Jordanian Armed Forces.


Jordan achieved independence in 1920 but it was not until 1931 that the first air bases were set up, by the Royal Air Force. By 1950, Jordan began to develop a small air arm which came to be known as the Arab Legion Air Force or (ALAF). The Royal Air Force assisted in training this small air arm, and provided equipment. The main fighter in the ALAF was the De Havilland Vampire.

Early Days

By 1955, King Hussein began to realize the need for Jordan to have a more modern Air force, so the RJAF was established on September 25, 1955. By 1958 the Royal Air Force had left Jordan and the RJAF had taken control of airfields in the country.

By the 1960s, the RJAF had a fleet of Hawker Hunters in the fighter role, and Dakota cargo planes and helicopters used in the transport role. 1964 brought the RJAF's first victory in the air. In the Battle of the Dead Sea, four Hawker Hunters shot down one Israeli Mirage and allegedly damaged three others. In 1966 the RJAF lost one Hawker Hunter piloted by Muwafaq Al-Salti in a battle over Jordan. Muwafaq Al-Salti was declared a martyr and since one RJAF AFB is named in his honour.

During the 1967 Six-Day War, the RJAF destroyed an Israeli transport on the grounds of an Israeli Air Force base before an Israeli counterstrike destroyed the RJAF in their hangars and decisively removed the RJAF from the war. However, in the closing stages of the war, RJAF pilots operating from Iraq (using Iraqi Hawker Hunters) managed to down three Israeli Mirage IIICJ and two Vatours heading to attack H3 for one loss. Israel insists it lost two aircraft and downed three Hunters, but admitted that the mission was aborted and deemed one of the failures of the war.

In the 1970s the RJAF was modernised. F-104 Starfighters were acquired from the United States following heavy losses in the Six-Day War. However, the Starfighter proved superfluous and several were donated to the PAF with the last unit withdrawn from service in 1977 leaving a fighter gap that would not be filled until the arrival of the Mirage F1 in 1981. The RJAF also acquired F-5 Tigers from via Iran during the reign of the Shah who procured them from the United States. T-37 Tweets were also acquired for the training role. In 1977, the RJAF sold its fleet of Hawker Hunters to the Sultan of Oman's Air Force.


Following peace between Egypt and Israel in 1979, the RJAF began to modernize its fleet once again. The first part of this program was the procurement of the Dassault Mirage F1 which became the RJAF's frontline fighter supported by generous aid from wealthy oil-rich Arab states. The Mirage F1 was selected over the F-16/79 (an F-16A powered by the GE J79 turbojet series and grossly under-powered) while also acquiring the F-5 to complement the Mirage F1CJ/EJ in the process.

In the 1980s, the RJAF supported Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime during the Iran-Iraq War, committing their aircraft for combat training alongside Iraqi aircraft squadrons with one joint aircraft squadron. It remains unknown (and seemingly unlikely) that RJAF pilots took part in combat with Iran. During the 1991 Desert Storm conflict, Jordan declared support for the Iraqi regime, but the RJAF was never officially committed to combat in that war. The RJAF provided instruction for Iraqi pilots who also operated the similar Mirage F1.

Some six C-130H entered RJAF service and remain critical in supporting Jordan's peacekeeping efforts. In 1987 the RJAF received CASA C-101s to replace the T-37 in the training role.

1991 Gulf War and the 1990s

Though reeling economic crisis that plagued the country in 1988 contributed to a general reduction in the size and strength of the armed forces since 1989, the RJAF canceled ambitions plans to acquire the Mirage 2000EJ aircraft (eight planned but canceled) and upgrades of the Mirage F1CJ fleet to the multi-role EJ standard. However, by 1990 the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait brought a coalition against the Iraqi Regime of Saddam Hussein. Jordan despite not supporting the occupation of Kuwait, was accused of backing Iraq.

The outfall meant that the RJAF was impacted upon but contrary to reports, did not lose its operational tempo and was not forced to cannibalize aircraft for shortages of spare parts. Despite this, the RJAF had to rationalize its existing resources due to a temporary downfall in spare parts and supplies. However, economic difficulties forced the RJAF to seek upgrades rather than the purchase of new equipment originally planned

Modernization schemes continued with seven F-5Es sold to Singapore and some funding used to upgrade most of the remaining others with the AN/APG-67 radar (found on the aborted F-20A Tigershark, once an aircraft under evaluation by the RJAF), modern fire control systems, and WVR AAMs, thus putting the F-5 on par with more modern aircraft in terms of electronics. Despite this, the F-5s lack a BVR combat capability.

The Modern Era

Following Jordan's 1994 peace treaty with Israel and Jordanian support during Gulf war, the US recommenced full military relations with Jordan starting with the donation of 16 F-16 Fighting Falcons, making Jordan the first country outside the USA to operate the type with the AIM-7M 'Sparrow' and AIM-9M 'Sidewinder' as primary weapons. Deliveries commenced in 1997, and were completed by 1998, following extensive exercises with the existing Mirage F1CJ/EJ and F-5E/F in RJAF service and assuming the lead role. Some 17 further ex-AMRAC aircraft were also procured along with three ex-Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16BMs for training purposes (but combat capable) along with 14 ex-Belgian F-16A/B in MLU (Mid Life Update) standard, thus boosting the RJAF's own multi-role capabilities. Another six ex-Spanish Mirage F1CE/EE aircraft have been procured (although they are ex-Qatari ones that were transferred to Spain).

RJAF pilots have participated in 'Bright Star' in Egypt against regional F-16 Fighting Falcon and have improved their skills considerably, especially in defining critical areas of upgrading. The AIM-120 AMRAAM has been procured by the RJAF and will improve combat capabilities of the basic F-16. Unlike the AIM-7M 'Sparrow III' the AMRAAM is lighter and more versitile with superior ECM/ECCM and capable of engaging high-g targets, along with an active-radar homing warhead (unlike the semi-active homing warhead of the 'Sparrow III') with standard datalink for mid-course guidance and correction purposes.

With 55 F-16s and TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) modernising them to a common MLU standard, thus enabling advanced AGMs and even PGMs to be carried. It remains unclear what will eventually complement the F-16s as the F-5s dwindle in numbers due to stress and fatigue reasons. The F-5s should be officially out of service by 2010, while the F-16MLU and Mirage F1CJ/EJ will remain the RJAF's standard fighters. While most sources cite that the RJAF is seeking 70-80 F-16s, requirements for diversity may limit the numbers actually procured. The RJAF's F-16s are currently undergoing a new paint scheme to KA2 standard similar to the Jordanian Arab Army personnel's fatigues, 'low visibility' fatigues.

Two IL-76 Candid aircraft have been procured from Uzbekistan and will support UN and Jordan Arab Army operations complementing the C-130Hs. Two light CASA C-295s have been procured and procurement is likely to continue of the type. It is believed that the RJAF may also order smaller numbers of the An-72/74 from Antonov for STOL operations for army special forces.

The commander of the Royal Jordan Air Force is Major General Hussein Ahmad Shodash.

Aircraft inventory

The five Extra 300 aerobatic aircraft of the Royal Jordanian Falcons are operated by RJAF pilots, but owned by Royal Jordanian Airlines.

The police operate 4 Eurocopter Colibri and 3 Eurocopter Bo 105S.

A variety of other types have seen recent service with RJAF:
*Transport aircraft
** 1 Antonov An-74 Coaler
** 2 CASA C-212 Aviocar
** 1 Dassault Falcon 20
** 2 Ilyushin Il-76 Candid
** 1 Boeing 707
** 2 Bombardier CL-604
** 2 Dassault Falcon 50
** 2 Gulfstream III
** 3 Gulfstream IV
** 1 Gulfstream V
** 1 Lockheed L-1011 Tristar
** 15 Mk.125
** 12 Piper PA-28 Cherokee
** 6 Piper PA-34 Seneca
** 6 Short Sealand
*Transport helicopters
**10 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk
** 5 Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk
** 3 BK-117
**6 Kamov Ka-226 Hoodlum


The roundel of the RJAF is three circles, with black, white and green circles, going from outside to inside. At the top of the roundel is a red triangle containing the seven-pointed star of the Flag of Jordan. The tails of aircraft usually carry an image of the flag of Jordan.


External links

* [ Official Site of the Royal Jordanian Air Force]
* [ Unofficial Royal Jordanian Airforce Website]
* [ Royal Jordanian Airforce] courtesy of
* []

ee also

* List of air forces
* List of F-104 Starfighter operators

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