The Air Force of Zimbabwe has seen service in the Mozambican Civil War in 1985 and the Second Congo War of 1998–2001
The Air Force suffered a major setback on 25 July 1982 when four of their eight ordered Hawks were damaged in a sabotage attack a few days after their arrival at Thornhill Air Base. One plane was written off, another had to be repaired, whilst two otherd were shipped back to British aerospace for repairs to airworthy status.
It is difficult to ascertain a list of aircraft types operated by the Air force of Zimbabwe because of secrecy. In February 2002 the EU enforced an arms embargo on Zimbabwe in reaction to severe violations of human rights in the nation.
Unable to buy spare parts for the British designed and manufactured BAE Systems Hawk, in 2006 the air force received the first K-8. The air force also had Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 fighter jets donated by the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Below are the officially recorded aircraft and helicopter crashes and incidents the AFZ has witnessed after 1980.
22 July 1985, a UFO was witnessed by dozens of persons on the ground and in the control tower at Bulawayo Airport now Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport, then Bulawayo Airport. The air traffic controllers watched it hover and tracked it on radar and two BAE Systems Hawk jets were scrambled to pursue it and the pilots described it as incredibly shiny, reflecting the colours of the sunset they estimated that the UFO was travelling at twice the speed of sound.
The then Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe from July 1983 to January 1986, Mohammed Azim Daudpoto said: “This was no ordinary UFO. Scores of people saw it. It was no illusion, no deception, no imagination.”
Air Commodore David Thorne, Director General of Operations wrote in a October 24, 1985 letter to Timothy Good: “[Although not speaking officially], as far as my Air Staff is concerned, we believe implicitly that the unexplained UFOs are from some civilization beyond ourplanet.”
In February 1995, a Chengdu F-7 crashed near Lalapanzi after encountering some engine problems. Flt Lt Zisengwe died in the plane crash.
21/22 January 2001, an unnamed Wing Commander flying a Chengdu F7 became disoriented at night while on way to take part in flypast at Laurent Kabila’s funeral. He ejected and was found alive in the jungle by Zimbabwean troops five days late.
In 2005, a CASA C212-200 Aviocar military transport plane came down during take-off at the Harare International Airport, killing two pilots – Wing Commander Lysias Charuka and Air Lieutenant Aletini Silaigwana.
On 1 April 2005, Aérospatiale Alouette III Crashed soon after take-off in Gokwe as a pilot tried to avoid telephone lines. All four on board survived.
On 5 September 2008, a K-8 Karakoram training jet Crashed into Block 1 Married Quarters flats at Thornhill Air Base in the Midlands town of Gweru during a training sortie. The jet skimmed over trees and houses as it headed for a school before turning sharply and smashing into two high rise residential flats. There were no injuries or deaths other than the two pilots Flight Lieutenant Kudzai Kelvin Majongosi of Chirumanzu and Flight Lieutenant Dumisani Ndlovu of Bulawayo. Both were 28 years old.
On 4 September 2014 a SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 trainer aircraft crashed into a shanty town soon after takeoff from the Charles Prince Airport on the western outskirts of the capital Harare on a routine training mission over the Mount Hampden area when it suddenly nose-dived and crashed. The two pilots, Squadron leader Taurayi Jombo aged 36 and Air Lieutenant Evidence Edzai Begede aged 28 died on the spot.
Such was the force of the impact that one of the pilots was decapitated but there was no further casualties only extensive structural damage to buildings nearby.
On the morning of 23 April 2015 a K-8 crashed in an open field a few kilometers from Thronhill Air base after catching fire. Both pilots ejected safely.
An SIAI-Marchetti trainer aircraft SF.260 crashed into a compound in Somabhula, about 24 km south-west of Gweru on 24 November 2020 killing Flight Instructor and Squadron Leader Mkhululi Dube and trainee pilot Silungile Sweswe.
On 23 April 2021 an Agusta Bell 412 AB-412 helicopter from Number 8 Squadron crashed in Hukuru area near Harare. Four crew members and one civilian on the ground died. No mayday was transmitted. □