The Algerian air force, as of 1993 under the command of Colonel Mohamed Mokhtar Boutamine, has responsibility for defending the country's air space, supporting ground forces, supplying military transportation and cargo airlift, and carrying out land and maritime reconnaissance. In late 1993, the air force was equipped with some 193 combat aircraft and more than fifty attack helicopters, flying from about fifteen air bases. The service has expanded steadily since its inception in 1962, when Egypt donated five MiG-15 jet fighters and supplied a training mission. As more MiGs arrived, Algerian pilots were sent to Syria and Egypt and later to the Soviet Union for flight training. Others received flight training and technical schooling in France. With the help of Soviet advisers, a pilot training school was eventually established at Tafraoua near Oran. The Air Force Academy and a technical training school are also located at the Tafraoua complex.
According to The Military Balance, 1993-1994, in 1993 air force combat capabilities were built around three fighter/ground-attack squadrons and eight interceptor squadrons equipped exclusively with Soviet aircraft. The most advanced of these, although they had been in the inventory for more than a decade, were fourteen MiG-25s and three MiG-25Rs in a reconnaissance configuration. The fighter squadrons also included ninety-five MiG-21s and twenty MiG-23s. The fighter/ground-attack squadrons included forty MiG-23s and ten older Su-24s. The basic weapon of the fighter aircraft was the Soviet AA-2 (Atoll) and AA-6 air-to-air missiles.
The main pillar of the air force's transport capability in late 1993 was the fleet of sixteen Lockheed C-130 Hercules purchased from the United States. These were supplemented by six Soviet An-12s of comparable load capacity. Two Super King B-200s were outfitted for maritime reconnaissance.
The helicopter fleet in late 1993 comprised five squadrons of heavy- and medium-attack helicopters of Soviet manufacture, as well as a small number of transport helicopters. Air defense was under a separate command. It consisted of three brigades equipped with 85mm, 100mm, and 130mm (KS-12, KS-19, and KS-30) Soviet antiaircraft guns; and three SAM regiments, one equipped with Soviet SA-3, SA-6, and SA-8 SAMs.
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