Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971. From 1947 (when Pakistan and current India were 'created') until 1971 the area was known as East Pakistan. The country (mainly Muslims) found itself under the government rule dominated by West Pakistan (the current Pakistan). On 26 March 1971, following a bloody crackdown by the Pakistan army, Bengali nationalists declared an independent People's Republic of Bangladesh. On 16 December 1971 Pakistani forces surrendered, and Bangladesh ('Bengal nation') was born.
The country is poor, densely populated and regularly flooded. A country of giant deltas and flat lands, Bangladesh is at the receiving end of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers where they pour into the Bay of Bengal. Fifty-four rivers flow into the country making it the largest deltaic region in the world. The disastrous river floods of 1987 and 1988 inundated 40 and 60% of the country, respectively.
Indian assistance in the struggle for independence led to a number of aircraft (DHC-3 Otter, Dakota and Alouette 3) being donated to the Bangladesh Air Force to be. The first fighters of the country were five Sabres left behind by the Pakistan Air Force.
After the Bangladesh Air Force was officially formed (28 September 1973) two Wessex HU5s were acquired and a dozen MiG-21s from Russia. Russia also supplied some transportcapability (An-24 and An-26s) and helicopters (Mi-8). Another supplying country was added in 1977; China. This country has supplied several types of aircraft to bolster the Air Force's capabilities. France has supplied a number of CM170 Magisters in the mid-eighties and the US has supplied twelve T-37s in de mid-nineties. Pakistan has supplied the country with a large number of refurbished F-6s. All of the F-6s have been retired by now and a number of aircraft never saw service with the Bangladesh Air Force. The 1991 flooding resulted in writing off a number of F-6s, some of them were still crated awaiting assembly.
Photo: Scramble files
Nowadays the Bangladesh Air Force operates from four major bases, three of them are named after national heroes; Bashar AB (Dhaka), Matiur Rahman AB (Jessore), Zahurul Haque AB (Chittagong) and Bogra AB. Bashar AB actually consists of two bases; Dhaka-Tejgaon and Dhaka-Kurmitola. The latter is located on the new Zia International Airport, while Tejgaon is the old Dhaka International Airport. A small number of PT-6 aircraft operate from Bogra. Plans call for resurrecting Shamshernagar AB as well but no further details are available.
Tejgaon houses two helicopter squadrons (flying the Mi-17 and Bell 212) and the 101 Special Flying Unit. Kurmitola is the main fighter-base, were two squadrons of F(T)-7s are stationed and one squadron of MiG-29s. The Jessore base houses the Air Force Academy, where the Flying Training Wing operates two squadrons (flying T-37s and Bell 206s respectively). The PT-6s of the Academy moved to Bogra in 2006. The transport squadrons also operates from Jessore. At Chittagong and one squadron of A-5s is stationed, alongside one squadron with L-39s and a helicopter squadron operating with Mi/17 and Bell 212s. The base is also home to the An-32s of the air force.
Recent additions to the air force are the C-130 Hercules, four of which have been delivered and they are operating from Bashar. From March 2006 the first of sixteen F-7s, designated F-7BG (based on the F-7MG) were added, of which four were delivered as two-seat aircraft. Late 2012 the first F-7BGIs from an order for 16 aircraft including four duals were delivered by Chengdu. The new F-7BGIs will replace the F-7Ms from 35sq, which will move to 25sq (making their L-39 available to move on to 15sq).
The Bangladesh Army operates a small aviation component. Until 1990 this was a squadron sized unit but at that time it became a Group. The unit operates a PA-31, Ce208 and some Ce150s from Zia International while Bell 206 helicopters are flown from Tejgoan. Late 2012 two AS365 Dauphins were delivered and in 2015-17 six Mi-171s arrived.
A relatively new service with an aviation element is the Navy. From 2011 the navy received two AW109 Power helicopters and two Do228-212NG were be delivered in 2013. Like the other branches of the amred forces, the navy opted for the Mi-171 too. Five were ordered in 2014.