The Botswana Defence Force Air Wing was formed in 1977 as a result of rising tension in the area. All squadrons are designated with a “Z”, which has no meaning but is just used as a designation for “squadron”. Main base is Molepolole which was built mostly by foreign contractors from 1992 and was finished round 1996. Other bases used are Francistown and the International Airport at Gaborone.
The backbone of the Air Wing is formed by ex-Canadian CF-116s which are locally designated as BF-5. Thirteen ex-Canadian CF-116s (ten single-seaters and three trainers) were ordered in 1996 to replace the Strikemasters, with another three single-seaters and two double-seaters delivered in 2000.
For transport the Air Wing uses BN-2A/B, C212, CN235-300 and C-130Bs. Latest addition to the transport-fleet was a C212-400 Two squadrons fly the AS350BA and Bell 412SP helicopters. In 2012 five PC-7 Mk.IIs superseded seven PC-7s in the flying training role. In 2016 South African built Bat Hawk C were taken on charge for anti-poaching operations.The VIP flight at Gabarone uses a wide variety of helicopters and aircraft.
In 2009 the newly established Botswana Police Service Air Support Branch acquired an initial three AS350B3s. These were upgraded for night operations with a forward-looking infrared camera and modified pilots’ instrument panel and observer’s console that were night vision goggle compatible. More AS350B3s were implemented later on for two losses. Four Bat Hawk C aircraft were acquired in South Africa to boost anti-poaching operations in June 2016.
The Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) in Botswana was established in recognition of the need to bring environmental issues under one roof for better coordination of policies, strategies and programs. The Ministry is made up of seven operational departments of which the Department of Wildlife and National Parks incorporates an aviation branch.