The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) was established in 1931, when the country was still a semi-independent protectorate of Great Britain. It is a competent force and in contrast to other Arab militaries, the air force has no involvement with politics.
The current inventory is one (1st) squadron of Mirage F1B’s, two (2nd and 6th) squadrons of F-16A Falcons, and two (9th and 17th) squadrons of F-5E Freedom Fighters. The Mirages were funded by Saudi Arabia and delivered in 1983. The Falcons are ex-USAF planes delivered after the Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty. The first batch came in December 1997 and another batch in early 2003. Surprisingly despite the “cold peace” between the countries Israel did not object to the F-16 exports and in fact offered it’s airspace during the transit flights. The Falcons of 6th Sqdn replaced Freedom Fighters, the survivors of which were rolled up into 1st Squadron’s inventory. Eventually, Jordan wants to standardize on an all-F-16 fleet (replacing the Mirages before the remaining F-5’s) but budget shortfalls have prevented any more transfers. The Mirages and Falcons are camouflaged, the F-5 fleet is mixed natural metal and camo. Some of the Mirages may still wear an all-grey air superiority scheme.
Primary training is by Scottish Aviation Bulldogs, which are not a unit but rather “equipment” belonging to the King Hussein Air College at Mafraq. Advanced training is done on CASA C-101’s belonging to the 11th Squadron. A handful of RJAF personnel have also been trained in the United States in USAF trainers.
Because of Jordan’s size, there is a limited need for fixed-wing transports. There is one squadron (3rd) of C-130 Hercules supported by a handful of minor small types. Recently these have been supported by CASA CN235’s leased from the manufacturer. In 2006 two Il-76 “Candid” strategic freighters were purchased from Russia.
Two (10th and 12th) squadrons of ex-US Army AH-1F Cobra gunships were delivered in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
There is one (5th) squadron of Hughes 500D light helicopters based at the King Hussein Air College, these are used for rotary-wing training but would also have a scouting role in wartime. There are twelve Pumas organized into an understrength squadron (7th) used for assault and medevac missions. For an unknown reason the Pumas still carry their civilian pre-delivery registrations. There is now also one squadron (8th) of UH-1H Iroquois which is useful for missions not requiring the Puma’s size. A second (14th) squadron consists of more UH-1Hs plus some converted civilian SA2-37s and a handful of miscellaneous types.
On 28 September 2006, the Defense Department notified Congress of a Jordanian request for an undisclosed number of UH-60 Blackhawk transport helicopters. As of September 2008 the aircraft had not yet been transferred.
The small Jordanian navy has no air wing.
There are a small number of Bo-105 helicopters based at King Abdullah AB belonging to the National Police, these would have a wartime combat role as well.
There is a King’s Flight at Amman, this is a mixture of non-standard transports including one Lockheed L-1011. Also at Amman is a single Sikorsky S-70A air ambulance, it is painted overall white with red crescent markings. The current helicopter replaced an identical S-70A which was sent back to the manufacturer after it’s flight hours expired, to offset the cost of it’s replacement.
Lack of modern ordnance is a weak point of the RJAF.
It has operated various marks of AIM-9 Sidewinders since the 1960s. It operates Matra Magic and (since 1984) Super 530 AAMs for French-built fighters. In November 2004, the USA finally agreed to sell fifty AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles for $39 million, a big step in improving the effectiveness of the air force.
The air-to-ground options are limited. AGM-65 Mavericks were delivered in 1984. Otherwise, aircraft are limited to daylight strikes with LAU-10 rocket pods and Mk__-series iron bombs, or BR-___-series bombs for the French and Spanish-built aircraft. (Some Matra 68 rocket pods may also remain for the Mirages.) A small number of AS.30L missiles were delivered for the Mirages in 1984, it is unknown if any remain operational. The Cobras are equipped with BGM-71 TOW missiles. There are no standoff weapons and no ARMs. There are no anti-ship or ASW weapons of any type.
Some sources state that Dassault COR-2 recon pods were delivered for the Mirages in 1985, but it is possible this was just a “paper deal” for an actual French sale to Iraq. In 1994, AN/ALQ-234 ECM pods were delivered for use aboard the F-5’s. In 2006 night-vision was added to the Cobras and in 2007, AN/AAQ-24 Nemesis IR jammers were delivered for the F-16 Falcons.
RJAF ground personnel operate MANPADS teams at every air base, types SA-7 “Grail” and FIM-43 Redeye. Twice Jordan has requested FIM-92 Stingers and been refused by the USA. In 2003 however, the USA did agree to sell AN/FPS-117 air defense radars to the RJAF.
King Abdullah AB (Amman): Transports, attack helicopters, transport helicopters, King’s Flight
King Hussein Air College (near Syrian border): Trainers, both fixed-wing and helicopter
as-Shaheed Muwaffaq Salti AB (near Iraqi border): Fighters (Mirages and F-16 Falcons)
Prince Hassan AB (ex-H-5) (in panhandle region): Fighters (F-5 Freedom Fighters)
King Faisal AB (southern Desert): Fighters (F-5 Freedom Fighters)
Initial interest in an air force was low, as it had been planned to eventually merge the Jordanian military with Iraq’s. After the overthrow of the Hashemite king in Iraq in 1958, this all changed and spending increased.
The RJAF’s first fighters were nine Vampires left behind by the RAF in 1955, these were joined by seven ex-Egyptian Vampires in 1957. The Vampires were withdrawn in the 1960s and replaced by a squadron of Hawker Hunters (which served the 1st Sqdn until being replaced by Mirages in the 1980s). Another squadron of Hunters was added in 1962. All but one of the original Hunters were destroyed on 5 June 1967 (see below) and replaced by new imports from the UK and donations from Iraq. In 1966, the Hunters were joined by a squadron of F-104 Starfighters; at the time the most advanced weapon of any type in the Jordanian military. The F-104 was part of an American “mega-deal” that included hundreds of tanks, APCs, and howitzers. The Starfighters served until July 1977, when they were replaced by an additional buy of F-5 Freedom Fighters. Afterwards the F-104s were used as decoys at various airbases.
The first trainers were obsolete Moth biplanes left behind by the RAF, these were soon joined by several (also obsolete) ex-RAF Proctors and more reliable Harvard T.2‘s. There were also six Auster Autocrats which doubled as daylight reconnaissance planes. The first jet trainers were T-37’s bought from the USA, these served until the 1990s.
The first transports were four WWII-vintage C-47’s bought on the open market. These were replaced by C-119 Flying Boxcars in 1971. The C-119 was hated by the Jordanians and replaced as soon as possible by the C-130 Hercules.
(The AH-1 Cobras of the late 1990s were the first combat helicopters of any type.)
Widgeon and Whirlwind helicopters imported from the UK during the 1950s and 1960s served until 1971 when they were replaced by Alouette III’s from France, these served until 1987.
RJAF IN COMBAT
The first combat of the RJAF was during the disastrous Six-Day War. A Hunter of the 1st Sqdn shot down an Israeli Mirage III over the Dead Sea during the war’s first hours, however Israeli Mirages quickly claimed three Hunters in air-to-air combat. On 5 June 1967, Israel conducted a massive air assault on Jordan, bombing every single airbase including the distant H-5 (now Prince Hassan AB) which is closer to Iraq than Israel. Almost the entire RJAF inventory was destroyed. The surviving aircraft were ordered to evacuate to Iraq, an action which was mocked as cowardice at the time but is now obviously seen as a wise move to avoid senseless loss in a now-doomed war effort. Amongst the evacuating aircraft were the first two F-104 Starfighters which had just been delivered weeks before; these took no part in the war.
According to some sources, a Jordanian F-104 Starfighter of the 9th Sqdn shot down another F-104 Starfighter in November 1972 as it was either trying to defect or take part in a coup. This has never been definitively verified as several RJAF F-104’s crashed accidentally during the type’s service.
Other than the Six-Day War, the RJAF has not participated in any other conflicts. Ground personnel did participate in a relief mission to Sarajevo during the 1990s Yugoslav civil war.