Written by Oscar Nkala
The Tanzanian People’s Defence Force (TPDF) has swapped 12 old Chinese-made J-7 fighter aircraft with 14 new J-7Gs, as the country forges ahead with the modernisation of its aerial defence capabilities.
IHS Janes reports that the new fighter aircraft fleet includes 12 single-seat Chengdu J-7G jets (designated F-7TN in Tanzanian Air Force service) and two dual seat J-7Ns (designated FT-7TN in Tanzania) which were ordered in 2009 and delivered in 2011.
The fighters, which are now deployed at TPDF air bases in Mwanza and the capital Dar es Salaam, are armed with the Type 30-1 30 mm cannon and are equipped with five hardpoints for rockets, missiles and bombs. An upgraded Chinese copy of the MiG-21, the J-7G can reach a maximum speed of 2 200 km per hour and has a radius of 850 kilometres.
The J-7G features a Chinese-made KLJ-6E radar, which has replaced the French-made Selex Galileo Grifo 7 radar featured on earlier models of the J-7 such as those which were exported to Namibia and Nigeria in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
The Tanzanian Air Force has few combat aircraft, with only six K-8 jet trainers being the only other armed fixed wing aircraft in its fleet.
Last year, the Tanzania Ministry of Defence said the government will soon spend more on the procurement of defence equipment for the army and the air force as country strengthens its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the face of security threats such as maritime piracy and trans-national and home-grown terrorism.
The government is also seeking better air and naval defence capabilities to defend newly-found offshore hydrocarbon resources and secure its territorial waters against economic crimes such as illegal fishing. Last year, Tanzania mobilised its defence forces and threatened to go to war with neighbouring Malawi in a feud over exploratory drilling works which were taking place in an oil-rich maritime territory in Lake Nyasa which borders the two countries.
Malawi insisted that the drilling was happening on its side of the marine boundary while Tanzania asserted that the oil-fields fall within its maritime domain. Mediation efforts on the boundary dispute are still in progress.