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Military of Malawi
Flag of Malawi.svg
Flag of Malawi
Service branches Army (includes Air Wing and Naval Detachment),
Police (includes paramilitary Mobile Force Unit)
Commander-in-Chief Joyce Banda
Military age 18
Reaching military
age annually
(2002 est.)
Active personnel 25,500 (ranked 140th)
Budget $9.5 million (FY00/01)
Percent of GDP 0.76% (FY00/01)

The Malawi Defence Force[1] is the state military organisation responsible for defending Malawi. It originated from British colonial units formed before independence in 1964.

Malawi Army[edit | edit source]

The Malawi Rifles was a unit in the Malawi Army formed on the country's gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1964. Its first battalion was formed from the 1st Battalion, King's African Rifles. On independence the battalion became 1st Battalion, The Malawi Rifles (King's African Rifles). They were based (and elements still may be based) at Cobbe Barracks, Zomba. On 6 July 1966 Malawi became a republic and Kamuzu Banda became the first president of the new republic. After the swearing in ceremony his first duty was to present the battalion with his own presidential colour and the new regimental colour.[2] It was under the leadership of Brigadier Paul Lewis, a British expatriate.[3] In 1964, at Malawi's independence, the Malawian Army consisted of one battalion with 2,000 soldiers at Cobbe Barracks in Zomba. The Malawi Army is now made up of two rifle regiments and one parachute regiment. The military is organized under the purview of the Ministry of Defence. State Department IMET training documentation from FY 2003 indicates the United States trained army personnel from the 2nd Battalion, Malawi Rifles, 3rd Battalion, Malawi Rifles (Moyale Barracks), the Parachute Battalion, and the Combat Support Battalion (Mvera).[4]

In 1993, the army played a vital role in dismantling the dictatorship of Kamuzu Banda.[5] After Banda announced multi-party elections, the army intervened by dismantling Banda's paramilitary wing, the Malawi Young Pioneers in one night during an operation called "Bwezani" which means "taking back" or "returning". This event marked a vital point in the ideology of the Malawi Army that was to follow. The Malawi Army was shown to have no political aspirations themselves, and allowed the democratic process to ensue in Malawi as guided by civilians.[5]

On April 5, 2012 when President Bingu wa Mutharika died, there were rumours of an attempted constitutional coup intended to prevent vice-president Joyce Banda from becoming president as outlined by the constitution.[6] The military, under General Henry Odillo, stepped in and vowed to support and uphold the constitution of Malawi. They reportedly stationed security members at Banda's residence during the news of Mutharika's death.[7] This level of professionalism had a direct impact on the smooth transition of power.[6]

Air Force[edit | edit source]

The Malawi Air Wing was established with German help in 1976 with the delivery of six single engined Dornier Do 27s and eight Do 28 light twins in 1976-1980. Also in the same era the air force received an Alouette III, an AS 350 and an AS 355 Ecureuil, as well as three SA 330 H/L Puma Helicopters from France. A single BAe 125-800 was delivered in 1986. Four Dornier Do 228 light twin turbo props were acquired between 1986 and 1989 in part to allow disposal of the older Dornier products. In 1990 two Douglas C-47s and PT6A turboprops were delivered from the US.

Aircraft inventory[edit | edit source]

The Malawi Army Air Wing operates the following aircraft:[8]

Manufacturer Model Type Service entry Number Notes
Dornier Dornier 228 Tactical Transport ? 2? Two confirmed in service 2006, possibly two more[8]
Dassault Aviation

Hawker Sidley

Falcon 900


VIP Transport

VIP Transport

2010 (sold 2013)

2005 (Sold)



900EX registered as 7Q-ONE in 03/2010 [9]

Registered as MAAW-J1

Eurocopter SA 330 Puma Multi-purpose helicopter 1976–1980 2
Eurocopter Eurocopter Dauphin Multi-purpose helicopter 1976–1980 1
Basler Basler BT-67 Cargo aircraft 1990 2
Dornier Dornier Do 228 Light transport aircraft 1986–1989 4
Eurocopter Eurocopter AS 350 Ecureuil Light utility helicopter
Eurocopter Eurocopter AS355 Ecureuil 2 Light utility helicopter ? 1

On 28 January 2013, the office of President Joyce Banda announced that the Dassault Aviation Falcon 900 would be sold to the highest bidder, as part of cost-cutting measures.[10]

Retired Aircraft[edit | edit source]

Navy[edit | edit source]

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|date= }} As a landlocked country, Malawi has a very small navy with no sizeable military craft. Malawi's naval force only operates on Lake Malawi and is based at Monkey Bay. In 2008, it had 225 personnel.

  • 2 patrol boats
  • 1 Landing Craft Utility

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • World Aircraft Information Files. Brightstar Publishing, London. File 337 Sheet 02
  • World Aircraft Information Files. Brightstar Publishing, London. File 340 Sheet 05

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Tim Stapleton. "'Bad Boys': Infiltration and Sedition in the African Military Units of the Central African Federation (Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe) 1953-163." The Journal of Military History 73, no.4 (2009): 1167-1193.

External links[edit | edit source]

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