Everybody knows everything about the largest and the most powerful air forces. They juggle billions of dollars, fly their shining 5th generation jets and send drones to fight their wars for them. Boring. Let’s check out the opposite of that – the world’s smallest and most underfunded air forces!

Several caveats have to be made for that, though. First, a country has to have an air force to be included into this list. Otherwise, an entire list could be filled just with nations that do not have a single military aircraft in their disposal – Vatican, Monaco, Nauru, Tuvalu, San Marino, and other microstates. Some of them do not even have enough land for an aircraft to land on, let alone an air force. 

As for those that have an actual aerial branch of their army, its strength is measured here by the combat capability of their aircraft. Only operational ones are counted, using the latest data that could be scrapped off the internet. No surprise that most of them do not employ a single combat aircraft. Nevertheless, communication and transport are some of the most important parts of modern warfare and should not be disregarded. Even if they are performed by an old Cessna. 

Also, capabilities of a nation's air force do not denote the nation's military strength, as many have capable armies and just don’t bother with aircraft or have stronger allies who can cover the skies for them. Even more importantly, neither an army, nor an air force denote a nation’s wellness, worth, or overall political standing. Making fun of a country's inability to have enough airplanes is allowed only in good-hearted and non-offensive fashion – a rule that will undoubtedly be followed by every responsible citizen of the Internet.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the world of dwarfs!


Honorary mention: Somali and Liberian air forces 

The two African nations currently possess air forces with pilots, but no operational aircraft. Somalian lineup of old Soviet-made jets and helicopters, as well as several newer Western aircraft was destroyed in the onset of the civil war in early 90s, while Liberian Air Force was formally disbanded in 2005. Both countries have started training new pilots in 2014 and 2018 respectively, with an intent to purchase aircraft in the future. Meanwhile – the air force with no aircraft is not a real air force. Let’s move on.


10. Air Army of Madagascar

Madagascar Mig-15

What used to be Madagascar's MiG-15 (Photo: Rand-wi / Wikipedia)

Madagascar can be proud, because, unlike other nations on this list, they have at least a couple of dozens of fighter jets. The only problem is that those are MiG-17s and MiG-21s from the 60s and they remain in an “open air storage” – that is, thrown away at the edge of an airport. Operational aircraft include four light transporters, at least five relatively new utility helicopters, VIP transport airliner and an unknown amount of old Cessnas for communications and training. 


9. Air Arm of Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces

Not much can be established about them, sadly. The official webpage of SLAF says that they have 2 attack helicopters, 2 support helicopters and 2 fixed wing aircraft. At least according to the pictures, their Mi-24 Hinds and Sea King Commando Mk4s are still operational, but as for the fixed wing aircraft, doubts can be raised. Small African republic received a couple of Saab MFI-15 Safari trainers in the 70s, but their status is unknown.