Air power has always been important in the dynamics of the Middle East. Emir Abdullah recognized this at the start of the Arab Revolt in 1916, when the Hashemite army soldiers were facing many difficulties. He commented from Medina that Bedouin encampments were being bombed by Turkish aircraft (which were flying unopposed in the skies of the Hejaz) and this was having a demoralizing effect on the tribesmen. He said that both he and Emir Faisal felt strongly that without air support, they would have difficulties with the loyalty of their troops who were unaccustomed to this type of warfare.
These events stayed in the memory of Emir Abdullah and were the prime motivation in his struggle to form an air force in Jordan.
Until 1922, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) activity in Transjordan was controlled from Palestine, but subsequently moved to Amman with No 14 Squadron formed to assist the new Emirate. The air bases of RAF Amman and RAF Mafraq were established in 1931, but Amman airfield was too small for large aircraft so Mafraq was the major base for international flights.
During World War II, RAF stations at Amman and Mafraq remained fully mantled and combat ready but were only needed as staging posts.
After the war, the two stations no longer had operational squadrons but remained as important staging posts between Cyprus, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq and the Arabian Gulf.
When Britain gave up the Palestine Mandate in May 1948, RAF Amman was reinforced. The Arab Legion crossed over the River Jordan on May 15 and held East Jerusalem and the West Bank from the Israelis, although it had no air support.
On June 1, 1948 Amman Airport was attacked by Israeli twin-engined aircraft. Two Anson aircraft were damaged as a result of a direct hit on the main hanger. One of the results of this raid was that King Abdullah I was even more determined that an air force should be formed so that Jordan would not be in the position of relying on the British RAF for all air support. The King wanted Jordan to be able to defend itself in the air as well as on land.
The Jordanian Government had proposed to the British Government the establishment of a small air force but it was not until 1948 that Glubb Pasha (Lieutenant General Sir John Glubb, Commander of the Arab Legion, from 1939 to 1956) received a response. The British suggested that a Jordanian be trained in flying, so in July of that year planning for the new Air Force began with recruitment and training of pilots and engineers.
AMER KHAMMASH: FIRST JORDANIAN PILOT
Lieutenant Amer Khammash, who was serving in the Artillery of the Arab Legion (later Lieutenant General and Chief of the General Staff of the Jordanian Armed Forces), was chosen by Glubb Pasha to train with the RAF on a two-year course. Lieutenant Khammash passed with flying colors and returned to Amman in July 1950.
ARAB LEGION AIR FORCE
In May 1950, it was decided to establish a training flight and a small air observation squadron to consist of six Austers (unarmed reconnaissance aircraft). The existing communications flight would be absorbed into the new force to be known as the Arab Legion Air Force (ALAF) with the functions of communications, air observation post (AOP), reconnaissance and air intelligence.
In 1950, the ALAF had one DH Rapide, four Percival Proctors, two DH Tiger Moths and two Auster Autocrats, piloted by RAF personnel.
On National Day, May 25, 1951 the ALAF gave its first display in front of King Abdullah I at Amman Airport, with three Austers and Captain Khammash flew the first Auster as leader.
At King Abdullah’s request, the British Air Officer Commanding the Middle East area visited Amman to discuss the possibility of providing fighter aircraft for the ALAF but it was not until 1955 that fighter jets became part of the Air Force.
July 19, 1951 is considered the day in which the Royal Jordanian Air Force came into being, although called the ALAF. On that day, King Abdullah I with his grandson Prince Hussein (later King Hussein), presented wings to the first Jordanian pilots. Captain Khammash was the only one to have trained with the RAF, while the others had their training at a civilian establishment at Hamble in the UK.
After the ceremony, there was an inauguration parade at the King Abdullah Air Base, Amman. The following day, July 20, King Abdullah was assassinated in Jerusalem. He was succeeded briefly by his son King Talal and then by his grandson, King Hussein, who became the motivating force behind the establishment of the Air Force.
KING HUSSEIN'S FIRST CONTRIBUTIONS
The RAF No. 6 Squadron was stationed in Mafraq from March to June, 1953, then returned in January 1954 to Amman when, on the 19th of the same month, King Hussein opened the new 2,600 yard runway by flying a circuit in his twin-engined Dove. Vampires of No. 6 Squadron flew a salute then four of them gave an aerobatic display to celebrate the occasion.
Until 1955, the ALAF was only equipped with non-jet aircraft. King Hussein knew that the Arab Legion would be exposed without adequate air support and it was due to his determination that the Air Force expanded and acquired jet aircraft.
In September 1955, two DH Vampire T11, two-seat jet trainers, were purchased by Jordan and they spearheaded the arrival of 10 FB Mk9 Vampire fighters, which were presented as a gift from Britain.
They formed the first fighter squadron. The first course on Vampires began in September 1955. To improve conversion training from the Chipmunks, three Harvard trainers were obtained from Kenya. The Jordanian pilots were trained on the Vampire jets by RAF instructors.
ROYAL JORDANIAN AIR FORCE ESTABLISHMENT
On September 25, 1955 the ALAF was renamed the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) by Royal Decree and adopted a new design of the wings based on the RAF but with the Jordanian crown in the middle.
The distinctive blue uniform, retaining army ranks and titles, was introduced in the same year, although khaki was still worn in the summer until the seventies.
FIRST JORDANIAN COMMANDER
In April 1956, after the Arabization of the Armed Forces, Major Ibrahim Othman became the first Jordanian Air Force Commander, directly reporting to the Chief of the General Staff.
FULL JORDANIZATION OF THE AIR FORCE
On March 13, 1957 the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty was terminated by mutual agreement and by May 31, 1957, both RAF Mafraq and RAF Amman had been evacuated and handed over to the Jordanian Government.
October 1958 saw the first two of twelve Hawker Hunter Mark 6 fighter jets land in Amman to form No 1 Hunter Squadron, with the Vampires forming No 2 Squadron. The RAF was present in an advisory capacity and with a training team to instruct pilots and airmen on the Hunter aircraft.
In June 1959, Mafraq was handed over to the RJAF with the first Hunter aircraft arriving there on that date.
At the end of 1959, another squadron of Hunters was requested to replace the aging Vampires, but it was not until April 1962 that the first of these arrived to form No 2 Squadron at King Hussein Air Base Mafraq, replacing the Vampires which were then taken out of service, with the last flight on April 17 1962. In 1964, Squadrons 1 and 2 joined to operate as Squadron 1.