Biafran Armed Forces

The Biafran Armed Forces (BAF) were the military of the secessionist state of Biafra which existed from 1967 until 1970.[1]

Biafran Armed Forces
Flag of Biafra.svg
Service branchesHalfSun.png Army
Roundel of Biafra (1967–1970).svg Air Force
Commander-in-ChiefC. Odumegwu Ojukwu
Chief of General StaffPhilip Effiong
Related articles
HistoryNigerian Civil War
RanksMilitary ranks of Biafra


Disabled Biafran war veterans in 2017.

At the beginning of the Nigerian Civil War, Biafra had 3,000 soldiers. This number grew as the war progressed, ultimately reaching 30,000.[2] No official support for the Biafran Army came from any other nation, although arms were clandestinely acquired. Because of this, the Biafrans manufactured many of their weapons locally.[citation needed]

Some Europeans served the Biafran cause: German-born Rolf Steiner was a lieutenant colonel assigned to the 4th Commando Brigade, and Welshman Taffy Williams served as a major throughout the conflict.[3] A special guerrilla unit, the Biafran Organization of Freedom Fighters, was established: designed to emulate the Viet Cong, they targeted Nigerian supply lines, forcing them to shift resources to internal security efforts.[4]



At the peak of Biafran military power, the Biafran Army was made of 5 divisions; numbered 11th, 12th, 13th (later renumbered 15th), 14th and 101st. It also had 2 separate brigades, the S Brigade, a Pretorian guard for General Ojukwu,[5] and the 4th Commando Brigade (trained and commanded by mercenaries).[6] It was commanded by Brigadier Hillary Njoku[7] and later Major General Alexander Madiebo.[8]

Air wingEdit

Roundel of the Biafran Air Force

The Biafrans set up a small, yet effective air force. Biafran Air Force commanders were Chude Sokey and later Godwin Ezeilo,[9] who had trained with the Royal Canadian Air Force.[10] Its early inventory included two B-25 Mitchells, two B-26 Invaders, (one piloted by Polish World War II ace Jan Zumbach, known also as John Brown),[11] a converted DC-3 and one Dove. In 1968, Swedish pilot Carl Gustaf von Rosen suggested the MiniCOIN project to General Ojukwu.

By early 1969, Biafra had assembled five MFI-9Bs in Gabon, calling them "Biafra Babies". They were coloured green, were able to carry six 68 mm anti-armour rockets under each wing using simple sights. The five planes were flown by three Swedish pilots and three Biafran pilots. In September 1969, Biafra acquired four ex-Armee de l'Air North American T-6Gs, which were flown to Biafra the following month, with another T-6 lost on the ferry flight. These aircraft flew missions until January 1970 manned by Portuguese ex-military pilots.[10]

During the war, Biafra tried to acquire jets. Two Fouga Magisters and several Gloster Meteors were bought but never arrived in Biafra, being abandoned on foreign African airbases.[12]

Aircraft Origin Number Notes
MFI-9B "Biafra Babies" Sweden 5[12]
Douglas B-26 Invader USA 2[13] Provided by Pierre Laureys[14][15]
North American B-25 Mitchell USA 2[16]
de Havilland Dove UK 2[17]
Fokker F27 Friendship Netherlands 1[16] Ex Nigerian Airways and used as an Improvised Bomber.
Douglas DC-3 USA 1[16] Improvised Bomber.
North American T-6 Texan USA 4-6[12][10] ex-Armee de l'Air.[10]


Biafra had a small improvised navy, but it never gained the success of the air force. It was headquartered in Kidney Island, Port Harcourt, and was commanded by Winifred Anuku. The Biafran Navy was made up of captured craft, converted tugs, and armored civilian vessels armed with machine guns, or captured 6-pounder guns. It mainly operated in the Niger Delta and along the Niger River.[13]

Ships in service
Ship Origin commissioned Fate notes
BNS Vigilance ex-NNS Ibadan 30 May 1967 Sunk on 10 September 1967[18] Ford-class seaward defence boat
NSS Bonny ex-HMS Gifford 1968 Preserved at the National Nigerian War Museum Ford-class seaward defence boat
Ikwerre ex-Nigerian port authority tugboat[19] 1967[20] Armed with a 105mm howitzer[19]
PC101 ex-Nigerian port authority cutter[21] 1968 Lost in July 1968[20] Armed with 6-pounder and Bofors gun[22]
PC202 Nigerian tugboat[21] 1968 Lost in July 1968[20] Armed with a 105mm howitzer[23]
PC203 Nigerian tugboat[21] 1968 Sunk in September 1968[20]
PC204 Nigerian civilian craft 1969[20]

Weapons and equipment used by Army and militiasEdit

Type Origin notes
Dane gun home-made In service with militias[24]
Lee–Enfield No.4 ex-Nigerian Army 120 to 150 in January 1967[25]
Beretta BM 59 ex-Nigerian Army (captured) [25]
Vz. 24 rifle Czechoslovakia (officially denied) 1,860 bought at the beginning of 1967[26]
Vz. 52 rifle 820 bought at the beginning of 1967[26]
Vz. 58 rifle 732 bought at the beginning of 1967[26]
MAS 36 Gabon, Ivory Coast, Haiti 300 from Haiti as a gift in 1968[27]
FN FAL/SLR Parker-Hale (United Kingdom); ex-Nigerian Army (captured) 930 delivered in 1967;[27] some FN FALs captured from the Nigerian Army[25]
CETME rifle ex-Nigerian Army (captured) [28]
Spanish and German 98-type Mausers ? [29]
AK-47 China (Black market) In service with militias[citation needed]
Submachine guns
Type Origin notes
CZ-247 Czechoslovakia (officially denied) 300 bought at the beginning of 1967[26]
CZ-23 and CZ-25
Lanchester Mk I ? Some used by mercenaries[28]
Machine guns
Type Origin notes
Vz. 26 machine gun Czechoslovakia (officially denied) 55 bought at the beginning of 1967[26]
Vz. 30 machine gun
Vz. 52 machine gun
Vz.59 machine gun
Vz. 37 heavy machine gun 20 bought at the beginning of 1967[26]
MG34 [26]
Bren ex-Nigerian Army ~12 in January 1967[25]
Rocket launchers
Type Origin notes
Pancerovka P-27 Czech-made [27]
Type 56 RPG Chinese-made[30]
SARPAC French-made Some from 1968[27]
Ogbunigwe Launcher Biafran Research and Production [31]
Type Origin notes
2-in mortar ex-Nigerian Army [27]
Ordnance ML 3 inch mortar
L-N 81mm mortar Spanish-made At least 6[27]
MO-120 AM-50 French-made [27]
Type Origin notes
Canon de 75 modèle 1897 Never used in combat (unable to fire)[32]
Oerlikon 20 mm cannon Hispano-Suiza (Spain) [32]
M18/49 105mm howitzer (upgraded 10.5 cm leFH 18/40) Czech-made
Ordnance QF 6-pounder ex-Nigerian Army
Bofors 40 mm gun
OTO Melara Mod 56
Armoured vehicles
Type Origin Number notes
AML-60 ex-Nigerian Army At least 1 [32]
AML-90 At least 1
Ferret armoured car At least 1
Alvis Saladin At least 2
Alvis Saracen 1
Universal Carrier French trader A small number
Homemade armored vehicles Biafra ? A lot of designs[32]



  1. ^ Jowett 2016.
  2. ^ "Operation Biafra Babies". Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2008.
  3. ^ "The Last Adventurer" by Steiner, Rolf (Boston:, Little, Brown 1978)
  4. ^ Jowett 2016, p. 16.
  5. ^ Jowett 2016, p. 13.
  6. ^ Jowett 2016, p. 15.
  7. ^ Baxter, Peter (2015). Biafra : the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970. Helion and Company. p. 23. ISBN 978-1909982369.
  8. ^ Iliffe, John (2011). Obasanjo, Nigeria and the World. Boydell & Brewer. p. 108. ISBN 978-1847010278.
  9. ^ Okpe, August (2009). The last flight : a pilot remembers the Air Force and the Biafran air attacks. Aeromax. ISBN 9789789004140.
  10. ^ a b c d Air Enthusiast No. 65 September–October 1996 pp 40–47 article by Vidal, Joao M. Texans in Biafra T-6Gs in use in the Nigerian Civil War
  11. ^ Michael Robson. "The Douglas A/B-26 Invader - Biafran Invaders". Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  12. ^ a b c Jowett 2016, p. 19.
  13. ^ a b Jowett 2016, p. 17.
  14. ^ Dan Hagedorn; Leif Hellström (1994). Foreign Invaders: The Douglas Invader in Foreign Military and US Clandestine Service. Midland Pub. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-85780-013-5.
  15. ^ Griffin, Christopher (2014). "French military policy in the Nigerian Civil War, 1967–1970". Small Wars & Insurgencies. 26 (1): 119. doi:10.1080/09592318.2014.959766. ISSN 0959-2318. S2CID 143967690.
  16. ^ a b c Jowett 2016, p. 18.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.
  19. ^ a b Odu 2009, p. 111.
  20. ^ a b c d e "Biafra Navy, 1967-70". Retrieved 2018-05-13.
  21. ^ a b c Odu 2009, p. 154.
  22. ^ Odu 2009, p. 153.
  23. ^ Odu 2009, pp. 158, 166-167.
  24. ^ Jowett 2016, p. 14.
  25. ^ a b c d Jowett 2016, p. 21.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Jowett 2016, p. 22.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g Jowett 2016, p. 23.
  28. ^ a b Jowett 2016, p. 46.
  29. ^ Scarlata, Paul (October 2012). "The military rifle cartridges of Nigeria". Shotgun News.
  30. ^ Chinese-made weapons may have come from Zambia or Tanzania (Jowett 2016, p. 23)
  31. ^ Jowett 2016, p. 33.
  32. ^ a b c d Jowett 2016, p. 24.