Tanzania People's Defence Force

The Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) (Kiswahili: Jeshi la Wananchi wa Tanzania (JWTZ)) is the armed forces of Tanzania. They were set up in September 1964, following a mutiny by the former colonial military force: the Tanganyika Rifles. From its inception, it was ingrained in the troops of the new TPDF that they were a people’s force under civilian control. Unlike some of its neighbors, Tanzania has never suffered a coup d'état or civil war.

Tanzania People's Defense Force
Jeshi la Ulinzi la Wananchi wa Tanzania
Zanzibar, 12 Jan. 2004, celebration of 40 years' of the Revolution
Tanzania People's Defence Force Staybrite cap badge
Founded1 September 1964
Service branchesArmy
Naval Command
Air Force Command
HeadquartersUpanga(Ngome), Dar es Salaam
Commander-in-ChiefPresident John Magufuli
Minister of Defence and National ServiceHussein Mwinyi
Chief of Defence ForcesVenance Salvatory Mabeyo
Conscription18 years (voluntary)
Available for
military service
9,985,445, age 1649 (2010 est.)
Fit for
military service
5,860,339 males, age 1649 (2010 est.),
5,882,279 females, age 1649 (2010 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
512,294 males (2010 est.),
514,164 females (2010 est.)
Active personnel27,000[1] (ranked 85th)
Reserve personnel80,000
Budget$220,000,000 (2014 est.)
Percent of GDP0.9% (2012 est.)
Related articles
HistoryThe Tanganyika Rifles
Uganda–Tanzania War (1978-79)
Mozambican Civil War
2008 invasion of Anjouan
M23 rebellion
RanksRank and insignia of the Tanzanian Armed Forces

The TPDF was given a specific mission: to defend Tanzania and everything Tanzanian, especially the people and their political ideology. Tanzanian citizens are able to volunteer for military service from 15 years of age, and 18 years of age for compulsory military service upon graduation from secondary school. Conscript service obligation was 2 years as of 2004.


After an aborted mutiny in January 1964, the existing army was disbanded. The new force was titled the 'Tanganyika Military Force', from 25 January 1964 - 26 April 1964.[2] The Tanzanian government concluded that the former British model was not appropriate for the needs of an independent African state.[3] Fresh recruits were sourced from the Tanganyika African National Union youth wing.[4] After the merge of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the force was renamed the United Republic Military Force from 27 April 1964.[2]

For the first few years of the TPDF, the army was even smaller than the disbanded 2,000 strong Tanganyika Rifles, the air force was minuscule, and no navy had yet been formed. It appears that the new TPDF had three battalions by August 1965, stationed at Nachingwea, Colito Barracks (five miles outside Dar es Salaam), and Tabora, plus the yet to be fully integrated Zanzibari force of about 1,000.[5] However the army was four battalions strong by 1967.[6]

From 1964 to 1974, the TPDF was commanded by Mrisho S.H. Sarakikya, trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, who was promoted from lieutenant to brigadier in 1964 and became the force's first commander.[7] He was succeeded by Lieutenant General Abdallah Twalipo 1974-1980.[8]

In 1972, the International Institute for Strategic Studies listed the army with 10,000 personnel, four infantry battalions, 20 T-59, 14 Chinese T-62 light tanks, some BTR-40 and BTR-152, Soviet field artillery and Chinese mortars. 'Spares [were] short and not all equipment was serviceable.'[9]

The Uganda–Tanzania War happened in 1978–1979.

In 1992, the IISS listed the army with 45,000 personnel (some 20,000 conscripts), 3 division headquarters, 8 infantry brigades, one tank brigade, two field artillery battalions, two Anti-aircraft artillery battalions (6 batteries), two mortar, two anti-tank battalions, one engineer regiment (battalion sized), and one surface-to-air missile battalion with SA-3 and SA-6.[10] Equipment included 30 Chinese Type 59 and 32 T-54/55 main battle tanks.

In 2007 Tanzania pledged forces for the SADC Standby Brigade of the African Standby Force.[11]

Tanzanian Army

As of 2012, the army is gradually modernising and restructuring. Much of the inventory is in storage or unreliable.[12]

  • 5 × infantry brigades
  • 1 × armoured brigade
  • 3 × artillery battalions
  • 2 × air defence artillery battalions
  • 1 × mortar battalion
  • 2 × anti-tank battalions
  • 121st Engineer Regiment (battalion size; unit identification from usaraf.army.mil and Flickr)
  • 1 × central logistic/support group

Current senior officers

  • Chief of Defense Forces (CDF): General Venance Salvatory Mabeyo[13]
  • Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Yakub Mohamed [13]
  • Commander of Land Forces: Major General George Msongole
  • Commander of Air Forces: Major General William Ingram [14]
  • Commander of Naval Forces: Rear Admiral Richard Makanzo [15]
  • Chief of National Service: Major Gen M.M. Busungu [14]


Equipment of the Tanzanian Army.

Air Force Command

The current Commander of the Tanzania Air Force Command is Major General William Ingram, who replaced Major General Joseph Kapwani upon the latter's retirement in January 2016. During a visit to Zimbabwe in March 2014, Kapwani commended Zimbabweans for 'remaining resolute and firmly safeguarding the country's sovereignty despite the suffering brought on by illegal Western sanctions.'[16] He made the remarks when he paid a courtesy call on Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander Air Marshal Perence Shiri at AFZ headquarters in Harare on 12 March 2014. General Kapwani, who was then the chair of the SADC Standing Aviation Committee, said he was in Zimbabwe to share experiences and strengthen relations.

A few of the Tanzanian air wing's transport remain serviceable. However, its Shenyang F-5s, and Chengdu F-7s are reported to fly only on rare occasions because of airworthiness problems.[17] Tanzania's long coastline means that transports are also used for patrol flights.

On 14 November 2013, Helmoed-Römer Heitman reported for Jane's Defence Weekly that a 'usually reliable source' had informed Jane's that the TPDF had replaced its 12 old CAC J-7 fighters with 14 new J-7s, twelve single-seat and two dual-seat. Deliveries were completed in 2011. Heitman also reported that the aircraft were fully operational at Dar es Salaam and Mwanza air bases.[18]

Recent estimates (2014) suggest that Tanzania's air force command operates 32 aircraft in 3 different types. It is believed they are operating 14 fighters, 11 fixed-wing attack aircraft and 7 transport aircraft. On October 1, 2015 a K-8 trainer jet of Tanzania Air Force Command crashed into the sea killing both pilots.[19]

The navy operates 9 fast attack craft and 12 patrol boats.

The current Commander of the Naval Command is Rear Admiral Richard Mutayoba Makanzo.

The closing ceremony of the joint Tanzanian-Chinese exercise Beyond/Transcend 2014 was held on November 14, 2014, at Kigamboni Naval Base attended by guests that included China’s ambassador to Tanzania, the Chief of the TPDF, and the heads of the navy and air force. The exercise between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy and the TPDF began on October 16 in Dar es Salaam, with more than 100 navy officers and seamen participating.

Jane's Defence Weekly wrote in August 2017 that '..a People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) flotilla consisting of a destroyer, a frigate, and a supply vessel visited Dar es Salaam on 16–20 August.'[20] Rear Admiral Makanzo said during the visit that Tanzania currently has two marine infantry companies, both of which were trained by the PLAN, with the training of a third company planned to begin with Chinese assistance. The admiral said that that Tanzanian marines were deployed at the time in peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.

United Nations missions

As of 30 June 2013, the TDPF is involved in the following United Nations peacekeeping missions:[21]

United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (MONUSCO)Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo1,247
UNAMIDDarfur, Sudan1,123
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)Lebanon159
United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA)Abyei5
UNOCIIvory Coast4
United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)South Sudan1

See also


  1. "CIA World Factbook: Tanzania". The World Factbook. 11 February 2013. Archived from the original on 27 June 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  2. Tungaraza, Casta. (1998). The transformation of civil-military relations in Tanzania, in Hutchful and Bathily The Military and Militarism in Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA.
  3. Keegan, John. World Armies. p. 698. ISBN 0-333-17236-1.
  4. For the rebuilding programme, see Lee, J. M. (1969), African Armies and Civil Order, International Institute for Strategic Studies/Chatto and Windus, 1969, 149-150.
  5. United Republic of Tanzania, Assessment of Defence Forces, August 1965, on file DO 185/42, Integration, training and deployment of Tanzania People's Defence forces, Commonwealth Relations Office, 1965, held UK The National Archives
  6. Parsons, 2003, 168.
  7. Irving Kaplan, Tanzania: A Country Study, Library of Congress Country Studies, First Edition, 1978, p. 248–249, and General Sarakikya attends Royal Military Academy's 50th reunion in Sandhurst Archived 2013-07-24 at the Wayback Machine, Arusha Times, 13–19 August 2011.
  8. Irving Kaplan, Tanzania: A Country Study, Library of Congress Country Studies, First Edition, 1978, p. 249, says that Twalipo took command in 1974.
  9. IISS, 1972-73, p. 40
  10. IISS Military Balance 1992-93, p. 211.
  11. Jane's Defence Weekly
  12. "Tanzania". Janes World Armies. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  13. "TSN : 404 - Page Not Found". dailynews.co.tz. Archived from the original on 2017-02-06. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  14. Abdu, Fatma (1 February 2016). "Tanzania: President Picks New TPDF Chief of Staff". Archived from the original on 28 January 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017 via AllAfrica.
  15. "Rear Admiral R S Laswai, Commander, Tanzanian Navy Visits India from 29 Aug to 01 sep 16". pib.nic.in. Archived from the original on 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  16. Zimbabwe: Tanzania Commander Hails Zimbabweans Archived 2015-05-02 at the Wayback Machine, The Herald (Zimbabwe) via AllAfrica, 13 March 2014.
  17. "OrBat Tanzania - MilAvia Press.com: Military Aviation Publications". www.milaviapress.com. Archived from the original on 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  18. Helmoed-Römer Heitman (Pretoria), Tanzania swaps old J-7 fighters for new ones, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, 14 November 2013.
  19. "ASN Aircraft accident 01-OCT-2015 Hongdu K-8 Karakorum". aviation-safety.net. Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  20. de Cherisey, Erwan (23 August 2017). "China steps up training for African militaries". Jane's Defence Weekly.
  21. "UN Mission's Summary detailed by Country" (PDF). Page 33, UN. 30 June 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.

Further reading

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