Military Coup: Sudan Airspace Closed

By Chris Shieff


A military coup is underway in Sudan. Heavy fighting including gunfire and explosions have been reported in the capital, Khartoum, and at HSSK/Khartoum Airport.

On April 16, Sudan’s CAA notified that all air navigation services have been suspended in Sudan’s airspace, including above FL245 in adjacent South Sudan, due to ‘security reasons.’

Coup Underway

News first emerged on April 15. Sudan’s paramilitary group ‘Rapid Support Forces’ (RSF) became engaged in active fighting with the state military in Khartoum in an apparent coup attempt. While the details were scarce, they reportedly seized control of several important assets, including HSSK/Khartoum Airport.

This has been brewing for some time. There has been a power struggle between the two rival military forces since an overthrow of the government back in 2019.  A failure for the existing government to successfully transition Sudan to a freely elected one has fanned the flames. Along with this is strong public demand for the RSF to be merged with the regular armed forces. This now looks pretty unlikely.

Flight Ban

On April 15, the HECC/Cairo FIR advised Eurocontrol that Sudanese airspace had closed, and that local authorities were unable to issue any Notams to that effect.

At the same time, videos began to emerge of large passenger jets on fire on the tarmac at HSSK/Khartoum Airport. This includes unconfirmed reports that an A330 was shot at multiple times while preparing to depart. The pax and crew evacuated, and were transported to safety at a local embassy.

Then on April 16, this HSSS/Khartoum FIR Notam was published:

16 APR 12:00 2023 UNTIL 22 APR 23:59 2023 ESTIMATED. 
CREATED: 16 APR 12:05 2023

This effectively confirmed Eurocontrol’s initial notification, as well as extending it into neighbouring South Sudan, where the HSSS/Khartoum FIR is responsible for managing their traffic above FL245. There is now no air navigation service available in that airspace.

Air navigation services have been suspended in Sudan’s airspace, including above FL245 in South Sudan.

Two other regional airports have also been reportedly seized in the coup – HSOB/El-Obeid in the west, HSMN/Merowe in the north although news emerged on April 17 that government forces had reclaimed the latter. Take that with a grain of salt.

None of the airports have issued any Notams, which means their operational status is currently unknown.

Safety of the Ground

As you would expect, it doesn’t sound good. The US Embassy is our best source of information to gauge the security of crew on layovers, or tech stops. Their latest advice is for all civilians to shelter in place indoors due to reports on ongoing gunfire in the capital. As the airport is currently closed, there are no plans for evacuation flights. In other words – don’t go there voluntarily, even for diversions.

Adjacent Airspace Warnings

The HSSS/Khartoum is a big piece of airspace. The scramble now will be how to avoid it. Unfortunately, several adjacent countries have their own airspace warnings in place and so it is important to take these into careful consideration. Here’s a summary:

South Sudan

You may be tempted to fly below FL245 through South Sudanese airspace to ensure air traffic control services. However these have been the focus of recent scrutiny. The primary risk there is poor levels of ATC provision, especially for aircraft operating in and out of HSSJ/Juba. Back in 2021, ICAO issued a letter warning of disruptions, a lack of qualified controllers, communication issues and coordination issues with adjacent airspace. There have also been reports of navaids being withdrawn from service and other changes without proper notification to crew. We’ve received no further reports of these problems since.


There are no active airspace warnings for the FTTT/N’Djamena FIR, although several states (including the US) advise against travel here. The main issue seems to be the risk of crime, kidnapping and terrorism. The general advice is to avoid landing here. We haven’t heard of any issues for overflying aircraft, but keep safety during diversions in mind.


Special attention needs to be paid to the Northern Tigray Region, near the border with Eritrea. A long running conflict there has recently come under ceasefire, but there may still be some resistance to this amongst militant groups with access to portable air defence systems. These can pose a risk to low level aircraft (below FL250).

Several states including Germany, the UK, France and Canada still have airspace warnings in place. Although they are due for review, they should still be considered active in the meantime. The US warning has previously been lifted. You can view all active advisories here.


To the north of Sudan lies the HECC/Cairo FIR. There is still a reported threat of terrorism in Egypt, particularly in the Sinai Peninsular. Only the UK and Germany still have active airspace warnings here – both countries essentially advise against overflights below FL260 in the northern part of the Sinai region. The US had a similar warning in place until it was rescinded in March 2022.

Central African Republic

The news isn’t great here. The security situation on the ground in the Central African Republic could best be described as dire. There have been numerous attacks on civilians and peacekeeping troops in recent years. FEFF/Bangui airport is operating under UN control, and is subject to regular power outages. The US and UK advise against all travel to the entire country due to violent crime, civil unrest, and the presence of armed groups who control large areas of the country. There are no official airspace warnings in place for the CAR, but the general advice is to avoid landings here completely.

What will happen next?

It is a developing situation and Sudan should be avoided until things stabilise. We’ll continue to publish updates as they become available, both to OPSGROUP members, and also via safe – our conflict zone risk database.


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Chris Shieff

Chris Shieff

OPSGROUP team member and A320 pilot. Based in sunny Melbourne, Australia. Question for us? Write to

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