Narrative History
Swiss Air Force

On July 31, 1914 the government of Switzerland took the first step in founding an air force. Some idea of the difficulties involved may be gleaned from the fact that, when the 8 pilots invited to form the initial flying personal attended their first meeting, they were asked to bring their own aircraft. (A citizens’ air force indeed!) During the war, there were only periodic reconnaissance flights carried out and it is safe to say that there was more activity on the part of Swiss pilots serving in the French air force during this period than there was at home.

In 1936 the Swiss government took a major step by turning their air force into a separate unit of the country’s armed forces. Given that the most modern aircraft used at the time was the obsolescent Dewoitine D27 purchased from France, the move was a wise one in that it provided the impetus for a modernisation program. This gained momentum when, in 1937 the MS 406, a relatively modern fighter aircraft, was chosen, with the majority of the order built under license in Switzerland and called the D3800. This decision was followed shortly afterwards by the selection of the German Bf 109D

With the latter the Swiss may have wondered if they had picked the right plane. The 109 series never claimed landings as one of their strong points, due mainly to the narrow landing gear. At any rate the first 109D to arrive ground-looped at Dubendorf, the second crash landed near Frauenfeld on its way, the third crashed into Lake Constance on its first flight after arrival and the fourth crash landed near Mollis less than one month after delivery. . When the E model became available, it replaced the D model in deliveries to Switzerland. By the beginning of the war, both the MS 406 and the Bf109 were in squadron service.

With such modern aircraft activity on the part of the Swiss air force was much more pronounced than in World War I. The main problem was the repeated incursion of Swiss air space by German fighters and bombers, mostly on their way back from France, and it was not long before 2 He111’s were shot down by Swiss Bf109E’s, the first time that the Germans had one of their own aircraft brought down by a German fighter. albeit in Swiss markings. This was to go on for most of the war, punctuated only by Allied aircraft crossing the country on their way to and from bombing runs or, because of battle damage, attempting to land at Swiss airfields. By the end of the war over 50 American bombers sought refuge at Dubendorf, near Zurich.

In 1944 the Swiss were able to supplement their MS406’s and the Bf1109E’s by the newer G model. However, the quality of the latter was extremely poor with problems being encountered after only 15-20 hours of flight. They were, therefore, little used and were withdrawn in 1948. It turned out that this drop in quality on the part of the manufacturer was partly explained by the fact that young German fighter pilots were being rushed into service before their training was completed satisfactorily and most of them were killed before reaching 15 hours in combat.

In 1944 the Swiss also completed production of a domestically designed reconnaissance bomber, the C3603. This was the first major design of a Swiss military aircraft. They also produced 207 units of an upgraded model of the MS406, called the D3801, an upgrade which featured a more powerful engine, one of the most noticeable shortcomings of the earlier model.

After the war, action picked up again in 1948 when the government took advantage of an American surplus of Mustang fighter aircraft to purchase 130 of them still located in Germany for $4,000 apiece. By the end of the year all 130 had been delivered to Switzerland. Not to be left behind in the approaching era of jet aircraft, an order was placed for 75 De Havilland Vampire Mark 6 fighters from Gt. Britain. These were, in essence, Mark 5’s with an uprated engine. A further order of 100 followed in 1950 with the latter to be license built at the Swiss Federal Aircraft Factory located beside the air base at Emmen, near Lucerne.

Wit the arrival of the Vampires, the Mustangs were relegated to ground attack duties and, when the air force opted in 1953 for the Venom, an advanced version of the Vampire, the Mustangs were withdrawn from service. 150 Mark l Venoms were produced in Emmen, with the last 24 being equipped for the tactical reconnaissance role. In 1956 a further 100 Venoms were ordered, this time the Mark 3.

The next major re-equipment program took place in 1958 when 100 Hawker Hunter Mk.58’s were ordered. The first 12 were refurbished while the last 88 were newbuilds. With the arrival of the Hunters, the relegation of the Vampires and the Venoms to the training role commenced.

In 1961 a further step in the modernisation program was taken by the choice of the Mirage III to equip four fighter squadrons and one reconnaissance squadron, the Mirage being chosen after a stiff competition from the Swedish Saab Draken. The total number ordered was 100, of which all but four were to be license built in Switzerland. Due to horrendous cost overruns, mainly because of the selection of more advanced radar and missile systems, the number actually built was reduced to 57 but not before the Swiss had to endure, in 1964, one of the most acrimonious of political crises. After the lower number was chosen, only two fighter squadrons and one reconnaissance squadron could be equipped.

On a more positive note an aerobatic team was formed that same year on the Hawker Hunter, with four aircraft making up the initial unit. This was later to be expanded to six aircraft and in 1981 the unit, called the Patrouille Suisse, made its first foreign performance. In 1995 it switched to the F5C Tiger II’s. In 20 years of service with the P.S., not one Hunter was lost

The early 70’s saw more activity in the acquisition of new aircraft. In 197l additional Hunters were ordered, with 52 being refurbished Mk. 58’s and 8 new build two seat trainers Mk. 68’s. The following year an evaluation took place of the American Corsair II and the French Dassault Milan and, although the Corsair II was chosen, no production ever took place of this aircraft for the Swiss. Instead, in 1976 the Flugwaffe opted for the F5 Tiger II. 72 E’s were ordered as well as 6 F’s, with the bulk of the order being produced at Emmen.

1981 was an eventful year. First in line was a repeat order for the Tiger II’s; with 32 being the single seat variety and the remaining 6 twin seaters. In the same year Staffel No. 11, flying some of the aircraft of the original order, took part in the prestigious NATO Tiger Association Trophy competition and emerged as the winning squadron, being the only non-NATO air force ever to win the award.

In 1987 in search of an aircraft to provide jet training for its fledgling pilots, the Flugwaffe evaluated the French/German Alpha jet and the British BAe Hawk as a replacement for the Vampire T55 which was nearing the end of its useful life. The Hawk was declared the winner and an order placed for 20, with all but one produced at Emmen. Production of this aircraft was completed in 1991.

By that time attention had turned to a modern fighter aircraft which resulted in a fly-off between the F/A 18 and the F-16. The twin-engined F/A 18 proved to be the winner but it was not until a national referendum was held in 1993 (June 6) that the decision was made to order the plane into production for the Swiss.

During the same time the large supply of Hunters was finally being run down and by 1996 the plane had virtually disappeared from Swiss skies. The same year saw the arrival (Dec. 17) of the first of two F/A18C’s produced in the USA while in October the first D model made its initial flight at Emmen. Construction is to be completed in 1999 when the aircraft will replace the Mirage IIIS in the air defence role.

At the present time Swiss pilots take their initial training on the Pilatus PC-7 at Mogadino in the canton of Ticino. Those successful in this stage then do their advanced training on the Hawk at Sion in the canton of Valais before moving on to squadron service. Full time pilots normally serve with the surveillance squadrons (Ueberwachungsgeschwader) while militia (part-time) pilots are assigned to the various squadrons in this category.

For a small country Switzerland has a surprisingly large number of airfields for use by the military. The three main ones, which are continuously active and at which the surveillance squadrons are located, are at Dubendorf, near Zurich, Emmen, near Lucerne and Payerne, near Fribourg in the French-speaking part of the country. Other fields, in addition to the training fields mentioned above, are to be found at Meiringen, Mollis, Raron, Turtmann, Ulrichen, Alpnach, Stans, St. Stephan, Interlaken and Ambri while secondary fields are located at Samedan, Sarnen, Zweisimmen, Grenchen, Lodrino, Kagiswil, Fruitigen, Reichenbach and Sanvittore. In addition, airports are available at Altenrhein and Thun. The air force has also conducted exercises using parts of the country’s four-lane highway system as a runway. Finally, due to the cramped space, training has, on occasion, been carried out at the NATO base at Decimomanu in Sardinia and in Sweden. A Swiss built F/A 18C was also demonstrated to the Czechs at Hradec Kralove in Sept. 1997.

Not only do the Swiss keep their aircraft in immaculate condition, which accounts to a considerable degree for their long years of service but some of the landing fields listed above provide access to mountain caverns in which the entire air force can be hidden. This may entail hanging some of the aircraft from the ceiling of the caverns and the entire system gives some indication of how far the country is willing to go to protect its aircraft in an emergency.

1996 also saw the change in the name of the chief aircraft manufacturing facility in the country from the Swiss Federal Aircraft Factory to the Swiss Aircraft and Systems Co. (Schweizerische Unternehmung fuer Flugzeuge und Systeme).

(Original text by courtesy of Ray Canon).

Narrative History

of the Honduran Air Force

 

Military aviation started in Honduras on 19 April 1921, when the first flight of a just procured Bristol F.2b took place. The Escuela Nacional de Aviación was formed in 1924 with 3 Italian aircraft which were later supplemented by 5 other aircraft. On 14 April 1931 the aviation school became part of the Ministry of War, Marine and Aviation. Miliatry aviation became known on 25 February 1936 as Fuerza Aérea y Escuela de Aviación Militar under the command of a U.S. mercenary, Colonel Brooks. During the next years the Honduran Air Force received small quantities of aircraft and had about 22 aircraft in 1942. It was not until December 1944, when Honduras declared war on the Axis powers, that the Air Force received additional training and transport aircraft. After signing the Rio Treaty of 1947 Honduras was given more modern fighter aircraft to form there first combat unit. In 1954 the Air Force became an independent service and the name was changed to Fuerza Aérea Hondureña (FAH). In 1957, after a brief frontier conflict with Nicaragua new combat aircraft were procured as the current equipment was nearing the end of its useful life.

On July 14, 1969 the so called "El Guerra de 100 Horas" between El Salvador and Honduras started. After two soccer matches for the 1970 World Soccer Cup, tensions rose high between the two countries. During and after these matches in Tegucigalpa and San Salvador, supporters of the visiting countries were mistreated, which led to looting and arson against inhabitants of Tegucigalpa, who came from El Salvador. On the 3rd of July 1969 the FAH forced a Piper PA-28 of the Fuerza Aérea Salvadoreña (FAS) to land a was accused of flying a reconnaissance mission for the Salvadoran Army.  On July 12, 1969 the FAH deployed many of its aircraft to San Pedro Sula, headquarters of the FAH Northern Command (El Comando Norte). Four F4U-4, one C-54, one T-28 and one C-185B were based there during the war. Hostilities started on July 14, when units of the Salvadorean Army invaded Honduras and aircraft of the FAS made attacks agaist Honduran troops concentrations and some bombing runs against Tegucigalpa. The next day the FAH organised some retaliatory strikes against Ilopango Airport in San Salvador and the oil refinery in Acajutla. On the same day a FAS Mustang and Corsair attack Toncontin Airport inflicting some demage on hangars at the airbase. On July 17, Major Soto of the FAH manged to down a FAS Mustang, becoming the last Mustang to be shot down in an air-to-air action in history. On July 18, the Organization of American States (OAS) intervened, ordered a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Salvadoran troops, but the Salvadoran government refuses to comply. It was not until August 5, after pressure from the OAS, that El Salvador withdraw its troops from Honduras.

During the next years the FAH tried to receive additional, more modern, equipment and procured some F-86 from Venezuela and Yugoslavia, A-37 from the USA and some Super Mystére from Israel. During the 1980s U.S. backed Contra-forces, who fought against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, operated from bases within Honduras. On May 21, 1985, President Suazo Córdova and U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan signed a joint communiqué that amended a 1982 annex to the 1954 Military Assistance Agreement between the two countries. The new accord allowed the United States to expand and improve its temporary facilities at Palmerola Air Base near Comayagua and to operate the 1.Batallion/228.Aviation Regiment of the U.S. Army from this base. Today the FAH is organised in four operational squadrons and one flying
school.
 

 

Narrative History

of the Uruguayan Air Force

Military aviation started at Los Cerrillos/Montevideo when the Escuela Militar de Aviación (EMA) was formed on 17.3.1913 with one Framan and one Bleriot XI aircraft. Due to lack of funds the school ceased to exist in July 1913 and was only reactivated on 20.11.1916 at the Paso de Mendoza zone of Montevideo. In 1920 a French military mission arrived in country and brought some training aircraft with them. During the next years the Air Force received some additional aircraft and in 1924 the first operational unit, an Escuadrilla de Caza, was formed.

In 1935 a mayor reorganisation took place, the Air Force became Aeronáutica Militar (A.M.) and the Base Aeronáutica No.1 and Base Aeronáutica No.2 were formed. In 1940, the Uruguayan Government placed base facilities at the disposal of the United States and consequently became eligible for Lend-Lease military aid. During the next years the AM received small quantities of transport and training aircraft. In 1947 a United States air mission arrived in country and the AM was reorganised and the first transport and combat unit were established. After the delivery of 15 North American B-25J Mitchell and 25 North American F-51D Mustang in 1950 a bomber and fighter group were formed. In 1951 a national airline PLUNA (Primeras Líneas Uruguayas de Navegación Aérea) was formed under military control.

The AM was renamed Fuerza Aérea Uruguaya (FAU) on 4.12.1953 and became an independent service. 1955 saw the arrival of the first jet fighter aircraft, the Lockheed AT-33A, in the inventory of the FAU. On 11.10.1960 three commands (Comando Aéro-Tactico, Comando Aéreo de Entrenamiento and Comando Aéreo de Material) were formed to operate all units of the FAU.

By 1961 PLUNA had become an autonomous civil airline and a new military airline TAMU (Transportes Aéreos Militares Uruguayos) was formed in 1970 and aircraft of all Grupos de Aviación (Transporte) shared its equipment to operate a number of routes within the country and later to Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The aircraft carried both FAU serials and civil registrations.

The Bases Aeronáuticas were reformed in the 1965 as brigades (Brigada Aérea). In the 1970s the Lockheed F-80C were replaced by the Cessna A-37B. During the next years the FAU received small quantities of COIN, transport, traning and liaison aircraft and also some helicopters.

A mayor reorganisation took place on 27.4.1994, when all Regimientos Tácticos and Grupos de Aviación became Escuadrones Aéreos. On 14.7.1994 all air bases (Aeródromos Militares) were renamed as Bases Aéreas.

Today the Air Operations Command (Comando Aéreo de Operaciones) is divided into three Brigada Aéreas, each consisting of one to four squadrons (Escuadrón
Aéreo).

 

Narrative History

of the Paraguayan Air Force

Military aviation started in 1913 with the purchase of an Deperdussin T. In 1914 an Escuela de Aviación Militar (EAM) was formed and operated under the control of the Paraguay Army, with one Henri Farman and two Bleriot aircraft and Teniente Silvio Pettrossi as first dircetor. Pettrossi died on October 17, 1916, when he crashed with the Deperdussin T in Buenos Aires. After three years without flight activity the EAM was reactivated with the acquisition of one each Macchi-Lohner L-3 flying boat and Macchi M-7.

At the beginning of 1922 there was no operational aircraft in Paraguay. From May 1922 army officers rebelled against the government of President Ayala. Both sides tried to buy aircraft and recrut pilots in Argentina. The first aircraft, which the government forces got, was an Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8, followed by a single SPAD S.XX, two Italian built S.A.M.L. A.3s, two Ansaldo SVA-5s and one SVA-10 operating out of Base Aérea Ñu-Guazú/ Asunción. The first operational mission to bomb rebel positions was flown on June 29, 1922. During August 1922 the rebel forces bought four Ansaldo aircraft in Argentina and started to fly combat operations. At the end the government forces were victorious.

Tension with Bolivia grow from 1927 about the Chaco region and on January 13, 1929 Paraguay commenced mobilisation. After some skirmished in 1932 the congress of Paraguay called up reservists. On September 9, 1932 the first major aerial combat of the war occured, when two Bolivian aircraft met two Paraguay aircraft at Fortín Boquerón and managed to shot down one Potez 25A of the Pagarguay Air Force. During the next months there were many additional engagements between the two Air Forces. During 1933 the war became more static, as both sides fortified their defensive positions. There were no air engagements from June 1933 till June 1934. The last air combat took place on January 10, 1935, almost 6 month before the cease fire. Paraguay lost 11 aircraft during this conflict.

From 1935 the air force was called Arma Aérea Paraguay, still under Army control.

During World War Two Paraguay did not declare war on the Axis powers until February 1945. The Air Force did not receive large quantities of aircraft though the Lend-Lease Program, but only about 35 training and transport aircraft including BT-13A and PT-19A.

After a failed coup in December 1946 a full-scale civil war broke out with both sides operating aircraft. The rebels formed an Arma Aérea Revolucionaria with eight aircraft from defected pilots of the government air force on March 8, 1947. Some days later they attacked government positions at Belén-Cué and Paso Né, near San Pedro. During the next months, there were several operations by both air forces to support their respective ground forces. The revolution ended on August 20, 1947 and all rebel aircraft fled to Brazil and Argentina. They were later returned to Paraguay.

The Air Force entered the jet age, when they bought some EMB-326 Xavante in 1979. During the next years only small quantities of combat, liaison and transport aircraft were aquired. The Air Force became an independent service only on 26.7.1989 and renamed Fuerza Aérea Paraguay (FAP).

Today the FAP is organised in the I Brigada Aérea, Brigada Aerotransportada "Silvio Pettirossi" and the Comando de Institutos Aeronauticos de Ensenanza, which were formed 1991.

 

Narrative History (Pre-WW2)

of the Latvian Air Force

The Latvian Air Force was first formed in 1919, but details of its early history are sketchy. Lieutnant Alfred Valeika was ordered to form a Latvian Army Aviation Group on 7 June 1919. He gathered together a number of personnel with flying and technical experience gained from service in the Russian Bolshevik Air Service. In July the first aircraft were obtained, by hijacking a shipment of ex-Soviet aircraft captured by the Germans. After minor repairs these machines saw service against Russo-German forces occupying the country. Another aircraft was obtained subsequently, and used to form a second aviation unit.

On 30 September 1919 the two Army Aviation Groups were amalgamated to form the Latvian Aviation Park. The defeat of the Russo-German forces in mid October 1919 left a number of aircraft at abandoned German airfields. Those in the best state were overhauled and restored to flying condition. In 1920 a School of Military Aviation was established. March 1921 saw a re-organisation which resulted in Latvian Aviation Division being created. Further expansion resulted in the force being renamed the Latvian Aviation Regiment in 1926. In 1936 the previously separate Naval Aviation Division was incorporated into the Latvian Aviation Regiment as a new Squadron.

The aircraft in service when the USSR invaded in June 1940 were withdrawn from use and stored. During the period of German occupation 1941-44, several of these stored aircraft found their way to Germany, where at least some of them where flown. A number of Latvian pilots flew alongside the Luftwaffe on operations against the Red Army during this time.

Narrative History (Pre-WW2)

for the Lithuanian Air Force

The Lithuanian Army was first established in early 1918, but was initially poorly trained and ill-equipped. It was unable to resist the Bolshevik invasion of early 1919 with resulted in the loss of Vilnius to the Soviets. On 1 January 1919 an Aviation Unit was officially formed at Kaunas within the Engineers Company of the Lithuanian Army. The unit received it’s first aircraft on 5 February 1919 – a captured Soviet Sopwith.


On 12 February 1919 a flying school was established which was soon equipped with aircraft from Germany. A number of reconnaissance missions were also flown over Bolshevik lines. In early 1920 the Allied Military Control Commission overseeing German disarmament forced Germany to abandon its remaining military facilities in Lithuania, and so a number of additional aircraft were acquired.


In August 1920 the Aviation Unit was renamed Karo Aviacija (Military Aviation), and subsequently re-organised and expanded. It participated in the fighting with Poland over the ownership of Vilnius, including bombing and reconnaissance sorties. In the uneasy peace that followed the unsatisfactory outcome of the Polish conflict, further air bases were established, but the economic situation severely limited the procurement of new aircraft.


By 1936 the economic situation had improved, but the political situation was getting worse and several orders were placed for modern fighters and trainers to re-equip the air force. During 1938 the National Guard (Sauliai) para-military organisation formed an aviation component to provide refresher training for reserve officers.


Following incorporation of Lithuania into the USSR on 3 August 1940, the Lithuanian Army became the 29th Territorial Corps and its air component, the Karo Aviacija, became the Tautine Eskadrile (National Squadron). The Eskadrile aircraft were based at a country estate where they were parked out in the open. The unused aircraft were simply stored. On 22 June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and the next day the Tautine Eskadrile was ordered to fly to bases well inside Russian territory. Many Lithuanian personnel instead defected to the advancing German forces. During the period of German occupation 1941-44, several of the stored aircraft found their way to Germany, where at least some of them where flown. A number of Lithuanian pilots flew alongside the Luftwaffe on operations against the Red Army during this time.

Narrative History – Post WW2

of the Lithuanian Air Force


After regaining independence from the Soviet Union in September 1991, the Karo Aviacija was re-established on 2 January 1992 by the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence. It was initially equipped with some two dozen An-2 transport aircraft. This organisation was renamed Karinés Oro Pajégos (Lithuanian Air Force) on 1 March 1993. A shortage of funds currently limits expansion beyond the present air force strength. Since joining the European Union in 2004, air defence of the Baltic region has been undertaken by a series of detachments of fighters from NATO air forces – the first being KLu F-16s, which operated from Zokniai for three months from 29 March 2004.

Narrative History
Estonian Air Force (pre-WW2)

After the Russian revolution of February 1917, the Estonian state obtained a degree of autonomy within Russia, which included the establishment of national armed forces. Thus many Estonians in the Russian Army returned home to take up arms for their homeland. The Estonian declaration of independence in early 1918 was not recognised by Germany, which invaded and occupied the country during 1918. The Estonian armed forces were disbanded.


Germany surrendered on 11 November 1918, and the Estonian provisional government immediately set about establishing a military aviation unit. The Aviation Company of the Engineer Battalion began to establish air bases near Tallinn for seaplanes and landplanes, but it wasn’t until January 1919 that the first operational aircraft was acquired – a captured Soviet Farman HF-30.


In the meantime, on 22 November 1918, the Soviet Red Army had attacked Estonia and soon occupied most of the country. The fledgling Estonian Army, with foreign assistance, managed to counter-attack in early January 1919 and went on to liberate the country by late February. It subsequently moved on to liberate Latvia. Aviation Company aircraft flew a limited number of missions in support of the army.


Following the February 1920 peace treaty with the Soviet Union, the Estonian Army was demobilised but the Aviation Company was retained. With the delivery of more aircraft it was reorganised as an Aviation Regiment (Lennuväe rügement), comprising a landplane squadron, seaplane squadron, flying school and workshops. More bases and seaplane stations were built.


Some Aviation Regiment pilots were involved in a pro-Soviet coup attempt on 1 December 1924, but this was crushed within hours. From 1925 the First World War era aircraft were gradually replaced by more modern types. During 1928 the Aviation Regiment came under the control of an Air Defence (Õhukaitse) organisation which included the Anti-Aircraft Artillery. Plans to acquire Spitfires and Lysanders from Britain where thwarted when the outbreak of war forced Britain to cancel all export orders.


After the defeat of Poland, Estonia was forced to accept a Mutual Assistance Pact with the Soviet Union, signed on 28 September 1939. This allowed the Russians to establish military bases in Estonia, which were later used in the Winter War against Finland. On 17 June 1940 the three Baltic States were invaded by Soviet forces. Soviet-style elections were organised and the resulting communist parliament applied for membership of the Soviet Union. This was granted on 6 August 1940. During the June 1940 invasion the Air Defence took no action and subsequently aircraft remained locked in their hangars. The air force became the Aircraft Squadron of the 22nd Territorial Corps of the Soviet Army in the summer of 1940.


On 22 June 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The speed of the advance was such that Estonia was soon cut-off from Russia by German forces. The 22nd Territorial Corps was ordered to evacuate to Russia but many Estonian personnel deserted and joined the guerrilla forces fighting the retreating Red Army. The Germans were welcomed as liberators when they arrived.