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.

Key Dates
Estonian Air Force (pre-WW2)

21 November 1918    Aviation Company of the Engineer Battalion created
January 1919    First aircraft obtained – captured from the Soviets
1920    Aviation Company expanded to an Aviation Regiment
1928    Aviation Regiment comes under the control of the Air Defence organisation
17 June 1940    Soviet Union invades Estonia – Estonian Air Force does not resist
June 1940    Air Force becomes Aircraft Squadron of 22nd Territorial Corps of the Soviet Army
22 June 1941    Germany invades the Soviet Union – Estonia soon occupied
June 1941    22nd Territorial Corps evacuates to Russia, but many Estonian personnel desert to fight the retreating Red Army

Aircraft Not Used
Estonian Air Force (pre-WW2)

This page gives details of some of the aircraft types that were offered or promised to the pre-WW2 Estonian Air Force but not delivered, cancelled official orders, and types have been falsely reported as being in service.

Supermarine Spitfire I
12 Mk I Spitfires were ordered by the Estonian Government in 1937. The order was cancelled by the British Government at the outbreak of WW2.

Westland Lysander
Ten Lysander I aircraft were ordered in 1938, but the order was cancelled by the British goverment in September 1939 and the aircraft diverted to Finland and Egypt.

All-Time Aircraft Used List
Estonian Air Force (Pre-WW2)

Aircraft Type Quantity Service Entry Out of Service Origin
Ago C.IV 1 1919 1919 captured
Armstrong Whitworth Siskin IIIDC 2 1930 1940 United Kingdom
Aviotehas PN-3 1 1939 1940 Estonia
Avro 504K 13 1919 1931 United Kingdom
Avro 504R Gosport 12 1928 1940 United Kingdom
Avro 616 Avian IVM 6 1929 1940 United Kingdom
Avro 626 Prefect 4 1932 1940 United Kingdom
Avro 652A Anson I 1 1936 1940 United Kingdom
Bristol Bulldog II 12 1930 1940 United Kingdom
de Havilland D.H.9 13 1919 1933 United Kingdom
DFW C.V 4 1919 1931 captured
FBA Type H 1 1920 1925 France
Friedrichshafen FF41 1 1918 1919 captured
Gourdou-Leseurre GL-22B3 15 1925 1939 France
Grigorovich M.11 1 1919 1925 captured
Halberstadt C.V 5 1919 1924 captured
Halberstadt CL.IV 4 1920 1925 captured
Hanriot HD.14 2 1928 1928 France
Hawker Hart 8 1932 1940 United Kingdom
Henschel Hs 126B-1 5 1940 1940 Germany
Lebedev 12 1 1919 1919 captured
Letov S.228E 4 1932 1940 Czechoslovakia
Lockheed 14 Super Electra 1 1939 1940 United States
LVG C.V 1 1919 1919 captured
Miles Magister 1 1936 1940 United Kingdom
Nieuport 12 1 1919 1922 France
Nieuport 17 Bebe 2 1919 1922 France
Nieuport 21 1 1919 1919 France
Nieuport 23 1 1919 1919 France
Nieuport 24bis 2 1919 1922 France
Norman-Thompson NT.2B 2 1919 1925 United Kingdom
Post, Org, Neudorf PON-1A 4 1935 1940 Estonia
Post, Tooma, Org PTO-4 2 1939 1940 Estonia
Potez 25A2 TOE 9 1925 1936 France
RAF B.E.2e 2 1919 1919 United Kingdom
RAF R.E.8 6 1919 1921 United Kingdom
RWD 13 ? 1939 1940 Poland
Shchetinin M-16 2 1919 1919 captured
Short 184 8 1919 1933 United Kingdom
Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter 1 1919 1919 United Kingdom
Sopwith 2F1 Camel 2 1919 1924 United Kingdom
Spad VIIC1 2 1925 1928 France

Additional information is welcome

Estonian Air Force (pre-WW2)

Operator Profile


Narrative Summary

Narrative history of the Estonian Air Force

Key Dates

EÕ Chronology

Current Status

Disbanded in 1940 – not applicable.

Future Plans

Not applicable.


National Insignia


Aircraft Serial Numbers

Estonian military aircraft carried 0ne, two or three-digit serial numbers, e.g. D.H.9 ’17’.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.


Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Not applicable.

All-Time Aircraft Used List

Alphabetical Order — Chronological Order

Aircraft NOT Used

False reports of aircraft on order or in service


Main Headquarters


Organisational Structure

For most of its existance the Estonian Air Force took the form of a single Regiment comprising a seaplane squadron, a landplane squadron, a flying school and some workshops.

Current Order of Battle

Not applicable.

Historical Orders of Battle

List of Historical Orders of Battle – to be added.

All-Time Flying Units List

Flight School
Landplane Group
Naval Aviation Group

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

Not applicable.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

In addition to the main base, here are also a number of smaller airports and airfields around the country which were sometimes used by the Air Force.
Military Air Bases Listing – to be added.

More Information


Estonian Military Aviation Bibliography – to be added.

Estonian Air Force 1918-1940, Insignia Air Force Special No.3, Blue Rider 1999


Air Enthusiast No.18


wikipedia: Estonian Air Force