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The Czechoslovak Army Air Force was formed on 29 October 1918, from the small air components of the Czech Legions fighting with Russia and France and from Czech soldiers from the former Austrian army. A French military aviation mission assisted in the formation of the new air arm.
The Army Air Force expanded rapidly to become a large and well equipped force. Any attempt by Germany to seize the 'Sudetenland' by force in 1938 could have been successfully resisted, but instead Czechoslovakia was forced by its 'Allies' to concede one third of it's territory to the Germans. When Germany annexed the remaining territory on 15 March 1939, the armed forces offered no resistance, but large numbers of personnel escaped to join the Polish and French air forces. Czech pilots fought in defence of Poland and in the Battle of France. The survivors escaped to Britain to join the Royal Air Force. Czechoslovak personnel manned numbers 310, 311, 312 and 313 squadrons RAF, and a Czechoslovak Air Regiment in Russia from June 1944. Czech and Slovak pilots also flew extensively in the National Uprising against the Germans in 1945.
Following the end of the war, a new Czechoslovak air force (Ceskoslovenské Letectvo) was established with personnel and equipment from Germany, Britain, Russia and the former Slovak air force. As the Communists consolidated power during 1948, all pro-Western and ex-RAF personnel were purged from the armed forces and Russian advisors moved in. The air force was re-organised along Soviet lines and expanded with new airfields constructed and more Russian combat aircraft delivered. The first MiG-15 jet fighters were received in 1951. The armed forces made no attempt to resist during the Warsaw Pact invasion of 20-21 August 1968.
During the 'velvet divorce' of 1993, the existing air force (Ceskoslovenske Vojenske Letectvo) was divided up in the ratio two to one in favour of the Czech Republic, based on population ratio, except for the MiG-29s which were divided equally with the Slovak Air Force, and the MiG-23s which all went to the Czech Republic. Following the split, the Czech Air Force concentrated on re-organisation and training to prepare itself for full membership of NATO.
Initially named the Ceské Letectvo a Protivzdusná Obrana (Czech Air Force and Air Defence Force), it later bore the title Vzdusne Sily Armady Ceske Republiky (Air Force of the Czech Republic Army), abbreviated as VzS ACR, before being renamed to its present title of Letecka slozka Spolecnych Sil Armady Ceske Republiky (Air Component of Joint Forces of the Czech Republic Army). During 2003 the Czech Air Force passed through many changes. After 85 years the Czech Air Force lost its independence and from December 2003 it has been part of Joint Force Headquarters based at Olomouc, which consists an Air Component, Land Component and Special forces. Since the beginning of 2004 the Air Component has had a new structure with four air bases, one of them will be closed in 2007.
In December 2003 the Czech government chose JAS-39C/D Gripen to replace the venerable MiG-21. As a result of the cuts in the national budget only 18 L-159As, from 72 delivered, are being operated and the rest will be stored at Pardubice and used for spare parts, some of them will be offered for sale. The training base at Pardubice was closed in 2003 and from 1 April 2004 the army pilots are trained by LOM Praha (Aircraft repair plant) - a civil contractor at Pardubice. The Ground-Based Air Defence is a part of Air Component and it is concentrated under 25. Protiletadlova Raketova Brigada (Air Defence Missile Brigade). During 2003 the last L-29 Delfin training aircraft and Mi-24D helicopters ware retired. In part-payment for Russian debts to the CR seven new Mi-24Vs were delivered.