Guatemalan Air Force

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Guatemalan Air Force
Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca
Roundel of Guatemala.svg
Guatemalan Air Force Roundel
Founded 1921
Country  Guatemala
Branch Air force
Role Aerial warfare
Size 34 aircraft
Aircraft flown
Attack Pilatus PC-7, A-37 Dragonfly
Helicopter Bell UH-1, Bell 212, Bell 412
Reconnaissance Bellanca Decathlon
Trainer Cessna 206, T-35
Transport Cessna 208 Caravan, Basler BT-67

The Guatemalan Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Guatemalteca or FAG) is a small air force composed mostly of U.S.-made aircraft throughout its history. The FAG is a subordinate to the Guatemalan Military and its commanding officer reports to the Defence Minister.

Mission and vision[edit]

The mission of the Guatemalan Air Force is to "plan and conduct aerial operations to maintain and guarantee the sovereignty of the national air space, through aerial combat, supporting ground units, with the purpose of dissuading, neutralizing or destroying any threat against national obrectives, as well as cooperating with the other State institutions to accomplish national efforts."[1]

The vision of the Guatemalan Air Force is "The Guatemalan Air Force will transform its Air Commands, its Training and Professionalization Centers, as well as its Air Reserve, to turn them into units with a greater mobilization, coordination and communication between them, to maximize their administrative and operational capacity, basing on a centralized command, and a descentralized execution, and a series of coordinated efforts, to adecuately maintain itself organized, equipped and trained to plan, conduct and execute the actions that the Military Defence of the State imposes on the use of air power, as well as participating in military operations in service to the Nation, such as peace maintenance and/or natural disaster prevention. All of this within the legal statutes of our country, and the search for the most efficient use of assigned resources."[1]

History[edit]

Guatemalan Air Force P-51D at Guatemala La Aurora International
Guatemalan Air Force T-33

In 1920 a French military aviation mission opened a flying training school. The 'Cuerpo de Aviacion Militar de Guatemala' was established in 1929 – with pioneer pilots Jacinto Rodríguez Díaz and Miguel Garcia Granados Solís, among others – and started to expand in 1934. The outbreak of World War II hindered any further expansion until 1942, when Guatemala started to receive lend-lease military assistance. Guatemala signed the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance in 1947 at Rio, Brazil. The air force was renamed the Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca (FAG) in 1948. In the 1960s, the strike aircraft and basic interceptor used was the F-51 Mustang, supplied from surplus US stocks. The first jet aircraft to enter service was the Lockheed T-33 trainer to fight the growing insurgency;[2] the US supplied four jets in in 1963, two in 1964 and two more in 1965.[2] In 1965, the US also supplied four armed Sikorsky UH-19B helicopters, the first military helicopters in Central America.[2] In 1967 the FAG acquired five Bell UH-1B and UH-1D helicopters from the US to reinforce its helicopter force.[2] In 1971 the FAG received eight Cessna A-37 Dragonfly fighter-bombers, a Vietnam-proven light attack jet. Seven more A-37s were supplied in 1974 and 1975.[2]

At the beginning of the 1970s, there was also tension concerning a dispute with the United Kingdom over the territorial status of neighboring British Honduras (now Belize). In 1970, a T-33 overflew Belize City on a photo-reconnaissance mission. In 1971 the FAG forward-deployed seven F-51 Mustangs to an airstrip at Tikal, near the border.[3] Guatemalan C-47 transport aircraft made parachute drops in daylight near the border area.[4] The British reinforced their garrison, but the diplomatic tension eased, and conflict was averted.

In addition to going after the Maya rebels, the FAG destroyed villages providing support by using bombing and napalm. By 1968 the insurgency was almost neutralized but the cost was an estimated 8,000 civilians killed, so in 1977 the US was pressured to cut off overt military aid due to human rights violations.[2] To circumvent this, Guatemala turned to countries like Argentina, Israel and Switzerland, and the United States continued to supply dual-use aircraft and covertly provided the air force with millions of dollars in overhauls and spare parts for previously purchased aircraft. From Switzerland, twelve Pilatus PC-7 were acquired in 1979–1980 as training aircraft, but they were also used in combat during the counter-insurgency.

By the late 1970s the insurgency had been reborn as a mostly Maya peoples rebellion organized around four Maoist-oriented rebel groups, mostly the Guerrilla Army of the Poor.[2] In early 1982 the various guerrilla forces were inflicting 250 casualties per month on the army,[2] so the military again resorted to destroy villages suspected of providing support to the rebels. By the late 1980s an estimated one million Guatemalans had been displaced within their own country and another 250,000 had fled to Mexico and settled in refugee camps there.[2] In the 1980s Guatemala continued to acquire helicopters and airplanes to support the army. In 1981 Guatemala purchased at least 8 Bell 206B civilian helicopters as well as three Aérospatiale Alouettes, which they armed for combat.[2] Four Fokker 27s light transport airplanes were acquired in 1982.[2] Between 1975 and the early 1980s Israel supplied eleven Arava IAI-201 twin engine transport aircraft, which are excellent for small runways and were easily modified as a gunships with the addition of rocket pods and side-mounted machine guns.[2] In the late 1980s France also supplied three Fouga CM.170 Magister jet trainer aircraft, which were also armed and used in combat.[2] Air strikes were launched by A-37 jets and PC-7 armed trainers. One A-37 was lost in combat in 1988 down by ground fire in a close support operation. [2][5] The government also mobilized the nation's civil air fleet and commandeered several Cessna 182 and Cessna 206 with FN or M-60 machine guns fired from the side doors.[2]

By 1986 the rebellion was considered to be generally under control and the military regime turned over power to a civilian president by the mediation of Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias as well as Honduran and Salvadoran governments. The improvement of the political climate also meant the resumption of overt US military assistance.[2] Although the role of the FAG has been much diminished since the Guatemala Peace Treaty was signed in 1996, they have served the country after natural disasters, most notably after Hurricane Mitch and Hurricane Stan. During those disasters, helicopters were used to rescue stranded people, and cargo planes were used to carry food, water and emergency medical equipment to villages and remote places that had been cut off.[citation needed]

Structure[edit]

The Guatemalan Air Force was restructured in 2003, along with the rest of the Guatemalan Army. Now it is composed of three operational commands, along with 2 schools, a Hospital (Hospitalito de la Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca), a Presidential Transport Squadron (Escuadron Presidencial), and a Headquarters Command (Comandancia de la Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca). The three operational commands are: Comando Aereo Central (Central Air Command) located in La Aurora in Guatemala City and sharing space with the Comandancia de la Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca, the Comando Aereo del Sur (Southern Air Command) located in Retalhuleu and the Comando Aereo del Norte (Northern Air Command) located in Mundo Maya. The two schools are the Escuela Militar de Aviacion (Military Aviation School, or EMA) which trains new pilots and standardizes pilots trained in other countries. The school is based in Retalhuleu, but does temporary detachments all over the country for training. The other school is the Escuela Tecnica Militar de Aviacion (Technical Military Aviation School, ETMA) which is a military high school that trains all of the FAG's new mechanics and is located at La Aurora. The Hospital and Presidential Transport Squadron are also located in La Aurora but are not located within the Comando Aereo Central.

Further, the Air Force personnel are separated into four main specialties: Fixed Wing, Rotary Wing, Maintenance, and Air Defence. These four specialties form Squadrons or Units which are represented in every Command and operating location.

Most FAG Aircraft are based at La Aurora, but perform detachments as necessary to other bases as operations require. The exception for this is the EMA aircraft, the Presidential aircraft, and a few aircraft permanently based at the two other Operational Commands.

The Cessna A-37 is the main jet aircraft, while the retired Pilatus PC-7s were used for training. On September 2011, Guatemala requested credit approval of $166 millions to buy six EMB-314, radar and equipment.[6]

Aircraft inventory[edit]

Guatemalan Air Force PC-7.
Guatemalan Air Force Cessna A-37 Dragonfly.
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat aircraft
A-37 Dragonfly United States light attack / COIN 3[7]
Pilatus PC-7 Switzerland light attack 1[7]
Transport
Super King Air United States VIP King Air 90/200 2[7]
IAI Arava Israel transport 1[7]
Basler BT-67 United States transport 3[7] Modified Douglas DC-3 with P&W PT6A Turboprop engines
Cessna 208 United States utility transport 1[7]
Helicopters
Bell UH-1 United States utility UH-1H 9[7] one aircraft is an Agusta built AB 205
Bell 212 United States utility 2[8]
Bell 412 United States VIP 1[7]
Bell 206 United States utility / liaison 1[7]
Trainer aircraft
T-35 Pillán Chile trainer 4[7]

Retired aircraft[edit]

Previous notable aircraft operated by the Air Force consisted of the P-51D Mustang, Douglas B-26, C-47, Lockheed T-33,[9] Fouga CM.170 Magisters,[10] and more recently the S-76 Spirit helicopter.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Mision y Vision de la Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca." Ministerio de la Defensa Nacional, Retrieved: 10 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Guatemala's Protracted War--The Role of the Guatemalan Air Force. Dr. James S. Corum, Air & Space Power Journal.
  3. ^ White, Rowland. Phoenix Squadron London Corgi 2010 ISBN 9780552152907 pp 77–78
  4. ^ White, Rowland. Phoenix Squadron London Corgi 2010 ISBN 9780552152907 pp 107–109
  5. ^ Overall, Mario E. Combat Dragons Guatemala's Cessna A-37s. Air Enthusiast #111 May/June 2004 pp. 12–23
  6. ^ "Brazilian aircraft and radars to combat drug trafficking in Central America". MercoPress, 28 September 2011. Retrieved: 20 December 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "World Air Forces 2018". Flightglobal Insight. 2018. Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  8. ^ World Air Forces 2014 "World Air Forces 2014 pg 15" Check |url= value (help) (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  9. ^ "Military Aviation 1969 pg. 246". flightglobal.com. 1969. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  10. ^ "World Air Forces 1987 pg. 59". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  11. ^ "World Air Forces 2004 pg. 62". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 

External links[edit]