Mexican Air Force

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Mexican Air Force
Logo of the Mexican Air Force.svg
Mexican Air Force symbol
Founded June 19, 1913; 104 years ago (1913-06-19)
Country  Mexico
Allegiance Secretariat of National Defense
Type Air force
Role Aerial warfare
Part of  Mexican Army
Nickname(s) "FAM", "Fuerza Aérea Mexicana"
Motto(s) Honor, Valor y Lealtad
"Honor, Valor & Loyalty"
Colors Green, white, and red
Anniversaries February 10
Engagements Mexican Revolution
World War II
Chiapas revolt
Mexican Drug War
Carlos Antonio Rodríguez Munguía[1]
Roundel Roundel of Mexico.svg Roundel of Mexico - Low Visibility.svg
Fin flash Fin Flash of Mexico.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack PC-7, PC-9M, MD 500, T-6C+
Bomber T-6C+
Embraer R-99, P-99
Patrol UH-60, MD 500
Reconnaissance C-90A King Air, Sabreliner 75A, Fairchild C-26
Trainer PC-7, PC-9M
Transport EC-725, Mi-17, Mi-8, Arava, C-130, Boeing 787, Boeing 757

The Mexican Air Force (FAM; Spanish: Fuerza Aérea Mexicana) is the primary aerial warfare service branch of the Mexican Armed Forces. It is a component of the Mexican Army and depends on the National Defense Secretariat (SEDENA). Since November 2013, its commander is Gen. Carlos Antonio Rodríguez Munguía.[1]


Mexican Revolution[edit]

The Curtiss aircraft Sonora was used for observation and bombing. Mexico, 1913.

The official predecessor of the Air Force was the Army's Auxiliary Aerial Militia Squadron (Escuadrilla Aérea de la Milicia Auxiliar del Ejército), created during the Mexican Revolution in April 1913 by the Secretary of War and Navy General Manuel Mondragón, who authorized pilots Miguel Lebrija and Juan Guillermo Villasana to bomb targets on Campo de Balbuena, in Mexico City.

On February 5, 1915, the leader of the Constitutionalist Army, Venustiano Carranza, founded the Arma de Aviación Militar (Military Aviation Arm), which would become the current air force. Its first commander was Lt. Alberto Salinas Carranza.[2]

Other rebellions[edit]

In 1925, due to the shortage of airplanes caused by World War I, Mexico set up the National Aviation Workshops (TNCA) to design and build its own airplanes and aeroengines. When U.S. Colonel Ralph O'Neill was hired to revamp the Mexican Air Force in 1920, he reported to General Plutarco Elías Calles that most of the aircraft available had to be replaced since they were obsolete and worn away. Therefore, Mexico acquired some British Avro 504K and Avro 504J airplanes, which later would be made in Mexico with the name Avro Anáhuac. In addition, in May 1920, Mexico acquired thirteen twin-engine bombers Farman F.50.[3]

Alfredo Lezama Alvarez, Unknown pilot, Luis Farell; on the far right is Eliseo Martín del Campo. Mid-late 1920s.

Between the years 1923 and 1929, Mexico found itself immersed in a wave of violent territorial, religious and military armed rebellions, which required the Air Force to quickly deploy its forces and provide air support wherever the federal army requested them. Some of these conflicts, that were decided mostly by the assertive use of the Air Force, are mentioned below.

On December 7, 1923, former President Adolfo de la Huerta launched a military coup (delahuertista rebellion) against the government of President Álvaro Obregón. The situation was extremely critical, because along with de la Huerta, about 60% of the army revolted, including various high-ranking generals across the country. The power tilted back in favor of the federal forces when the United States agreed to furnish the Mexican government with a fleet of new de Havilland DH-4B aircraft equipped with the Liberty motor, armed with Lewis and Vickers machine guns and able to carry bombs. The military coup was then suffocated by February 1924.

A territorial war was that of the Sonora Yaqui Indians who demanded by force that previous territorial treaties were implemented. The conflict lasted from 1926 to 1927, and it came to an end when a new treaty was implemented.

When President Plutarco Elías Calles pushed for the creation of the 'Mexican Apostolic Catholic Church', independent of Rome, it unleashed a widespread religious war known as the Cristero War. This long civil war lasted from 1926 to 1929.

In May 1927, while General Obregón seemed keen to impose the presidency to General Calles, General Arnulfo R. Gómez launched a military coup against both Obregón and Calles. His command posts were located in the cities of Puebla and Veracruz, where he led approximately 200 federal deserters, ammunition and weapons. The air force played a key role in their defeat.

Then, on March 3, 1929, a serious military coup took place, led by General José Gonzalo Escobar and heeded by various other generals. In these days, the air force's remaining airplanes consisted of worn and shot Bristol F.2 Fighter, Bristol Boarhound, de Havilland DH-4B and Douglas O-2C, a force that was not suitable to defeat Escobar's power.[4][5] In this context, the Mexican government convinced the U.S. government to promote the peace south of its border and quickly make available twelve new OU-2M Corsair with the 400 hp Wasp engine, nine Douglas O-2M, four Stearman C3B and six Waco Taper Wings. Only two weeks after making the request, the U.S. government agreed, and several Mexican pilots travelled to Brownsville, Texas, and New York to pick up the new aircraft. The key victory was decided in late March 1929 at the Battle of Jiménez, Chihuahua, where after several days of air raids, Escobar was defeated by General Calles, taking about 6000 prisoners.[6] This rebellion was quite serious, since a third of the officials and nearly 30,000 soldiers rebelled; in two months, more than 2000 men had been killed.

In May 1938, the Governor of San Luis Potosí, General Saturnino Cedillo, declared himself in rebellion and President Lázaro Cárdenas travelled there to personally mount the campaign against the revolt. The Air Force organized a mixed fleet of 17 aircraft that included some new V-99M Corsair, engaging the enemy assertively when spotted. Cedillo quickly realized he had no chance in open fields against the air force and ran to the Huasteca Hills, where his men dispersed, abandoning him.[7]

With the imminent collapse of the Spanish Republic in 1939, the Mexican government took delivery of military aircraft destined for the Republic, strengthening its arsenal.

World War II[edit]

The Escuadrón 201, a P-47D fighter squadron of the Fuerza Aérea Expedicionaria Mexicana (Mexican Expeditionary Air Force), served in the Pacific War against the Empire of Japan during World War II. It consisted of 25 aircraft and had 300 airmen and supporting staff. The 201st Squadron, completed 96 combat missions over the Philippines (Battle of Luzon) and Formosa (Taiwan). It is the only unit of the Mexican armed forces ever to see overseas combat.[8]

Cold War era[edit]

Mexican P-47D Thunderbolt over the Philippines (1945)
Display of the uniforms of the Escuadrón 201 at The National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The first jet aircraft operated by the Mexican Air Force was the subsonic de Havilland Vampire Mk.I. Mexico received 17 Vampires during late 1960 and early 1961. This jet was nicknamed "The Flying Avocado" by Mexican flight crews due to the ovoid shape of its fuselage and the dark green night camouflage adopted by its first units. The Vampires were not popular with Mexican fighter pilots because of its lack of ejection seats. The FAM finally retired them in 1970.

The Mexican Vampires were initially complemented by 15 Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star subsonic fighter aircraft received also in late 1961. Because of its more modern design, an ejection seat system and several other attributes, the T-33 was well liked by most FAM pilots and became a huge success as a patrol and interceptor aircraft. During the seventies and early eighties an additional 20 or more T-33s were procured by the FAM to replace aircraft lost in accidents and to increase the size of the fleet after the retirement of the Vampires.

In 1982, the FAM received 12 Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II jets (10 F-5Es and 2 F-5Fs). The F-5 gave Mexico its first supersonic platform and saw the formation of Air Squadron 401. Since the eighties the F-5 became the main Mexican fighter jet while the remaining operational T-33s were still used for subsonic support and light attack roles afterwards.[9]

In 1983 one F-5E was lost in an accident that occurred during a target practice exercise in the state of Chihuahua.

Chiapas conflict[edit]

On January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect, hundreds of guerrillas from the previously unknown Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) occupied several towns and cities in the southern state of Chiapas.

The FAM was mobilized to support Army units, sending almost every available helicopter to the territory of operations. Units involved included the recently formed 214th and 215th Special Operations Squadrons, equipped with a mix of Bell 212 assault- and MD.530F scout helicopters. Up to 40 helicopters were deployed to support an initial deployment of 10,000 ground troops.

Bell 212s were armed in two configurations: for fire support with twin MAG 7.62-mm gun pods and cabin-mounted GPMGs; or as gunship, with LAU-32 70-mm rocket launchers, a twin MAG gun-pod and cabin mounted MAG GPMGs.

Pumas, Bell 205s, 206s and 212s from the 209th were also deployed, however, FAM's helicopter assets were scarce and the Mexican Army had to rely on almost every other government agency's helicopters for general support tasks. Almost any flyable aircraft from the National Attorney's Office (PGR) was also deployed, including Bell 206s and 212s, as well as the Navy's recently acquired Mi-8MTV-1s. Eventually the Army deployed some 70,000 ground troops and air support proved to be insufficient; hence the decision was taken to considerably expand the FAM's helicopter fleet.

By December 1994, FAM had bought additional 12 armed MD.530MG 'Defender' and four UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters,[10] which it grouped into the 216th Special Operations Squadron. This unit was the spearhead of operation "Arco Iris" (Rainbow) to re-take several towns that had fallen under rebel control in January 1994. The new militarized Defenders came armed with M2AC machine-guns and LAU-68A 70-mm rocket launchers. Three additional units were ordered in 1996 and delivered as attrition replacements in March 1998. Black Hawks wore 1191 to 1194 serials and are being used for special operations.

Although the FAM received 18 surplus Bell 206s from the Attorney General's office (PGR) in the mid-1990s, the main need identified by the FAM High Command was for a new fleet of transport helicopters that would allow it to support the Army with an adequate airlift capability.[11]

Recent times[edit]

On 16 September 1995, after more than 30 yearly military parade flights without incidents, an F-5E collided in mid-air with three Lockheed T-33s during the parade for the Independence of Mexico. All aircraft were lost and a total of 10 deaths occurred. Since then, for safety reasons, military parade flyovers in Mexico have been smaller in participation.

In 2007, after more than 45 years in service, the last operational T-33s were retired. In 2012, the F-5 fighter jets had their 30th anniversary in Mexican Air Force service.[9][12] The Mexican Air Force has only three F-5 Tigers operational for combat-ready service.[13] It plans to continue operating the F-5 for the foreseeable future.[13]

Because of the ongoing Mexican Drug War, increasing importance has been placed on acquiring airborne surveillance platforms, UAVs, light attack aircraft, helicopters and rapid troop transports.[14]


A national commander under the orders of the Secretary of National Defense is in charge of the Mexican Air Force. The second-in-command is the Air Force Chief of Staff, who supervises a Deputy Chief of Operations and a Deputy Chief of Management. The Air Force divides the country's territory into four regions: Northwestern (Mexicali, Baja California), Northeastern (Chihuahua, Chihuahua), Central (Mexico City) and Southeastern (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas); each region is commanded by a general. The regional headquarters are in charge of 18 air bases across the country:

Northwest Air Region

Military Air Base Air Group Unit Aircraft
3rd Military Air BaseEl Cipres, Baja California 5th 106 Air Squadron Cessna 182, Cessna 206
9th Military Air Base – La Paz, Baja California Sur 2nd 203 Air Squadron Pilatus PC-7
10th Military Air Base – Culiacán, Sinaloa 4th Maintenance Center Bell 206, Cessna 206
12th Military Air BaseTijuana, Baja California N/A N/A N/A
18th Military Air BaseHermosillo, Sonora 3rd
3rd Aerial Surveillance Squadron
C-26 Metroliner, Pilatus PC-6 R/P-99
Cessna 182

Northeast Air Region

Military Air Base Air Group Unit Aircraft
11th Military Air Base – Santa Gertrudis, Chihuahua Air Force Airtactics Military School (EMAATFA) N/A Pilatus PC-7
13th Military Air BaseChihuahua, Chihuahua 5th 110th Cessna 182
14th Military Air BaseMonterrey, Nuevo León 4th
Bell 206 Bell 212
Cessna 182 Cessna 206

Air bases[edit]

1 Santa Lucía, Estado de Mexico 10 Culiacán, Sinaloa
2 Ixtepec, Oaxaca 11 Santa Gertrudis, Chihuahua
3 El Ciprés, Baja California 12 Ensenada, Baja California
4 Cozumel, Quintana Roo 13 Chihuahua, Chihuahua
5 Zapopan, Jalisco 14 Escobedo, Nuevo León
6 Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas 15 San Juan Bautista la Raya, Oaxaca
7 Pie de la Cuesta, Guerrero 16 Ciudad Pemex, Tabasco
8 Mérida, Yucatán 17 Copalar, Chiapas
9 La Paz, Baja California Sur 18 Hermosillo, Sonora

1st Military Air Station – Mexico City International Airport

1st Military Air Base – Santa Lucia, State of Mexico

2nd Military Air Base – Ixtepec, Oaxaca

3rd Military Air BaseEl Cipres, Baja California

4th Military Air Base – Cozumel, Quintana Roo

5th Military Air Base – Zapopan, Jalisco

6th Military Air Base – Teran, Chiapas

7th Military Air Base – Pie de la Cuesta, Guerrero

8th Military Air Base – Mérida, Yucatán

9th Military Air Base – La Paz, Baja California Sur

10th Military Air Base – Culiacán, Sinaloa

11th Military Air Base – Santa Gertrudis, Chihuahua

  • Military School of Applied Airtactics of the Air Force (EMAATFA) – operating Pilatus PC-7

13th Military Air Base – Chihuahua, Chihuahua

  • 5th Air Group

14th Military Air Base – Monterrey, Nuevo Leon

  • 5th Air Group

15th Military Air Base – Oaxaca, Oaxaca

  • 5th Air Group
    • 103 Air Squadron – operating Bell 212

18th Military Air BaseHermosillo, Sonora


Air Force ranks are the same as in Mexico's Army, with the exception of generals.[17]

Pilot selection and training[edit]

The FAM offers higher education, middle education, technical training, tactical training and specialized technical training in its various campuses:

Air Force Academy[edit]

Main facade of the Air Force Academy

Since the National School of Aviation was opened in 1915, it took different names over the years until finally, in 1959 it joined the military school of meteorology, mechanics and aviation specialists, forming the leading campus in military aviation education: 'El Colegio del Aire' (Air Force Academy), which since September 9, 1959, has guided the formation of Air Force officers.[18] The Air Force Academy is an all academic institution of the Mexican Air Force and comprises four schools: 'Military Aviation School', 'Maintenance and Supply Military School', 'Air Force Military Specialist School', and the 'Military Troops' Air Force Speciaslist School'.[19]

Military Aviation School (EMA)

Admission to the Air Force is through the mechanism of military recruitment that takes place every year at The Ministry of Defense. The FAM currently offers tertiary level studies – highlighting that of Military Pilot, which spans 4 years at the facilities of the Air Force Academy located on the Military Air Base No. 5 in Zapopan, Jalisco.[20]

The subjects taught in pilot training include: tactics of the branches of aviation, general aviation tactics, meteorology, air navigation, air traffic control, radio communications and culture in general, along with approximately 250 hours of flight. During the first year, the training is theoretical. During the second year, Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft are used for flight instruction. During the third the cadets are trained Aermacchi SF260EU for aerobatics, and later on Pilatus PC-7 for advanced flight tactics, including combat. Within each of these stages, the cadets are trained in aerial acrobatics, stage tactical instrument flight, visual flying rules (VFR), radio operations, among others, which increase in complexity as the cadets' training progresses.[21] The first female aviator to graduate as a pilot in the history of FAM, Andrea Cruz, became a cadet at the Military Aviation School in 2007.

Military Air Force Specialist School (EMEFA);

Military School of Air Force Specialist offers a comprehensive scholarship lasting three years for officer training meteorologists and flight control, obtaining at the graduate level of lieutenant. His duties are to provide meteorological information and control of military or civil aircraft.[22]

School of the Air Force Special Forces (EMTEFA)

Military School of special troops of the Air Force is a establishment of military education that has as its mission to train sergeants in seconds aviation maintenance, supply lines, electronic aviation and military aviation. The school is located in the St. Lucía military base.[23]

Military School of Maintenance and Supply (EMMA)

In this school, officers are trained as aviation maintenance specialists, aviation electronics specialists, weapons and air supply lines.[24]


To enter any of the campuses of the Air Force, SEDENA convenes a competitive entrance examination which is held each year. The requirements are:

  • Mexican citizenship and have no other nationality
  • Be the son of Mexican born parents
  • Minimum age of 15 years at December 31 of the year in course
  • Maximum age of 20 years at December 31 of the year in course
  • Have completed high school or equivalent
  • Minimum height of 1.65 m

In order to be admitted to any school of the Mexican Air Force Academy mentioned above, the applicant should also perform the following tests: physical, medical, cultural, and aviation psychology. In some cases, the psychological aeromedical 2nd level examination may also be required.[25]


Current inventory[edit]

Mexico’s Boeing 787 on touch down
A Eurocopter EC725 at Mexico City International Airport
A T-6C Texan II on display
A Bell 412EP of the Mexican Air Force
Fuerza Aerea Mexicana C-130
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
T-6 Texan II United States light attack AT-6C+ 34[26] 14 on order
Pilatus PC-7 Switzerland light attack 35[26]
Embraer E-99 Brazil AEW&C 1[26]
Maritime Patrol
Embraer R-99 Brazil maritime patrol R-99 2[26]
King Air United States surveillance 350 1[26]
Metroliner IV United States reconnaissance 3[26]
Cessna Citation I United States surveillance 2[26]
Boeing 787 United States VIP 787-8 1[27]
Boeing 737 United States VIP 2 1 on order[26]
C-27J Spartan Italy utility transport 4[26]
CASA C-295 Spain utility transport C-295M/C-295W 8[26]
C-130 Hercules United States transport C-130H/L/L-100 7[26]
Super King Air United States utility transport 90/300/350 7[26]
Turbo Commander United States transport 3[26]
Pilatus PC-6 Switzerland utility / transport 3[26] STOL capable aircraft
MD500 United States light utility 14[26]
Bell 206 United States utility 35[26]
Bell 407 United States utility 24[26]
Bell 412 United States utility 18[26]
Bell UH-1 United States utility UH-1H 7[26]
Sikorsky UH-60 United States utility UH-60M 9 31 on order[26]
Mil Mi-17 Russia utility Mi-8/17 28[26]
Eurocopter EC725 France SAR / utility 11 6 on order[26]
Trainer Aircraft
Pilatus PC-7 Switzerland trainer 31[26]
Pilatus PC-9 Switzerland trainer 1[26]
Grob G 120TP Germany basic trainer 25[26]
SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 Italy trainer 25[26]
T-6 Texan II United States trainer T-6C 34 14 on order[26]
Bell 206 United States trainer / utility 11[26]
Elbit Hermes 450 Israel surveillance 3[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Silva Juárez, Angel (2 November 2013). "EPN designa a nuevo Comandante de la Fuerza Aérea Mexicana". Estado Mayor. Estado Mayor. Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  2. ^ "Los Orígenes". Archived from the original on April 26, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  3. ^ "Post-WWII Highlights in Latin American Aviation History". Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. 
  4. ^ Davila Cornejo, Hector (May 10, 2003). "The Azcarate Corsair". The Latin American Aviation Historical Society. Retrieved March 22, 2009. [dead link]
  5. ^ Davila Cornejo, Hector. "Los Corsarios Mexicanos" (in Spanish). Sistema Informativo Aeronáutico Latinoamericano. Archived from the original on March 26, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  6. ^ External links to the battle at Jiménez, Chihuahua, on 1929:[1], "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 27, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-11. , "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  7. ^ Time magazine. June 6, 1938.
  8. ^ Klemen, L. "201st Mexican Fighter Squadron". The Netherlands East Indies 1941–1942. 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron
  9. ^ a b Vega, Aurora (2012-09-29). "Resguardan Aviones F-5 El Cielo Mexicano | Excelsior En Línea" (in Spanish). Excelsior En Línea. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  10. ^ "Summary of US Military Involvement in Chiapas, Mexico". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  11. ^ Guevara, Inigo (April 13, 2005). "Central and Latin America Database". Aztec Rotors. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  12. ^ Adrián, Jazmín (July 4, 2012). "Squadron 401 of F5 Northrop by Mexican Air Force celebrates 30 years". Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b "Mexico seeks to maintain F-5 fighter fleet". IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. Erwan de Cherisey, Paris. 23 September 2016. Archived from the original on 22 November 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2016. A FAM source told IHS Jane's the current F-5 fleet of 10 aircraft comprises only seven planes, including two twin-seat F-5Fs, in working condition. Of those, only the three that flew during the 16 September Military Parade are operational. The remaining three F-5E have been immobilised for years and at least two are understood to have been extensively cannibalised for spare parts. 
  14. ^ Jordi Díez; Ian Nicholls (January 2006). "The Mexican Armed Forces in Transition" (PDF). Strategic Studies Institute. 
  15. ^ "Refuerzan la flota aérea de Sedena". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Ranks
  18. ^ Douglas, Lawrence; Hansen, Taylor (2006). "Los orígenes de la Fuerza Aérea Mexicana 1913 -1915" (in Spanish). Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico. Archived from the original on March 25, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Adiestramiento y Capacitación" (in Spanish). Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional. 2009. Archived from the original on March 22, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  20. ^ FAM Virtual
  21. ^ "Escuela Militar de Aviación" (in Spanish). Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional. March 2009. Archived from the original on April 2, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  22. ^ "Escuela Militar de Especialistas de la Fuerza Aerea" (in Spanish). Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional. 2009. Archived from the original on March 10, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Escuela Militar de Tropas Especialistas de la Fuerza Aerea" (in Spanish). Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional. 2009. Archived from the original on March 31, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  24. ^ "Escuela Militar de Mantenimiento y Abastecimiento." (in Spanish). Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional. 2009. Archived from the original on March 25, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  25. ^ "Admisión 2009 a Planteles Militares" (in Spanish). Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional. 2009. Archived from the original on March 19, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "World Air Forces 2017". Flightglobal Insight. 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  27. ^ "Mexican air force 787 starts VIP conversion". Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  28. ^ Garibian, Pablo (2010-08-24). "Mexico buys drones, may use for marijuana search". Reuters. 

External links[edit]