Nicaraguan Air Force

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Nicaraguan Air Force
Fuerza Aérea Nicaragüense
Nicaraguan Air Force Emblem.jpg
Country Nicaragua
BranchAir Force
Size21 aircraft
ColorsRed, Black and yellow
Former roundel (1936-1980)Nic-afroundel.svg
Aircraft flown
Utility helicopterMi-17
TrainerCessna 185, Cessna T-41D
TransportCessna 337, PA-28, AN-26

The Nicaraguan Air Force continues the former Sandinista air units. Before 1979 the Nicaraguan National Guard had some air units ("Fuerza Aérea de la Guardia Nacional").

Air force[edit]

In 1920, the National Guard received from the United States its first four aircraft, four Curtiss JN-4.

In 1927 the first use of aircraft in combat took place in the country – on July 5 during the Battle of Ocotal five American Airco DH.4 aircraft attacked the forces of General Augusto Sandino.[1]

The "Nicaraguan National Guard Air Force" (Fuerza Aérea de la Guardia Nacional) was formed in 1938. From 1942 small numbers of trainers and transports were acquired from the United States and by 1945 a total of 20 aircraft were on strength. In 1952 a US aviation mission arrived and saw an increase of the numbers of trainers and transports delivered followed by combat aircraft such as the P-38, P-51 and P-47. For some years the Nicaraguan air force was the strongest in Central America but after the 1979 the civil war a most of its US trained pilots defected and thereafter much eastern bloc equipment was acquired.

When the Sandinistas assumed control in 1979, the Sandinista Air Force/Air Defense Force (Fuerza Aérea Sandinista/Defensa Anti-Aérea—FAS/DAA) inherited only the remnants of the National Guard's small air force. Equipment included a few AT-33A armed jet trainers, Cessna 337s, and some transports, trainers, and helicopters. The time required to train pilots and construct airfields precluded a rapid FAS/DAA buildup. Beginning in 1982, the Sandinistas received from Libya the Italian-made SF-260A trainer/tactical support aircraft and the Czechoslovakian Aero L-39 Albatros, a subsonic jet trainer that could be missile-armed for close-in air defense. In addition to light and medium transport aircraft, the air force acquired a fleet of helicopters from the Soviet Union that served as a vital asset in the war against the Contras. They included Mi-8 and Mi-17 transport helicopters and later the Mi-24, followed by its export variant, the Mi-25, a modern armored assault helicopter. After Humberto Ortega revealed that Nicaragua had approached France and the Soviet Union for Mirage or MiG fighter planes, the United States warned against introducing modern combat jets to the region. Although Nicaragua began construction of a new airbase with a longer runway and protective revetments, it did not succeed in acquiring new fighter aircraft.

A series of radar sites were constructed to give the Sandinistas radar coverage over most of Nicaragua, with the added capability of monitoring aircraft movements in neighboring countries. A Soviet-designed early-warning/ground-control intercept facility gave the air force the potential to control its combat aircraft from command elements on the ground.

After 1990 the FAS/DAA was no longer able to maintain its full aircraft inventory without Soviet support. The personnel complement fell from 3,000 in 1990 to 1,200 in 1993. Airbases at Bluefields, Montelimar, Puerto Cabezas, Puerto Sandino, and Managua remained operational. Combat aircraft were reduced to a single mixed squadron of Cessna 337s, L-39s, and SF-260As. However, the serviceability of all these aircraft was doubtful. In 1992 a number of helicopters and six radar units were sold to Peru. A small fleet of helicopters, transports, and utility/training aircraft was retained. In 1996 the Nicaraguan air force changed its name from Fuerza Aérea Sandinista to the Fuerza Aérea Nicaragüense (FAN).

Ranks and insignia[edit]


Current inventory[edit]

A Nicaraguan Beechcraft King Air sits on the tarmac at La Aurora International Airport
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
MiG-21 Fishbed Russia FGA Mig-21 Bis/Mig-21U 24 out of service/reported Was based in Cuba
Mirage M50 France FGA Mirage M50D/E/R 24 ordered, but not delivered
AT-33A USA jet training/CAS (4 delivered, but out of service after 1979)
MiG-17 Fresco D Russia FGA 15 out of service/reported
Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle Russia LB 6 out of service/reported
AT-28D Trojan USA training/COIN AT-28A/D 18 (11 AT-28D+7 AT-28A) out of service
Special Mission/ISTAR
Cessna 337 USA liaison O-2A/B 8 (10 delivered)
C-47 Dakota USA Transport 13 out of service
C-123K Provider USA Transport 5 delivered
DHC-4 Caribou Canada Transport 3 delivered
Fokker F-27 Netherlands VIP 1 delivered
Cessna 401 Titan USA transport 1 delivered
Cessna 210 USA utility 2
Antonov An-26 Curl Russia utility An-26C Curl 4 (7 delivered) 2 on order
Antonov An-2 Colt Russia utility 11 delivered, but out of service
Mil Mi-17 Russia utility/attack 48
Mil Mi-8 Russia utility/attack Mi-8 Hip-H 15 A total of 60 delivered. some sold to Peru (12 Mil Mi-8 Hip-E & 48 Mil Mi-17 Hip-H delivered).
Mil Mi-25 Russia attack Mil Mi-25 Hind-E 28 (12 Mil Mi-25 Hind-E + 16 Mil Mi-24 Hind D)
Hughes OH-6A Defender USA Attack 12 out of service
Mil Mi-2 Hoplite Russia attack 3 (10 delivered)
Trainer Aircraft
SIAI SF-260W Italy liaison/light attack 4 (6 deilvered)
Aero L-29 Delfín Czechoslovakia light attack 1 out of service/reported Was based in Cuba
An Mi-17 of the Nicaragua Air Force

Retired aircraft[edit]

Previous aircraft operated by the Air Force consisted of the Boeing B-17, Consolidated PBY-5, Consolidated B-24, and North American P-51 Mustang.


  1. ^ Serikov, A.M (1986). Nicaragua: sun from the fire.
  • World Aircraft Information files BrightStar publishing London File 342 Sheet 3