Country Listing

Paraguay Table of Contents


The Air Force

The history of aviation in Paraguay began in 1912 when an army officer was sent to France to train and returned with a monoplane. Both were lost in a crash a few years later. For several years, economic considerations prevented further development of military aviation, although aircraft flown by mercenary pilots were used by both sides in the 1922 civil war.

A small air element, under army control, was first developed in the mid-1920s, when a flying school also was established. By 1932 the army's air arm had twenty aircraft and was organized into a fighter and a reconnaissance squadron. It was no match for the Bolivian air force, however, and during the Chaco War, the air arm was used primarily for logistic and transport duties.

The air force was established as an independent defense force in 1946. It split into two factions the next year, each bombing the forces of the other side in the 1947 civil war. After regular operations were restored in the late 1940s, the force began to be expanded with the delivery of the first of a number of transports provided by the United States. A paratroop unit was added in 1949. During the 1950s and 1960s, the nation acquired surplus aircraft from Argentina and Brazil. After 1975, however, Brazil emerged as the principal source. The only exception came in 1983 when the air force purchased trainers that the Chilean air force was retiring from service; however, these were also of Brazilian manufacture.

As of late 1988, air force strength was approximately 1,400, half of whom were estimated to be conscripts. The air force was organized into three squadrons. The first was a composite squadron headquartered at Campo Grande. It flew the nation's only combat planes: Brazilian-made EMB-326 Xavante light counterinsurgency aircraft (see table 12, Appendix). The composite squadron also had a few Cessna liaison aircraft and ten helicopters. Most of the composite squadron, including the Xavantes, were based at President Stroessner International Airport in Asunciˇn. The second squadron performed transport missions and had a number of C-47s as well as a variety of other transports. Its assets were located both at President Stroessner International Airport and at Đu Guaz˙ (see fig. 7). The third squadron performed training missions out of Đu Guaz˙ and flew ex-Chilean T-25 Universals, Brazilian T-23 Uirupurus, and United States T-6s acquired from Brazil. Primary flight training was on the Uirupurus; students then moved on to the Universals. There were additional airstrips located throughout the country, but although some of these were manned by air force detachments, none had flying units assigned to them.

The paratroop battalion consisted of about 500 personnel. It was based at Luque, outside the capital.

After completing the course at the military academy, air force officers transferred to the main base at Đu Guaz˙ for specialist and flight training. NCOs and enlisted personnel were trained at schools operated by the air force; most were located at Đu Guaz˙.

Data as of December 1988