Honduras Table of Contents
Unlike most other Central American countries, Honduras formed its first modern military structures around the air arm (see Historical Background , this ch.). Traditionally, the air force has functioned as Honduras's strongest military deterrent. Personnel from the Air Force of Honduras (Fuerzas Aéreas de Honduras) played key roles in the military coup that overthrew President Lozano in 1956; and General López Arellano, an air force officer, played an important role in Honduran politics during the 1960s and early 1970s. The air force enhanced its public reputation and prestige during the 1969 conflict with El Salvador. Although the Salvadoran air force launched a surprise attack on Honduran airfields, the Honduran pilots were able to counterattack and to damage oil storage tanks at the Salvadoran ports of La Unión and Acajutla. The war produced a number of air force heroes, the best known of whom is Major Fernando Soto, who shot down three Salvadoran fighter aircraft.
The air force had a total troop strength in 1993 of 1,800. This figure did not include civilian maintenance personnel. The air force's offensive capability consists of three combat squadrons: one fighter/ground attack with ten F-5Es and two F-5Fs, one counterinsurgency with thirteen A-37Bs and some aging F-86F/Ks, and one reconnaissance with three RT-33As. The United Statesmanufactured A-37B Dragonfly ground-attack bombers have a maximum range of 740 kilometers while carrying a full payload, and they can be used in counterinsurgency missions from short, unimproved airstrips. The F-5 Tiger II fighters, which also are of United States manufacture, are supersonic aircraft, easily maintained and capable of using rough airfields. Each F-5 can be armed with two 20mm cannon, two Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and up to 3,000 kilograms of bombs, rockets, and air-to-ground missiles, and can be used for both ground attack and air interception. Twelve Super Mystère B2 fighter-bombers that Honduras acquired from Israel in the 1970s are no longer operational. Honduras's small fighter fleet is the most sophisticated in Central America and costs about US$3 million a year to fly and maintain. The air force is also supplied with seventeen transport planes, forty-two trainers and liaison aircraft, and forty-two helicopters.
Air force headquarters is located at Toncontín International Airport near Tegucigalpa, with major bases at San Pedro Sula, La Cieba, and San Lorenzo. Beginning in 1983, the air force, with the assistance of the United States, undertook a significant upgrading of Honduran air facilities. Work was done at the Enrique Soto Cano Air Base (formerly Palmerola Air Base) to extend the runways and to build additional access ramps, fuel storage facilities, and revetments. The base is located near Comayagua. These improvements were done according to United States Air Force specifications, making the facilities suitable for use by United States military aircraft under terms of a 1982 annex to a 1954 military assistance agreement (see United States Military Assistance and Training , this ch.). With technical assistance from the United States, the Honduran air force also took on the task of providing critical logistical, training, and tactical support for the army and Fusep.
Because of Honduras's rugged topography and the limited access by road to vast areas of the country, the air force plays an important role in tying the nation together. Numerous small airports are located in isolated areas; they are used to provide transport services and to facilitate civic action work by the military. Military influence extends into the area of civil aviation, with former president and air force general López Arellano controlling the two major Honduran national airlines, Air Service of Honduras (Servicios Aéreos de Honduras, Sociedad Anónima--SAHSA) and National Air Transport (Transportes Aéreos Nacionales, Sociedad Anónima--TAN).
Data as of December 1993
Honduras Table of Contents