Venezuelan Air Force
Fuerzas Aereas or Aviacion
Aviación Militar Bolivariana

In 2007 the name of the Venezuelan Air force was changed to Venezuela military Aviation. Presently it styles itself as the Aviación Militar Bolivariana. The 05 October 2009 approval by the National Assembly (AN) of 45 changes to the year-old Organic Law of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces included the deletion of "national" in the names of the Army, Navy and Air Force, but leaving the moniker "Bolivarian" from the 2008 reform. With a "Bolivarian" orientation instead of a "National" view, Chavez could deploy Venezuelan forces to other "Bolivarian" states in ALBA. Conversely, non-Venezuelans from ALBA countries could serve in the "Bolivarian Army."

The air force is organized into four operational commands: air, air defense, logistics, and personnel. By 2005 The air force had 125 combat aircraft and 31 armed helicopters, as well as 15 reconnaissance aircraft, 3 electronic countermeasures aircraft, 23 liaison aircraft, and 57 training aircraft.

The National Armed Forces of the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela are an ideal representation of a smaller country’s military taking efforts to establish itself on theglobal scene as a regional power, attempting to gain respect. Since 2005, the government took the first steps towards building a credible air defense by purchasing 24 advanced Su-30 fighter aircraft. In addition to the newly acquired fighters, Venezuela contracted with Russia to purchase advanced surface-to-air-missile (SAM) systems, further attempting to fortify their defenses. Although Venezuela represents minimal threat to the sovereign United States proper, their anti-American rhetoric has grown, as hass their strategic alliance with Iran, bringing to question the future potentialfor conflict in the area.

Besides the basic technology that was included on their aircraft platforms, Venezuela does not expand its aircraft lethality or survivability with additional equipment. Most of their military modernization and technological investment, outside of the basic equipped air defenses, benefits their Army, including updated personnel carriers, tanks, sniper rifles, night vision goggles and top-of-the-line portable man-carried SAMs. Additionally, their Air Force is limited in tactics and training, beyond the basic doctrine sold by the Russians.

Venezuela’s location along the northern coast of South America has a coastline of roughly 600NM. This represents a significant border to defend with minimal forces. Even with every one of their 3rd and 4th generation fighters operational, their ability to protect their sovereign airspace is nearly zero. But not all assets are immediately available for a multitude of reasons including long-term maintenance overhaul, non-mission capable due to awaiting parts, aircraft configured for testing, training or other non-mission related duties. It is safe to approximate that Venezuela is challenged to muster 70% of their aircraft for an immediate conflict.

The origin of the Venezuelan Air Force began on December 10th, 1920, when Colonel David Lopez Enriquez and advisers from the French company FARMAN, opened the Venezuelan Military Aviation School. The National Executive at the time, concerned about the strength and modernization of the National Armed Forces in the post-war period, contracted with the Republic of France to help build Venezuelan air power. France provided not just material, but flight instructors and technicians. The first planes, the Caudron single-engine G-3 (1920) and later, the twin-engine G-4 hydroplane (1922), were put into service at the Marine Aviation school of Punta Palmita on Lake Valencia.

The fleet was soon expanded to include the American Curtiss, the 110 HP Italian Macchi, the 220 HP Italian Salmson, and two Farman 130 HP F-40 Hydroplanes. Initially, Venezuelan Aviation was aided by the contribution and experience of three aeronautical missions: the French (1921 tp 1929); the Germans (1930 to 1933), and the Italians (1938 to 1940). The German mission introduced the Junkers Bremen, one of which, the "Bolivar," was used on December 17th, 1930, in the first Venezuelan international flight to Columbia to mark the centennial death of the Liberator Simon Bolivar.

The Italian Aeronautical Mission significantly boosted Venezuelan aviation with the arrival of Colonel Ivo de Bittembeschi, a bombing instructor, and the Major Oscar Molinari, a flight combat instructor. Both men played considerable roles in the developement of these two areas of Venezuelan military aviation.

The first American Aeronautical Mission arrived in Venezuela on January 13, 1944. The intent of the Americans was to make an evaluation of the personnel, equipment, and facilities, since much of the Venezuelan inventory had deteriorated for lack of spare parts due to World War II. The military aviation was reorganized and the Service of Aeronautics was assigned to the main department of Aviation, which fell under the offices of the Army and the Navy. On June 22nd, 1946, a stellar date for the Venezuelan Air Force, the Revolutionary Military junta government that come into power following the events of October 18, 1945, decreed law No. 349, which established the Venezuelan Air Force and assigned it equal ranking with the Army and the Navy within the Military Armed Forces of the Nation.

On October 10th, 1947, Ministerial No. 342 of the National Executive was issued and signed by the Minister of Defense, Colonel Carlos Delgado Chalbaud. It reorganized the newly created "Venezuelan Air Force" and the document is considered the birth certificate of the present structure of the air force, as it specified in detail the first plan of organization for the rising institution. In the same year, Major Félix Román Moreno Huérfano, the first Commander-in-Chief of Aviation, organized the first Post of the Inter-American Military Airmail. In addition, the technical services of Meteorology and Communications were created, as well as that of Aeronautical Health, and the Carlota air base was established in Caracas.

Starting from the period of 1960 to today, the FAV began the process of spreading out and de-centralizing FAV operations. This then enabled the activation of the airbases Captain Landaeta Gil at Barquisimeto (1964), Captain Luis del Valle Garcia in Barcelona (1965), General Francisco de Miranda in Caracas (1966), General Rafael Urdaneta in Maracaibo (1971), Major Buenaventura Vivas Guerro in Santo Domingo (1972), Captain Manuel Rios in Carrizales (1973), Colonel Teofilo Luis Mendez in Puerto Ordaz (1979) and General Jose Antonio Paez in Puerto Ayacucho. Together, they serve as logistic-operational support for the weapon systems for aerial monitoring of the Republic's territorial and marine space. The Air Force's military command was officially headquartered at the General Francisco de Miranda airbase on December 5th, 1970, and has remained there to the present day.

The logistic capabilities and operations of the Air Force were strengthened with the purchase of the advanced trainer Rockwell T2-D Buckeye and the addition of the Beechcraft Systems King Air 90 and Super King Air 200 for liaison purposes. Support for the Office of the Presidency is provided by the Boeing 737 and Gulstream II systems. For aerial acrobatic demonstrations, the FAV accquired the Pitt System airplane decorated with the insignia of "The Hawks," the Venezuelan acrobatic flight team.

The undeniable predominance of the application of technology and electronics of other branches of science has made possible the horizontal and vertical integration of said technology, and resulted in revolutionary advances in design, production and flight ability. The end product's operational capacity is truly surprising. The advances do not include just military aviation battle survival systems and support of the aeronutical armament plants, but also they have optimized civil, business, and general aviation as well.

In 1990 the ranks of the air force included some 5,000 personnel, very few of whom were conscripts. The service, headed by the Commander of the Air Forces, was organized into three commands: the Air Combat Command, the Air Logistics Command, and the Air Training Command. Combat aircraft were organized into three attack groups: one bomber group and two special operations groups. The bomber group included one squadron equipped with Mirage fighter-bombers and based in Palo Negro; two squadrons, based in Barquisimeto and Barcelona, equipped with CF-5s; and two F-16 squadrons, also based in Palo Negro. Two squadrons of heavier bombers, British-made Canberras, were based in Barquisimeto and Barcelona.

The Air Logistics Command controlled three transport groups, including the Presidential Squadron based in Caracas. The logistics command also owned reconnaissance aircraft and transport helicopters. The primary transport aircraft were the American-made C-130H and C-123.

The Air Training Command included Air Training Group Number 14, which was attached to the Military Aviation School at Maracay. The primary training craft were the T-34, the T-2D, and the EMB-312 Tucano. The six F-16B two-seat trainers were attached to the fighter squadrons.

The air force required its officer candidates to complete a four-year course of study at Maracay before receiving their commissions. The air force also had a number of specialist schools as well as its own Command and Staff School for advanced military studies. Air force officer insignia were silver up through captain and gold for higher ranks, worn on a blue shoulder board. Enlisted rank insignia consisted of chevrons worn on the sleeve, blue with black or gold markings for the air force.

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