Guatemalan Air Force
The Guatemalan Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Guatemalteca or FAG) is a small and antiquated air force. It has relied mostly on US aircraft types throughout its history, most of them by now obsolete in terms of what a modern air force should be. The C-47 Dakota, Lockheed T-33 Bell UH-1 "Huey", Bell 206 and Bell 212 helicopters are typical examples of their equipment. The Cessna A-37 is the main jet aircraft, while Pilatus PC-7s are used for training. Some Fokker F-27 and IAI Aravas help with the transport roles, augmenting the C-47 Dakotas mentioned before.
The FAG is formally a subordinate to the Guatemalan Military. It's commanding officer reports directly to the Commander in Chief of the Army, the President. The FAG is composed of three "wings": The "Ala Fija", operating all fixed-wing aircraft, the "Ala Rotativa", operating all the helicopters, and the "Ala Mantenimiento" performing all the maintenance. The aircraft are divided over these wings, and the wings themselves operate out of four bases throughout the country, without a fixed allocation of units to bases. The principal base is La Aurora in Guatemala City, which also happens to be the country's major airport. All major attack, transport, liaison and helicopter squadrons are based there. The other base with a seemingly fixed presence is at Retalhuleu, where the "Escuela Militar de Aviación" (Military School of Aviation) can be found. The other two bases, one at Santa Elena, Petén and San José, Escuintla probably house detachments of the units mentioned above.
Although the role of the FAG has been much diminished since the Peace Treaty was signed in 1996, they have served the country when disaster has struck, most notably after the Mitch and Hurricane Stan. During these disasters, helicopters where used to rescue stranded people, and cargo planes were used to carry food, water and emergency medical equipment to villages and remote places that had been cut-off.
Currently, the FAG doesn't have any acquisition programs. The main concern is keeping the current fleet airborne, and all resources are aimed at that objective.
Aircraft inventoryAircraft Origin Type Versions In serviceNotes Basler BT-67 United Statestactical transport 4 Beechcraft King Air United Statesutility transport C90 300 2 2 Bell UH-1H Iroquois United Statesutility helicopter UH-1H 3 Bell 206 JetRanger United Statesutility helicopter 206B 206L 2 3 Bell 212 Twin Huey United Statestransport helicopter 7 Bell 412 United Statestransport helicopter 412EP 3 Bellanca 8KCAB Decathlon United Statesutility 1 Cessna T-41D Mezcalero United Statestrainer T-41 1 Cessna 206 Stationair United Statesutility U206G 2 Cessna 210 Centurion United Statesutility 1 Cessna A-37 Dragonfly United Statesattack A-37B 2 ENAER T-35 Pillán Chiletrainer T-35B 4 IAI Arava Israeltactical transport Arava 201 4 Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer Switzerlandtrainer 7 Piper PA-31 Navajo United Statesutility transport 1 modified by Colemill
The biggest strategic advantage that sets the FAG apart from other countrys' air forces is their unique concept of flying around a battle in order to take it up the rear of an airborne situation to gain the advantage in combat.
Another tactic the air force has adopted is their unique use of varying the amount of aircraft in a battle. In order to preserve their only airworthy aircraft, the FAG has adopted the "In, Out, In, Out" strategy in which a group of aircraft will go into the battle, then pull out to preserve fuel as a new group of aircraft subtitute them.
Current State of the Fleet
The FAG has suffered from an arms embargo from the US since the 80s, resulting in the suffering of its armed forces. During any given time, only around 30% of the fleet is airworthy due to lack of spares, and insufficient funds. There are no reliable radar or other electronic equipment in service, and no anti air defense beyond a few very old anti-aircraft artillery pieces.
Most of the aircraft are obsolete and unreliable. Such is the case for the A-37s, T-33s, and half of the helicopter fleet. Plans for modernization have not been published, though they are most likely non-existent.
The FAG is almost completely incapable of defending the sovereignty of the country's airspace. Many aircraft have illegally flown into or through Guatemala delivering drugs from Colombia without the FAG even knowing it. The ones detected by the temperamental radar systems are not dealt with properly, let alone intercepted.
- ^ "World Military Aircraft Inventory", Aerospace Source Book 2007, Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 15, 2007.
- Latin American Aviation Historical Society
- Official Website of Guatemala's Military
- Website Chronicling Air Force Strategies