Peruvian Air Force / Fuerza Aerea del Peru
The FAP had a total personnel strength of about 15,000 in 1990, including some 7,000 conscripts, with 116 combat aircraft and 24 armed helicopters. This compared with some 10,000 air force personnel in 1980 and 138 combat aircraft. Of Peru's three services, only the FAP had made a significant commitment to include women volunteers in regular enlisted service. As of May 1986, there were 2,100 women in the ranks, including 20 senior airwomen, 60 airwomen first class, 300 airwomen, and 1,720 airwomen basic. Basic training courses were the same as those provided to men. Most women served in administrative positions, including secretarial, teletype, nursing, meteorology, and supply assistance.
Like the Peruvian navy, the FAP underwent a substantial modernization during the 1968-80 military government that continued into the elected civilian administrations of the 1980s. Unlike the navy, however, much of the modernization involved the acquisition of Soviet equipment, the extension of a long-standing air force policy of diversifying material sources rather than relying primarily on a single country.
In addition, the FAP made substantial purchases of planes and helicopters from other countries. Although this remarkable diversity posed major logistical and maintenance challenges, by the late 1980s Peru had the third largest air force in Latin America and the most advanced equipment of them all.
The FAP entered into an agreement with Italy's Aermacchi (Aeronàutica Macchi--Macchi Aviation Company) in 1980 to assemble in Peru sixty-six MB-339 AB trainers and MB-339K light attack planes, with the wings, rear fuselage, and tail unit manufactured in Peru. Construction began in November 1981 of an Aeronautics Industry Public Enterprise (Empresa Pública de la Industria Aeronáutica--Indaer-Perú) factory at Collique with Aermacchi assistance, but financial problems forced its cancellation in late 1984.
The FAP commander, with headquarters in Lima, was responsible to the minister of defense and oversaw a service divided, as of 1990, into some nine groups and twenty-two squadrons across Peru's three air defense zones. The FAP's principal bases were at Iquitos in the north jungle; Talara, Piura, Chiclayo, and Trujillo on the north coast; Huánuco in the central highlands and Lima/Callao, Las Palmas, and Pisco on the central coast; and La Joya and Arequipa in the south. Secondary bases included Cajamarca in the north highlands; Ancón and Limatambo on the central coast; San Ramón, Ayacucho, and Cusco in the central and south-central highlands; and Puerto Maldonado in the south jungle.
The six groups with combat equipment were distributed among the major bases: Attack Group 7 (three squadrons of Cessnas) at Piura and Chiclayo; Bomber Group 9 (two squadrons of Canberras) at Pisco; Fighter Group 11 (including one squadron of Fitter-Js) at La Joya; Fighter Group 12 (two squadrons of Fitter-Fs) at Talara; and Fighter Group 13 (two squadrons of Mirages) at Chiclayo, with deployments to La Joya and elsewhere. The other combat group was Helicopter Group 3, which was based at Callao but deployed at various bases throughout the country, including an attack squadron, which as of 1990 was probably assigned to the army for counterinsurgency duty.
FAP responsibilities during the 1980s also included increasing activities to support the government's effort to reduce drug trafficking, particularly illegal flights to Colombia from clandestine air strips in the north central region of the Upper Huallaga Valley. In addition, the FAP continued to fulfill its long-standing mission of providing air links to remote parts of Peru that lacked roads, particularly the eastern jungle areas. Transportation Group 42, based in Iquitos, operated the National Jungle Air Transport (Transportes Aéreos Nacionales Selváticos-- TANS) service with C-47s, DHC-6s, and PC-6s. Transport Group 8 was based at Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport to perform similar duties, as well as to service some of the military's own air supply and training needs, with L-100-20 Hercules, DHC-5s, AN-26s, AN-32s, Beech 99s, Queen Air 80s, and King Air 90s. The president's fleet, including a Fokker F28 and Falcon 20F, was also a part of Transportation Group 8.
Some of the helicopter squadrons were deployed at various bases to assist in such nonmilitary missions as the support of oil exploration activities, medivac, and sea-air rescue; others concentrated on military support activities, particularly against guerrilla operations. Peru's location astride the Andes and its multiple ranges, with a jungle area comprising over half the national territory and a heavily populated coast largely cut off from the rest of the country, required a substantial air force presence. The national airline, Air Transport Company of Peru (Empresa de Transporte Aéreo del Perú--Aeroperú), was considered an auxiliary of FAP.
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