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Antiaircraft Defense and Revolutionary Air Force
Air and Air Defense Forces

The missions of the Air and Air Defense Force are to provide air defense for Cuba, tactical and airlift support for military forces, and aid or assistance to selected foreign countries and groups. The Air and Air Defense Forces [Defensa Antiaerea y Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria - DAAFAR] are now incapable of defending Cuban airspace against large numbers of high-performance military aircraft. Slower or less sophisticated aircraft, however, would be vulnerable to Cuban air and air defense systems.

The Air Force probably has less than 2 dozen operational MiG fighters. Pilot training is judged barely adequate to maintain proficiency. Fighter sorties have declined significantly in recent years. Cuba would rely on its surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and its air defense artillery to respond to attacking air forces. By 1998 the number of airworthy tactical aircraft was very small, significantly less than it used to be.

The Antiaircraft Defense and Revolutionary Air Force (Defensa Antiaerea y Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria-DAAFAR) traces its origins to the single aircraft that constituted the guerrillas' Rebel Air Force in April 1958. It was established as a branch of service separate from the Revolutionary Army, with its own command structure, in April 1972, a change that was likely influenced by the then ongoing efforts by the Soviet Union to help professionalize Cuba's armed forces. The DAAFAR's responsibilities encompass providing for the nation's air defense as well as tactical and airlift support for the FAR's ground forces. According to the IISS, in 1999 the DAAFAR had 10,000 personnel, including conscripts, and represented 15 percent of total regular military manpower.

The Cuban air defense zone is up to the 24th parallel. The US air defense identification zone, so-called ADIZ, and the Cuban zone abut the 24th parallel. The Cubans go south of the 24th parallel and the US goes north of the 24th parallel. The standard procedure is that when the US sees Cuban planes taking off, they are watched very closely. If they appear to be approaching the 24th parallel and ready to penetrate the 24th parallel going north, the US will launch planes and go up and check them out. This happens very rarely, since the Cuban Air Force doesn't operate at a high tempo, and secondly, many of the flights are in a different direction.

With headquarters located at Ciudad Liberated Air Base near Havana, DAAFAR is broken down into three zones: Western, Central and Eastern Air Force brigades. The three main territorial divisions of the air force and their responsible brigades are the Western Air Zone (the Bay Of Pigs Guard Brigade), the Central Air Zone (the Batalla de Santa Clara Guard Brigade), and the Eastern Air Zone (the Cuartel Moncada Guard Brigade).

In addition, the DAAFAR also maintains Air Defense Artillery and Missile Forces. Although their locations are not publicly disclosed, it is reasonable to surmise that they are stationed in a position to defend the capital of Havana. The major air installations under the command of the Western Air Force Brigade include bases at San Julian in Pinar del Rio Province and San Antonio de los Banos, as well as the Baracoa Air Base and the Jose MartI International Airport in La Habana Province. Under the Central Brigade are air bases at Guines, Matanzas; Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos; Santa Clara, Villa Clara; and Sancti SpIritus, Sancti SpIritus. The Western Brigade maintains its key installations at the provincial capitals of Camagiiey, Holguin, and Santiago de Cuba in the respective provinces of Camagiiey, Holguin, and Santiago de Cuba. Of all these, the base at San Antonio de los Banos is considered to be the military'S most important airport. It is the only airport that, as of the early 1990s, had three airstrips, one of which was 4,000 meters in length.

The air force still has a sizable inventory, but it, too, suffers from obsolescence and critical shortages of spare parts. In 2006 the air force had 127 combat aircraft of Russian make, only about 25 of which were operational. The air force also had 87 Russian-made helicopters of various types. Air defense weapons included 300 low- to medium-altitude SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) of various types and antiaircraft guns of unknown quantities. As of 2006, the inventory included two new mobile versions of the Soviet-era S–75 (SA–2 Guideline) and S–125 (SA–3 Goa). Army aviation had about 65 Mi-type attack, utility, and antisubmarine warfare helicopters, about 63 of which were in service. Naval aviation included 18 Russian helicopters of unknown operational status.

Although the Cuban Defensa Antiaérea y Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria (DAAFAR-Antiaircraft Defense and Revolutionary Air Force) is one of the better equipped Air Forces in Latin America, its operational readiness and effectiveness has been seriously compromised by lack of spare parts and jet fuel. Foreign defense analysts speculate that nearly one-fourth of the aircraft in the DAAFAR's inventory may no longer be operational, a situation that is expected to continue to deteriorate.

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Page last modified: 05-04-2013 18:28:39 ZULU