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Hungarian Air Force History

The theory - 'the command of the air' - served as a theoretical background for air forces which were a modern type of service emerging in World War I. Its creator was the extravagant Italian general, Giulio Douhet. His theory also influenced Hungarian military circles, which initially considered it an excellent tool in our revisionist efforts, later as a tool to improve our air defence. In the disputes taking place in the '30s military experts softened these views, and laid the foundation of the Royal Hungarian Air Force, which began to function as an independent service in 1939.

The Hungarian Air Force was established in 1938 just before the war started. In 2008 the Magyar Honvédseg Repülö Csapatai celebrated the 70th anniversary. This year's International Air Show & Military Exposition at Hungary's main fighter base Kecskemét was held to celebrate this historical date for the Hungarian Military Aviation.

The end of WWI was also the end of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire; it fell down into its original national parts again. On 31st of October 1918 Hungary declared to leave the monarchy and on 16th of November a democratic Republic was proclaimed. At this time the first Hungarian aerial unit was built with a handful aircraft that survived the war. When the communist party took over the power the 'Red' Air Force was established. After 4 month the country was invaded with the approval of the Entente-members by Czechoslovakian, Serbian and Romanian troops, the Hungarian government was plunged again and the air unit was dissolved. A new government that agreed to the peace treaty of Trianon was only established in January 1920 with the conditions that Hungary lost 2/3 of its territory and the ban to build or use military aircraft.

In the 1930s the economic crises and revisionist propaganda led Hungary closer to the fascistic regime of Germany. With this attitude military aviation groups disguised as civil aeronautical clubs were secretly set up and military pilots were trained under the cover of sports aviation. In 1938 the existence of military aviation within Hungary was officially revealed after an agreement with Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. The Hungarian Air Force was born. On 1st January 1939 the Air Force was established as an independent branch.

For the Hungarian Air Force, equipped with German aircrafts, the WWII started in 1941 on the side of the Axis and ended with major losses of men and aircraft in April 1945 with the invasion of the Red Army.

After the war the Soviet troops remained in Hungary and a substantial influence on the political, social and military development was evident. In 1947 the People's Republic of Hungary was proclaimed and in August 1949 a Soviet style constitution came into effect. A strong army equipped with Soviet weapon systems and with the same structures as the Red Army was established. In logical consequence Hungary became an initial member of the Warsaw Treaty in 1955.

At that time the Hungarian Air Force flew already large numbers of MiG-15, MiG-17, Il-10 and Tu-2. The extremely inflate of the Army devoured a majority of the state budget, so that the Hungarian economy in the middle of the 50's nearly broke down. On 23 October 1956 the discontent unloaded itself in a rising of the people, which was directed in particular against Soviet patronizing and the communist government. Also parts of the Hungarian military took part in the uprising. Already on 24th October the intervention of Soviet troops began. The bloody striking down of the rebellion with unrestricted force of arms lasted until 4th of November. Following the suppression of the uprising the Hungarian Army was disarmed until 1957 when a timid reconstruction of the air force began with MiG-15 and MiG-17 fighters, Li-2 transport aircraft and Il-28 bombers.

End of the 1950's the Air Force was increasingly expanded and modernized at the same time, with a reinforcement of the transport fleet by some Il-14 and the introduction of the MiG-19PM in the year 1959. In 1961 also the first MiG-21 F-13 equipped the Hungarian fighter regiment at Pápa, followed by the regiment at Taszár. In the year 1964 and 1965 the first MiG-21PF were flown at Pápa and Taszár.

In the 1960's the pilot training was substantially improved with the introduction of the Czechoslovakian build L-29 Dolphin trainer aircraft. The helicopter units got the first Mil Mi-2 and Mil Mi-8 to support the existing Mil Mi-1 and Mil Mi-4 helicopter. The continuous modernization of the air force was continued also in the 70's. All remaining Il-2 transport aircraft were withdrawn and replaced by the modern An-26. New MiG-21 versions came from the Soviet Union as successors for the MiG-19, first the MiG-21MF in the year 1971 and in 1975 also the MiG-21bis. The Hungarian Air Force showed a slight increase, from 108 in 1975 to 140 aircraft in 1976. This was due to the procurement of some tens of MiG-21 planes. The Soviet Union, however, did not provide Hungary with the Mig-23 (Flogger) fighter-reconnaissance planes which it sold to Arab states. In the year 1979 a new aircraft generation was available with the MiG-23MF. 12 single-seaters and 3 MiG-21UB were supplied to Hungary.

At the beginning of the 1980's new types of aircraft were introduced into the Hungarian Air Force like 12 fighter -bombers Su-22M-3 and 3 double-seated Su-22UM-3, as well as some L-410 light transport aircraft from Czechoslovakia. The helicopter component was supplemented with further Mil Mi-2 and was improved substantially with the supply of 30 powerful Mil Mi-24D.

In the year 1987 first opposition groups were formed in Hungary, which advanced the peaceful system change. Also in the government there were ever more oppositional voices, which voted for free elections and the withdrawal of the Soviet troops. With the opening of the border to Austria the 'iron curtain' fell down. In 1990 the first free elections were held and in February 1991 Hungary left the Warsaw Treaty. The break with communism becomes clearly visible by the replacement of the red star by the green-white-red triangle as national emblem. The Soviet troops left Hungary by June 1991.

On 31st of March 1991 the Hungarian Air Force received the official name Magyar Honvédseg Repülö Csapatai, MHRCS. At that time 7 airfields were in use.

  1. 59. "Szentgyörgyi Dezso" Harcászati Repülo Ezred, HRE at Kecskemét with two squadrons of MiG-21
  2. 47. "Stromfeld Aurél" Harcászati Repülo Ezred at Pápa with one squadron of MiG-21 and another with MiG -23
  3. 31. "Kapos" Harcászati Repülo Ezred at Taszár, with two squadrons of MiG-21 and one squadron with Su -22.
  4. 89. "Szolnok" Vegyes Szállito Repülo Ezred at Szolnok with one squadron of An-26 and one squadron of Mi -8
  5. 93. "Vitéz Háry László" Vegyes Repülo Osztály, VRO at Tököl with 2 An-24, 4 L-410 and 4 Zlin 43
  6. 87. "Bakony" Hercihelikopter Ezred at Szentkirályszabadja with four squadrons, one Mi-8, two Mi-24 and one Mi-17 squadron that also uses the Mi-9 and Mi-17PP
  7. "Asbóth Oszkár" Helicopter Regiment at Börgönd with the Mi-2. However this base was closed already short time after due to economy measures and the Mi-2 were transferred to Szolnok.

During the 1990's some more changes happened. Already in November 1993 24 former NVA Aero L-39ZO Albatros were purchased from Germany. After an overhaul of 20 aircraft at the Danubian aircraft company at Tököl these were transferred as an advanced trainer to active service. They gradually replaced the L-29 in this role. For the basic pilot training at the flight academy at Szolnok 12 new Jak-52 built in Romania by Aero Star, were procured in 1994. Russia supplied in 1993, as part of the debt retirement with Hungary, 28 MiG-29s. They were handed over to the 59.HRE at Kecskemét as a replacement for the MiG-21. About 20 Mi-24 including 8 Mi-24P from the former NVA were obtained from Germany in 1995.

In 1996 further restructuring within the Hungarian Air Force took place. The airfield at Taszár was handed over to the USA and the 31. HRE moved to Pápa, where it was dissolved in the subsequent year. At the same time on 4 December 1996 the MiG-21MF and the MiG-23 were taken from the active service. In the beginning of 1997 the Su-22 also stopped the flying operation and on 24 August 2000 the last flight of a Hungarian MiG-21 took place. The MiG-21, MiG-23 and Su-22 were than stored at Pápa and the 47. HRE was dissolved.

On 12 March 1999 Hungary became a NATO member and as part of the integration process the structure within the Air Force was changed. Only two Air Bases, Szolnok and Kecskemét remained active, Pápa, Taszár, Tököl and Szentkirályszabadja were used as reserve bases at first. The US troops left Taszár in the beginning of 2004. Despite the modern infrastructure a further use of the base is not clarified by the Hungarian armed forces. The airfield at Pápa was modernized and brought to NATO standard and was used as an additional SAR station to cover western Hungary with detached Mi-17. It is planned that it will host the NATO transport component in the future.

All Hungarian helicopters were now concentrated in the 86. "Szolnok" Helikopter Ezred at Szolnok Air Base. The two helicopter battalions shared the tasks, the Szállitó Helikopter Zászlóalj equipped with Mil Mi-8 and Mi-17 were responsible for transportation tasks, SAR and fire fighting. The combat helicopter battalion, Harci Helikopter Zászlóalj, took over the antitank defence and support of ground troops employments with its Mi-24D, Mi-24V and Mi-24P.




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