Air Arm of Costa Rica / Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea
The first European arrival in Costa Rica was Cristopher Columbus, who landed near present-day Puerto Limón on September 18, 1502 on his fourth (and last) voyage to the Americas. During his 17-day stay, he noted that some of the natives wore gold decorations. Because of this, the area was dubbed costa rica (rich coast) by the Europeans, who imagined that there must be a rich empire lying farther inland. For the next 200 years, the colony remained a forgotten backwater, isolated from the coast and the major trading routes. Eventually, in the early 18th century, the colony began to spread and change. Despite this expansion, the colony remained one of the poorest in the Spanish empire. Central America became independent from Spain on September 15, 1821. Costa Rica was briefly a part of the Mexican Empire, then became a state within the United Provinces of Central America. In 1889, unlike in other Central American countries, democratic elections were held, and democracy have been a hallmark of Costa Rican politics ever since. An exception was the civil war that broke out in 1948 after a disputed elections outcome. After the turmoil the current constitution was formed and the army was abolished.
As Costa Rica has not had an army since 1948, the air arm nowadays resides under the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica, of which the abbreviation MSP can be found in the serials of its aircraft. However, P-51D Mustang fighters were only fully retired from service in 1964. Not coincidentally, the Servicio de Vigilancia Aerea of the Fuerza Pública was formed the same year and the structure of the air arm has not changed a lot since its formation. As it's task requires mainly liaison and surveillance aircraft the fleet is made up of several types of smaller aircraft, supplemented by some helicopters. Most aircraft are based at San José- Juan Santamaria International Airport. Until 1994, civilian style registrations were worn on the fleet, but the MSP prefix was introduced, giving the aircraft a more military look.
Nowadays, like many countries in the region, the Costa Rican government provides services to the United States in it's ongoing war against narcotics in the Central American and Caribbean region, which have become more important after the closure of US bases in neighboring Panama in 1999. At San José's Juan Santamaria International Airport as well as at Liberia's Daniel Oduber Airport US patrol aircraft can be seen regularly, providing "eyes from the sky" for counter drug operations in the Pacific and Caribbean. The MSP meanwhile receives considerable aid from the United States, the donation of four UH-1ST helicopters and a Cessna 208B EX in 2020 being the most recent examples of this policy.