Air Arms of the Dominican Republic / Fuerza Aérea Dominicana
The Taíno occupied the Dominican Republic and most of the surrounding islands when Christopher Columbus got off the ship to greet them. He named the island Hispaniola (little Spain) and returned with a thousand colonists. They were soon decimated by cruel working conditions and European diseases. Though some independent communities survived in hard-to-reach areas of the island, much of the original culture was lost. Hispaniola, however, ran out of gold rather quickly and lost prominence when gold and silver were discovered in Mexico and Peru. Pirates ransacked Spanish settlements and Spain gave up on the western third of the island and ceded it to France in 1697 - a decision it no doubt came to rue as France turned Haiti into the world's richest sugar cane producer.
The slave rebellion in Haiti soon spread to the eastern part of Hispaniola and the country's 40,000 slaves were freed. This prompted much of the Spanish elite to relocate to neighboring Puerto Rico and Cuba. Haiti declared independence in 1804 and a Dominican nationalist movement beat the Haitians back to the western side of the island in 1844. The leader of the this important revolution was Juan Pablo Duarte, the father of the Dominican Republic (DR). The Dominican population fought the Spanish troops and on March 3, 1865, Spain annulled all claims to the island, allowing its full independence. Years of violation followed.
Not allowing trouble in its Caribbean backyard, the USA moved in with troops in 1916. In 1924, they stepped back. President Vasquez built roads and schools, initiated irrigation programs and got the economy hopping. Just when things were going really well, army chief Rafael Leonidas Trujillo forced Vasquez to resign. From 1930 till 1961, Trujillo dispensed with the formalities of democracy. Repression, murder and torture went side by side with building, land reform and economic success during his administration. Trujillo's assassination again led to a period of civil unrest.
Under the control of President Joaquin Balaguer who served three terms from 1966, the country was reasonably stable. Guzman Fernandez of the PRD (the main opposition party) won the elections in 1978. However, after a further defeat in 1982, Balaguer was re-elected four times consecutively between 1986 and 1995: in total, he served seven terms of office as president. In November 1995, amid a cycle of protests and strikes caused by a serious energy crisis, steep inflation and deterioration of public services, Balaguer was forced to stand down. But in 2000 he took one more shot at the presidency, but this ended in defeat at the hands of PRD candidate Hipolito Mejia. Following the most recent elections in 2002, the PRD now also controls both chambers of the National Assembly. Two months later, Balaguer, who dominated the politics of the DR for half a century, died aged 95. Despite continuing economic difficulties and repeated allegations of corruption, the PRD has presided over a more stable political environment in the last few years.
Fuerzas Armadas Dominicanas
The first interest in aircraft for military purposes was expressed in 1928 and two years later the Dominican government sent the first cadets to the Escuela de Aviacion at Campo de Colombia, Cuba. The Arma de Aviación del Ejército Nacional was formed in 1932 and marked the official birth of Dominican Military Aviation. On January 1st, 1936 the Destacamento de Aviacion del Ejército Nacional was created at Miraflores. Until the Dominican Republic declared war to the Axis powers in 1942 only limited operations took place. Whilst granting the United States base facilities in the country more equipment was received under lend-lease contract. Well known types of aircraft like the AT-6 Texan, PT-17 Kaydet and BT-13 Vultee entered service the following years.
After the war the revolutionary movement El Legion del Caribe acquired a fleet of aircraft in Cuba in order to oust dictator Trujillo. The Cuban government however, confiscated the aircraft. Seeking military assistance, Trujillo initially obtained DeHavilland Mosquito fighters and Bristol Beaufighters from the United Kingdom. After the signing of the Rio Pact in 1947 US aircraft deliveries rose with the donation of large numbers of AT-6 Texans, counting as many as 86 aircraft. The P-38 Lightnings were the first US built fighters to be received, ten examples were delivered from 1947.
Fuerza Aérea Dominicana (FAD)
On February 15th, 1948 the Cuerpo de Aviación Militar Dominicana was formed marking the birth of the current air force. A new air base was inaugurated on March 23rd, 1953 at San Isidro, just east of Santo Domingo. In the early fifties, the air force entered the jet era and grew to maturity receiving large quantities of F-51 Mustangs and DH Vampire jet fighters from Sweden. Following these acquisitions, by then, the FAD maintained by far the largest air force in the region. The assassination of Trujillo in 1961 however, proved to be a turning point for the FAD, with continuing decreasing numbers of operational aircraft. During the civil war and rebellion in the mid-sixties air force FAD-pilots faced real combat and some aircraft were lost by hostile fire. The only aircraft received during the violent sixties were a handful of T-28 Trojan COIN aircraft as well as some helicopters. US aid during the seventies granted the acquisition of T-34B Mentors and T-41D Mescaleros. The helicopter force was further expanded by the delivery of OH-6A Cayuses.
In 1984, the FAD finally retired its F-51 Mustangs. Like with many Latin American air forces, the OA-37B Dragonfly became the most important combat aircraft in the inventory. The only acquisitions during the eighties and early nineties were impounded aircraft from narcotraffickers. Cessnas, Pipers and other light aircraft were taken on strength with altering success. At the end of the 20th century a modernization program started, continuing today. The transport capabilities were enhanced by three CASA 212-400 Aviocars. The same applied for the Escuela de Aviacion, providing basic pilot training for the air force, which saw eight Enaer T-35B Pillans arriving in 1999-2000. Six ex-US Army UH-1Hs replaced the Bell 205A-1s. Improvement of the helicopter training syllabus started in November 2003, with the arrival of the first of four Schweizer 333 helicopters. The definitive choice for a Dragonfly-replacement, was finally made and eight Super Tucanos have been delivered recently. Eight Super Huey II helicopters were delivered during 2004, as well as a dozen ex-Canadian Bell 206A-1s. The latest purchases include a number of Bell 412, whilst other aircraft are seized from narcotraffickers and taken into service.
Ejército Nacional (EN)
The air arm of the army revived in October 2002, with the formation of the Escuadrón de Caballeria Aérea. Light Robinson helicopters were obtained, being used for pilot training as well as patrol flights along the Haitian border. Eight ex-US Army OH-58A/C Kiowas were delivered in 2003, enhancing the force's growing capabilities. The main base is La Isabela near Santo Domingo, but other bases are in use as well.
Policía Nacional (PN)
The Dominican national police has an embryonic air element, consisting of a single Cessna 172, a Kiowa helicopter and a number of Ecureuils.