In 1831, the three colonial settlements of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice merged to become British Guiana. From 1846 to 1947, nearly 250,000 labourers entered Guyana, drastically transforming its demography and laying the basis of fractious racial politics. British Guiana was run very much as a colony until 1953, when a new constitution was adopted. In 1966, the country became independent with the name Guyana, and in 1970, it became a republic with an elected president. A new constitution was proclaimed in 1980 by socialist president Forbes Burnham. The state controls the two main export industries, sugar and bauxite, but the recent trend is to reduce government involvement in the economy, so both of these industries may be privatized. Discovery of oil has renewed hopes for greater prosperity.
Responsible for protecting Guyana, the GDF concerned itself with internal security, border defense, civic work, and other activities. Yet the military is also a deterrent to the genuine external threat resulting from the border disputes with Venezuela and Suriname. The GDF maintained a high level of involvement in civic action and national development. Training and logistical support to the agriculture, mining, fishing, and construction sectors received the greatest emphasis. This structure gave the army operational control over the naval and air elements. The Air Wing of the GDF was created in 1968. In 1970 it was redesignated the Air Command, GDF. The Air Command is headquartered at Camp Ayanganna in Georgetown. In the early 1990s, its aircraft helicopters mainly operated from Georgetown's Timehri Airport. The command's primary missions are transportation, communications, and liaison. Secondary missions include counter narcotics and maritime patrolling. Currently the GDF Air Command's operates a variety of aircraft. Shorts Skyvan remains in service and the fleet has been expanded with two turbo-props variants in 2019. They operate alongside a single Harbin Y-12 Turbo Panda, acquired from China in 2002, and two BN-2 Islander, obtained in Brazil in 2018. For many years, a Bell 412 was the sole helicopter in use with the GDF, until it was augmented by a pair Bell 206 helicopters. The helicopter fleet will be replaced by two Bell 412 EPis and two Bell 429s in the early 2020s.