On 30 July 1502, Columbus arrived off the island of Guanaja. Sailing on into harsh storms, the fleet rounded a cape where, encountering calmer waters, Columbus is reputed to have exclaimed "Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de estas honduras" (Thank God we have now left these depths), christening the country. Initially, however, the Spanish called these new beautiful lands Higueras, the name used by the indigenous groups. Twenty years elapsed before the conquistadors returned to take possession of the new territory. Independence from Spain was gained on 15 September 1821. After 1932, the foundations were laid for the modern state of Honduras. A coup in 1956 introduced the military as a new element into the hierarchy of power. On 14 July 1969, war broke out on the Honduras-El Salvador border. Ostensibly caused by a disputed result in a soccer match between the two countries, the conflict stemmed from tensions generated by a steady rise in illegal migration from El Salvador into Honduras. Three days of war followed with around two thousand deaths. Only in 1980, a peace treaty was signed. Following the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua in 1979, Honduras found itself at the center of US geo-political strategy. Honduras became the focus for the US-backed Contra war in Nicaragua, accepting in return over US$1.5 billion of direct economic and military aid during the 1980s.
Military aviation in Honduras commenced on April 19, 1921, when the first Honduras flight took place in a Bristol F.2b. The predecessor of the current air force, named Escuela Nacional de Aviación (ENA), was founded in April 16, 1931. The Honduran air force became an independent part of the armed forces since its inception in 1931 and has sported the designation Fuerza Aérea Hondureña (FAH) since 1938 when its first combat aircraft were purchased. After 1947, five P-38 Lightnings became the first high performance fighters of the FAH. P-63E KingCobras contributed to the force's steadily expansion, followed by a first batch of ten F4U-5 Corsairs, later augmented by a second batch of nine F4U-4s. The type gained great fame in FAH service, during the Morocon Conflict with Nicaragua in 1957 and the 100 hour war of 1969 with El Salvador. Honduran Corsairs managed to shoot down three Salvadoran aircraft.
After the war, a limited arms race took place with El Salvador, both countries obtaining fighters from mainly the same country, Israel. The FAH was reinforced with sixteen Super Mystère B.2's from 1976. Their air-superiority tasking was taken over in 1987, by twelve F-5E/F Tiger II's. Sixteen Sabres in different version were also operated at the time, and the strike capability was strengthened from 1975 with the delivery of the first batch A-37B Dragonflies. The arrival of the Tigers in 1987 proved pivotal to maintain air superiority in light of the developments in neighbouring Nicaragua. Several requests to upgrade the F-5s in the 2000s and 2010s have been turned down by the United States in order not to affect the current power balance in the region.
Following the commissioning of a Sa'ar 62-class Ocean Patrol Vessel, the Honduran naval forces surrected an embryonic naval air arm. Early 2020, an Airbus Bo105 helicopter was acquired for its OPV, FNH General Cabañas and operational deck qualifications started. More helicopters for the naval air arm are planned.
The Honduran police is a small force operating a pair of Bell 206 helicopters, which received PNH-registrations (replacing civil registrations) during 2019. The US Department of State supports the PNH in counternarcotics operations with a permanent deployment of six UH-1H Super Huey II helicopters from three forward operating locations.