The history of Laos can be traced back to the 13th Century but the aviation relevant history starts at the end of the 19th Century when France established Indochina in the Vietnamese provinces of Tonkin and Annam and the Thais gave control over Laos to Indochina.
During the second World War the Japanese occupied Indochina. An independent Laos was fought for after that war and was obtained in 1953. It took until 1973 however until the last American bombers left the skies of Laos leaving a country ranking number one for the most bombed country in history. A coalition government of Neutralists, Royalists (Frence ardents) and Communists (SU ardents) was formed. When South Vietnamese Saigon fell in 1975, most of the Royalists left for France. On 2 December 1975 the Lao People's Democratic Republic was proclaimed and Lao People's Revolutionary Party took control.
Most private business was closed down until 1989 when market economy was allowed to return on a small scale. Also in the late 90s initiatives were taken to increase tourism to the country in order to obtain a pie of the big tourist dollar cake. It is now possible to travel to every province in Laos by some form of public road transport instead of having to take river boats.
Following independence from France in 1949 the Armée Nationale Laotienne, ANL was created. The Aviation Laotienne, that was officially formed on January 28, 1955 effectively superseded the ANL when AL was renamed Royal Lao Air Force, RLAF in August 1960. Between 1964 and 1970, nearly 300 aircraft and helicopters were supplied to the RLAF by the USA and also civilian airlines like Air America entered the scene.
In October 1965 the communist guerrillas had established the Lao People's Liberation Army who except for some training and transport aircraft did not use many aircraft. In accordance with the Paris peace agreement of 1973 many RLAF aircraft were disposed of (to the Philippines and Thailand).
In 1975 the LPLA took possession of the remaining Royal Lao Air Force with an inventory of 150 United States-made aircraft ranging from T-28 ground attack to UH-34 helicopters and renamed the LPLA into Lao People's Army in 1976. It quickly started to reform it using Vietnamese and Soviet advisors.
Modernization of the equipment took place with the help of the Soviet Union that included delivery of about 30 MiG-21 fighters. By 1990, all Soviet and Vietnamese advisors had withdrawn from Laos. In July 1997 international co-operation restarted with the signature of a defence co-operation pact with Russia, that among others resulted in the delivery of twelve Mi-17 helicopters. No training aircraft seem to be operational and it is believed that initial flying training is done in Vietnam.
Light transport posibilities received a boost with the delivery in 2012 of two MA60s.
The LPA is structured into 4 Military Regions with the Headquartes at Vientiane:
1. Luang Prabang in Luang Prabang province
2. Muang Phonsavan in Xieng Khouang province
3. Xeno in Savannakhet province
4. Pakxe, in Champassak province
The Air Force has close ties with the civil airline Lao Airlines (Lao Aviation until March 2003). Some transport helicopters and aircraft also wear Lao Aviation titles.