By the time the Spanish arrived in the late 15th century, the Surinen, the original inhabitants of Suriname, had been driven out by other Amerindian groups. The territory formally changed hands many times before finally being confirmed as a Dutch possession by the terms of the 1815 Treaty of Vienna.
Despite the abolition of slavery in 1863, conditions changed very little until the early 20th century and the discovery of large bauxite deposits which brought about a major change in the economic and consequently political complexion of the country. In 1954, Surinam became an autonomous region and full independence was achieved in 1975.
In February 1980, the coalition government which had been in power since independence was overthrown in a widely popular military coup, led by sergeant-major Desi Bouterse. The new regime followed a left-wing political line, cultivating links with Cuba and banning political parties. The economic burden of the civil war which broke out between the regime and jungle-based dissident elements prompted the regime to return to civilian rule. A settlement with the guerrillas was finally reached in 1992.
Now Lieutenant-Colonel Bouterse launched another coup in 1990. In practice the Government was dominated by the vice-president and premier Jules Wijdenbosch. However, this administration was handicapped by a small majority and constant disputes between the coalition partners. Its term of office came to a premature end in 1999. Ever since Bouterse still enjoys popularity with much of the population and the military, although he is sought after by American and Dutch prosecuters for narco-traffic.
The western borderline of the country is disputed by Guyana. Large oil resources were discovered in the 2000s and may bring future prosperity.
The Suriname Air Force (sometimes simply referred to as luchtmacht) is an independent part of the National Army (or Nationale Leger) alongside the army, navy and military police. With a colonel as Commander-in-Chief, consisting of some 2.000 man and a budget of less than $ 10 million the National Army has limited power in the international environment although internally and politically it remains a force to be reckoned with. Air force history started soon after the country gained independence.
The first military aircraft was a Hughes 500 helicopter. Unfortunately the aircraft was soon written off but a couple of Britten-Norman Defenders were delivered, providing the air force with a slow but valuable observation and light transportation aircraft. Later the number of Defenders increased to four. Civil war broke out in 1986 and to deal with the rebels the SAF obtained two armed Pilatus PC-7s and two armed Alouette III helicopters, making it the first armed aircraft in Surinam history.
Two CASA 212 Aviocar aircraft iwere delivered and put serious pressure on the country's annual defence budget. Although the aircraft provided valuable capabilities for fishery patrol, border patrol and transportation into Suriname's vast jungle, as for earlier acquisitions, maintaining and operating these relatively sophisticated aircraft seemed to expensive and both were finally sold in 2014 after being grounded for years.
In the meantime, ties with the Netherlands and the United States are being redeveloped slowly. In 2015, Suriname received three HAL Chetak helicopters, a licence built version of the well known Alouette III, however keeping these helicopters flying proved to be a logistics challenge.