Chilean Air Force

The Chilean Air Force (Spanish: Fuerza Aérea de Chile, FACh) is the air force of Chile, a branch of the Chilean military.

Chilean Air Force
Fuerza Aérea de Chile
FoundedMarch 21, 1930
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Part ofChilean Armed Forces
Motto(s)"Quam celerrime ad astra"
MarchAlte Kameraden
AnniversariesMarch 21 (Air Force Day)
Equipment180 aircraft/helicopters
Commander in chief of the Air Force General del Aire (Air General) Arturo Merino Núñez
Fin flash
Aircraft flown
707 Cóndor AEW&C
FighterF-16, F-5
TrainerT-35 Pillán, Super Tucano, T-36 Halcón
TransportC-130 Hercules, UH-1H Huey, Bell 412, UH-60 Black Hawk


The first step towards the current FACh was taken by Teniente Coronel trained as a pilot in France. Although a local academy was created, the first officers were sent to France for their training as well. One of them, Captain Manuel Ávalos Prado, took command over the Chilean military aviation school, which was officially established in February 1913, and remained in command until 1915. The Escuela de Aviación Militar (Military Aviation School) was named in honor of him in 1944, and still carries that name today.

In those early years many aviation milestones were achieved; conquering the height of the Andes was one of the main targets as well as long distance flights. Typical aircraft of that era were Avro 504, Bleriot XI, Bristol M.1C, DH.9, and SE5a. In the following decade, the (Airmail Line of Chile) Línea Aeropostal de Chile was created on 5 March 1929 as a branch of the military aviation. This postal airline later developed into the airline Línea Aérea Nacional (National Airline) that is still the leading airline in Chile today. Shortly afterwards, on 21 March 1930, the existing aviation elements of the army and navy were amalgamated into a dedicated department: the Subsecretaria de Aviación (Department of the Air Force) effectively creating the current independent Air Force. It was initially named Fuerza Aérea Nacional (National Air Force). The international airport of Chile carries the name of Lan's founding father and first commander of the air force, Air Commodore Arturo Merino Benítez. Its baptism of fire was in the 1931 sailors' rebellion in Coquimbo, where Air Force attack aircraft and bombers and 2 transport planes converted into bombers contributed to its failure.

The first outlines of the organization of the current air force were visible in 1945 with the inception of Grupo de Transporte No.1 (First Transport Group), later renumbered Grupo 10, with two C-45s and a single T-6 Texan at Los Cerrillos. Two years later the first Fuerza Aérea flight to Antarctica was performed. The fifties meant entry into the jet age for the FACh, and Grupo 7 was the first unit to receive them in 1954. Chile got its aircraft from both the United States and Europe. The American supply consisted of Lockheed F-80, Lockheed T-33, Beech T-34 Mentor, Cessna T-37, Cessna A-37 Dragonfly and Northrop F-5E/F for example, whereas the British supplied Hawker Hunters and the French delivered various helicopters and Dassault Mirage 50 aircraft.

During the military coup d'état on September 11, 1973, the Chilean Air Force bombarded the palace at the request of the Chilean Army.[1]

The Chilean air force hosted the joint exercise Salitre with other friendly nations in 2014.[2] It also participated in several United Nations peacekeeping missions overseas in 5 occasions.


Order of battle

Personnel = 10,600 (including 700 conscripts)

Office of the Commander in Chief

Combat Command of the Air Force

First Air Brigade with headquarters in Los Cóndores Air Base (Base Aérea Los Cóndores) in Iquique

  • 1st Aviation Squadron
  • 2nd Aviation Squadron
  • 3rd Aviation Squadron
  • 24th Air Defense Squadron
  • 34th Telecommunications Squadron
  • 44th Aviation Infantry Squadron

Second Air Brigade with headquarters in Pudahuel Air Base (Base Aérea Pudahuel) in Santiago

  • 9th Aviation Squadron
  • 10th Aviation Squadron
  • Air Defence and Special Forces Regiment (Regimiento de Artillería Antiaérea y FF.EE)
  • 32nd Telecommunications Squadron

Third Air Brigade with headquarters in El Tepual Air Base (Base Aérea El Tepual) in Puerto Montt

  • 5th Aviation Squadron
  • 25th Air Defense Squadron
  • 35th Telecommunications Squadron

Fourth Air Brigade with headquarters in Chabunco Air Base (Base Aérea Chabunco) in Punta Arenas

  • 6th Aviation Squadron
  • 12th Aviation Squadron
  • 23rd Air Defense Squadron
  • 33rd Telecommunications Squadron
  • 19th Antarctic Exploration Squadron

Fifth Air Brigade with headquarters in Cerro Moreno Air Base (Base Aérea Cerro Moreno) in Antofagasta

  • 7th Aviation Squadron
  • 8th Aviation Squadron
  • 21st Air Defense Squadron
  • 31st Telecommunications Squadron
  • 41st Aviation Infantry Squadron

Personnel Command

Education Division

  • Aviation School "Captain Manuel Ávalos Prado"
  • Air Specialties School "Flight Sergeant Adolfo Menadier Rojas"
  • NCO Perfectioning School
  • Air War Academy
  • Aeronautical Polytechnical Academy
  • Air Photographic Surveying Service

Health Division
General Hospital of the Air Force
Air Force High Command Prefecture

Logistics Command

Maintenance Division
Administration Division
Infrastructure Division


Current inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States multirole F-16A/C 35[3]
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States conversion trainer F-16B/D 11[4]
Northrop F-5 United States fighter F-5E 9[5]
Boeing 707 United States early warning and control EL/M-2075 1[5] system developed by Israel Aerospace Industries
KC-135 Stratotanker United States aerial refueling KC-135E/R 6[5]
Boeing 737 United States VIP 1[5]
Boeing 767 United States VIP / transport 1[6][7]
Cessna Citation United States VIP CJ1 4[5]
C-130 Hercules United States transport C-130B/H/R 3[8] Aircraft lost in 2019 and 2011
CASA C-212 Spain utility / transport 3[5]
DHC-6 Twin Otter Canada utility transport 11[5] STOL capable aircraft
Bell 412 United States utility 15[5]
Bell UH-1 United States utility UH-1H 15[5]
Sikorsky UH-60 United States
utility S-70i 7+r[5]
Trainer Aircraft
Northrop F-5 United States jet trainer F-5F 2[5]
EMB 314 Brazil advanced trainer 18[8]
T-35 Pillán Chile trainer 32[5]
CASA C-101 Spain advanced trainer/attack 20[9]
Cirrus SR22 United States trainer 4[5]
Bell 206 United States trainer 4[5]
Hermes 900 Israel surveillance 3[10]

Future Aircraft

The Chilean government has signed letter of intent to purchase six Embraer KC-390 tanker/transport aircraft.[11][12]

Air Defense

Name Origin Type In service Notes
NASAMS Norway SAM system 3[13]
Sistema Mygale France SAM system 2[13]
Anti-aircraft artillery
M163 VADS United States mobile anti-aircraft gun 44[13] weapon is a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun
M167 Vulcan United States towed anti-aircraft gun 66[13]
Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannon Switzerland towed anti-aircraft gun 24[13]


Name Origin Type Notes
Air-to-air missile
AIM-120 C5/C7 AMRAAM[13] United States beyond-visual-range missile initial 100 missiles obtained[13]
AIM-9 Sidewinder[13] United States initial 200 missiles obtained (from 2010 to 2013)[13]
RAFAEL Derby Israel beyond-visual-range missile
RAFAEL Python 4 Israel
Air-to-surface missile
AGM-65 Maverick[13] United States
General-purpose bomb
Mark 84 United States
Mark 82 United States
GBU-12 Paveway II United States laser-guided bomb
GBU-24 Paveway III United States laser-guided bomb
Anti-ship missile
AGM-84 Harpoon[13] United States


Chile also maintains its own aviation industry, ENAER. The design of the T-35 Pillán trainer, based on the Piper PA-28 Dakota, is the best known example, seeing some export success as well. Furthermore, the assembly of the A-36/T-36 Halcón (CASA C-101) was achieved as well. Performing maintenance on most types in the current inventory, such as minor modifications on F-5E aircraft for example, the industry is of significant importance to the air force. ENAER is reported to be in talks with Embraer of Brazil to codesign the first indigenous South American military transport plane. Also, under the Pacer Amstel programme, with initial Dutch support, and later locally ENAER upgraded an F-16 combat jet, which for the Chilean Air Force is an advance for their maintenance of the F-16 fleet (becoming the 5th country to modify their jets under authorization).


NATO code
OF-10OF-9OF-8OF-7OF-6OF-5OF-4OF-3OF-2OF-1OF(D) and student officer
No equivalent
Air General
General de Aire
Aviation General
General de Aviación
Air Brigade General
General de Brigada Aérea
Aviation Colonel
Coronel de Aviación
Group Commander
Comandante de Grupo
Squadron Commander
Comandante de Escuadrilla
Flight Captain
Capitán de Bandada
Officer Cadet
No equivalent No insignia
Suboficial Mayor Suboficial Sargento Primero Sargento Segundo Cabo Primero Cabo Segundo Cabo Soldado



Officer[14]Line Corps
Arm of serviceAviationEngineeringAir DefenseTelecommunications and Information TechnologyAdministrationAir Base
SpecialtyAviators (Fighter, Helicopter) and Air transport officersAviation engineersAir defenseInformation and telecommunications engineersEngineers assigned to administrative dutiesLogistics
Officer[14]Services/Staff Corps
Arm of serviceJusticeMedical Corps
Dental Corps
ChaplainancyBands ServiceGeneral Services Corps
Abbreviation(J)(S) y (SD)(SR)(B)(SG)
SpecialtyAttorneys and JudgesDoctors, Nurses and Dentists
of various specialties
ChaplainsMusiciansProfessional workers and civilian employees

Non-commissioned officers and airmen

NCOs and airmen of the[14]Line CorpsServices Corps
Arm of serviceWeaponsTechnical supportAdministrationCombat medicine and surgery
SpeciallyAir Defense
Intelligence personnel
Maintenance and armaments
Communications, information technology and electronics
Air Operations Support
Administrative staffCombat medics and surgeons

Officers' cap badges

Chilean Air Force officers wear the following cap badges in their peaked caps.

Rank cap badge[15]Air Generals and Air CommodoresColonels and Group CommandersEnsigns through Squadron Commanders
Full dress
Service dress
RankAir GeneralAviation GeneralAir Brigade GeneralAir CommodoreAviation ColonelGroup CommanderSquadron Commander Flight CaptainLieutenantSublieutenantEnsign

In news

The Chilean Air Force reported one of its C-130 Hercules transport aircraft carrying 38 people en route to Antarctica missing on December 9, 2019. The aircraft was on its way to Antarctica’s King George Island to provide logistic support to a military base when radio contact was lost.[16] On 11 December 2019, aircraft debris was located 18 miles South of where the plane last made contact. Chilean authorities will continue to search and hope for a better result however, there is a slim chance of finding survivors at this point. The cause of the crash is unknown and the situation is ongoing.[17]


  1. Inquiry into 1973 death of Chile's Salvador Allende Archived 2018-12-25 at the Wayback Machine BBC 2011
  2. Salitre 2014 Exercise in Chile promotes cooperation among five air forces Archived 2019-03-06 at the Wayback Machine Dialogo Americas 2014
  5. "World Air Forces 2017". Flightglobal Insight. 2017. Archived from the original on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  6. "World Air Forces 2011/12". flightglobal insight. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  7. "Chilean Air Force Boeing 767". Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  8. "World Air Forces 2019". Flightglobal Insight. 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  10. "Chilean navy considers Hermes 900". Archived from the original on 25 January 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  11. "World Air Forces 2015 pg. 13". Flightglobal Insight. 2015. Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  12. "How Embraer attracted a global audience to the KC-390". Archived from the original on 24 April 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  13. Trade Registers Archived 2011-01-31 at WebCite. Retrieved on 2015-02-18.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2010-10-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. Grados Archived 2010-12-05 at the Wayback Machine
  16. "Antarctica-bound plane missing with 38 on board". 2019-12-10. Retrieved 2019-12-11.
  17. Staff; agencies (2019-12-11). "Chilean air force finds debris believed to be from missing plane with 38 people". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
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