On May 20, 1929, the aviation divisions of the Peruvian Army and Navy were merged into the Cuerpo de Aviación del Perú (Peruvian Aviation Corps, abbreviated CAP). During the Colombia-Peru War of 1933, its Vought O2U Corsair and Curtiss F11C Hawk planes fought in the Amazon region. The CAP lost three aircraft to the Colombian Air Force. The corps was renamed Cuerpo Aeronáutico del Perú (Peruvian Aeronautical Corps, also abbreviated CAP) on March 12, 1936.
Ecuadorian invasion of Peru
In 1941, the CAP participated in the Peruvian-Ecuadorian War. At that time, the CAP were equipped with Caproni Ca.114 and North American NA.50 Torito fighters, Douglas DB-8A-3P attack aircraft, and Caproni Ca.135 Tipo Peru and Caproni Ca.310 Libeccio bombers, among others.
The Peruvian Air Force had also established a paratroop unit during the war and used it to great effect by seizing the strategic Ecuadorian port city of Puerto Bolívar, on July 27, 1941, marking the first time in the Americas that airborne troops were use in combat.
Peruvian Aeronautical Corps aircraft flying over a Peruvian ship during the 1941 war
Lieutenant José A. Quiñones was a Peruvian pilot during the war.
On July 23, 1941, his plane, a North American NA-50 fighter, was hit while performing a low-level attack on an Ecuadorian border post on the banks of the Zarumilla river. According to traditional Peruvian accounts, Quiñones, upon being hit by ground fire, crashed his damaged aircraft deliberately into the Ecuadorian anti-aircraft position, destroying it. He was promoted posthumously to Captain, and is today considered a National Hero of Peru.
During the 1950s presidency of General Manuel A. Odría, the Peruvian Air Force was reorganized and on July 18, 1950, had its name changed to the Fuerza Aérea del Perú (Air Force of Peru, or FAP). Peru was an ally of the United States during this period, and was predominantly equipped with aircraft built in the US and Great Britain. By the end of General Odria's presidency, the FAP ushered in the Jet Age with the introduction of English Electric Canberra bombers and Hawker Hunter, Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star and North American F-86 Sabre fighters.
However, on October 3, 1968, a military junta led by pro-Soviet Peruvian Army General Juan Velasco Alvarado organized a swift and bloodless coup d'état against president Fernando Belaúnde Terry. Velasco aligned Peru more closely with the Soviet Bloc and relations with the United States deteriorated. The US declared an arms embargo in 1969, making it difficult to obtain spare parts for Peru's American weaponry. In the 1970s and 1980s, Peru turned to the Soviet Union for its military hardware. During this time, the FAP acquired several Soviet-made aircraft, including Sukhoi Su-22 fighters, Antonov An-26 and An-32 transport aircraft, as well as Mil Mi-8, Mi-17, Mi-25 and Mi-26 helicopters. Soviet advisors were also dispatched to Peru.
Velasco was overthrown by other military officers in 1975 and Belaúnde returned to power as a civilian president in 1980. The FAP purchased the French-made Mirage 5P and 5DP and the Mirage 2000 in 1984. Relations improved with the United States and the FAP obtained American aircraft like the Cessna A-37B Dragonfly attack aircraft, as well as Lockheed C-130 and L-100-20 Hercules transport aircraft.
The stagnation of the Peruvian economy during the late 1980s and early 1990s forced cost reductions and the downsizing of the fleet size.
Budget cuts in training meant Peruvian pilots had a low number of annual flying hours (AFH) per pilot if compared to the 1970s. The number of annual flying hours is of course very important in estimating the individual skill and experience of the pilots of an air force: more annual flying hours suggests better trained pilots and general readiness.
There are also a number of possible explanations for FAP`s low AFH: concern over the aging of equipment, scarcity of spare parts – especially for the older aircraft – difficulties with worn airframes and the scarcity of fuel are all contributing factors. It is very likely however that some 'elite' pilots and regiments such as those based in Talara AFB and La Joya AFB received considerably more flying hours. Especially since those regiments until today are equipped with modern aircraft and tasked with homeland defence.
In 1995 the Peruvian Air Force fought the Cenepa War against Ecuador's FAE in the Amazonian skies ill-equipped, having five fighter planes and three attack helicopters shot down by the Ecuadorians.
Peruvian Air Force cadets during their graduation ceremony
In 1997 and 1998 the FAP's outlook started to change for better. In order to achieve Fujimori's militarily bold plans, it meant that FAP required a much needed general overhaul and new purchases.
In 1997 the FAP acquired from Belarus 21 MiG-29 fighters and 18 Su-25 attack fighters. In 1998 an additional 3 MiG-29 fighters were bought from Russia which along with the 12 Mirage 2000 fighters purchased from France's Dassault Aviation in 1984, made a total of 54 fighters in Peru's inventory.
The purchases were expensive and a number of observers questioned their usefulness against more pressing security concerns at the time such as the fanatical Marxist guerillas, the Shining Path Sendero Luminoso. On the other hand, the FAP still remembered the 1995 Cenepa War with Ecuador, and stationed its MiG-29 close to the border at Chiclayo AFB and Talara AFB.
Various armed personnel of the Peruvian Air Force
Peru's Mirage 2000C/B and MiG-29S fighters form the backbone of its current multi-role fighter fleet, alongside specialized SU-25 close air support jets. Its Mirage 2000Ps sit at La Joya AFB near the border with Bolivia and Chile; the 3 Andean countries have a minor 3-way maritime borders dispute, and residual tensions with historical foe Chile have been a long-running theme in Peru.
RAC MiG began the upgrade of FAP's MiG fleet to the MiG-29SMT external link standard in 2008. In 2009, Dassault began working with Peru on a comprehensive inspection of the Mirage fleet, coupled with some electronics modernization.
Since 2013 Peru is in talks with European suppliers as part of a long-term plan of replacing FAP's aging air force aircraft with second-hand Su-35s, Rafales or Eurofighters. Hitherto, FAP was exploring the possibility of buying as many as sixty Eurofighter Typhoon EF-2000 from Spain and sixty Sukhoi Su-35 from Russia. Cost was a major issue for Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, who was looking at competitively priced fighter jets that would fit the national budget. In 2014, Peru began to update the operations and mechanical equipment of its Cessna A-37 aircraft, replacing analog controls with new digital hardware.