On March 5, the Paraguayan Air Force (FAP) celebrated its 100th anniversary with an open door festival at the historic Ñu Guazú Air Base in Luque, Central department. The celebration included an exhibition of airplanes and helicopters and airborne jumps, among others. The event, initially scheduled close to the February 22 commemorative date, had been postponed due to inclement weather, Paraguayan daily La Nación reported.
“The Paraguayan Air Force, as heir to the former Military Aviation School, celebrates 100 years of institutional existence, congratulating all those men and women of the air who have contributed to the Paraguayan nation soaring in the skies, conquering a special space for the development and defense of our values and customs,” Air Force General Arturo Javier González Ocampo, FAP commander, told Diálogo.
Among the aircraft on display was the U.S. Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, whose pilots were part of the U.S. delegation participating in the celebration.
Brigadier General Sean Choquette, vice commander of U.S. Air Forces Southern (AFSOUTH), and Brigadier General Virginia Gaglio, commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, who led the U.S. delegation, said that “it was a true honor to celebrate the centennial with the men and women of the Paraguayan Air Force,” the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay indicated in a statement. “They [Paraguayan service members] feel such pride, determination, and dedication to serving their country, and we are excited to continue working together as friends and partners.”
Paraguayan President and Commander in Chief of the Military Forces Mario Abdo Benítez skydived with a group of soldiers, recalling his time as a paratrooper during mandatory military service more than 30 years ago. “Now, in commemoration of 100 years [of the FAP], we returned to our home to enjoy the skies,” Abdo Benítez told Paraguayan network ABC TV.
“We are very happy to be able to participate and be protagonists of this historic event as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. I believe I am the first in history to jump with a parachute,” Abdo Benítez added.
One of the main attractions of the festivities was the exhibition of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, a military transport aircraft of AFSOUTH, air component of U.S. Southern Command.
“This aircraft came to Paraguay to enhance the centennial celebrations of the Paraguayan Air Force. During the past week, delegations from 12th Air Force [AFSOUTH], the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and the Inter-American Air Forces Academy came to Paraguay to celebrate this historic milestone,” the U.S. Embassy said.
As the FAP completes a century of existence, its commander, Gen. González, looks to the future. “The great challenge, without a doubt is space control,” he told Paraguayan newspaper El Independiente. “It isn’t because of some hostile motive from neighboring nations, but because of the great challenge of maintaining control due to national and transnational crime,” he added.
“For the constitutional mission to be possible, one must have means of detection [such as radars], a command and control center, means of interception, means of communications, and the appropriate laws for attack and persuasion,” Gen. González said.
As such, the FAP is studying the acquisition of 3D radars to strengthen security on its borders. In late 2022, Gen. González and Argentine Ambassador to Paraguay Oscar Domingo Peppo visited the Las Lomitas radar station in the Argentine province of Formosa.
“[Gen.] González Ocampo traveled to the place together with an important delegation made up of representatives of the armed forces of the neighboring country, to evaluate the RPA 240 radar manufactured by Argentine company INVAP,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Argentine Armed Forces said in a statement. “Radars on both sides of the border benefits both countries.”