Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey and west of Syria became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1571. Cyprus was ceded to Britain in 1878, formally annexed in 1914 and became a Crown Colony in 1925. During the period of British rule, Cyprus had important geo-strategic value since it was on the route to India and the British presence in the Gulf as well as effectively controlling the Eastern Mediterranean and the Suez canal.
During WWII the British promised self government to the Cypriots in exchange for their support in the allied cause. Once the war was over the British rescinded their promises. The Cypriots were effectively denied their right of self-determination. By the early 1950s the movement for "Enosis", the union of Cyprus with Greece was supported by the vast majority of the Greek Cypriot population. The Turkish Cypriot minority did not agree to "Enosis" with Greece. The British colonials encouraged the Turkish Cypriots in their own movement of "Taksim" or separation of Cyprus into two parts and the union of each one with the respective mother country. The British policy at this period was effectively one of "divide and rule" between the two communities. Up to the end of the 1950s the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots lived peacefully in mixed communities.
In 1955 a Greek Cypriot guerilla movement called "EOKA" started fighting for "Enosis" against the British. A similar Turkish Cypriot organization also developed, called "TMT" fighting for "Taksim". The first instances of violence between the two Cypriot communities erupted.
On 16 August 1960, Britain granted Cyprus its independence. The Greek Archbishop Makarios was elected, while a Turk, Kücük, was elected vice-president. In late 1963, Makarios proposed a series of constitutional changes that would make the administration of the country more effective. Makarios was primarily interested in changes in domestic policy, including the limitation of the Turkish Cypriot veto power. The Makarios proposals were the result of consultations with the British side.
Around Christmas 1963 the first instances of intercommunal violence erupted. Turkey threatened to invade and Turkish bombers flew over Nicosia. In 1964 violence between the communities continued unabated. The Turkish Cypriots moved into "enclaves" separating themselves from the rest of the population. The TuAF bombed/strafed Republic of Cyprus positions (with F-84s and F-100s). Both Greece and Turkey infiltrated men and arms on the island.
In an effort to stabilize the situation the UN voted to send a peace-keeping force to Cyprus (UNFICYP) which has been on the island ever since. In 1964, US President Lyndon B. Johnson intervened and threatened the Turks with dire consequences in the case that they invaded Cyprus. From 1964 through to 1973 intermittent negotiations took place between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in an effort to find an acceptable solution to the constitutional stalemate.
In 1967 a group of medium ranking army officers took power in Athens by force. The colonels kept on interfering in the internal affairs of Cyprus and were trying to overthrow Archbishop Makarios. In their effort to do so they used the Greek Army officers seconded to the Cypriot National Guard as well as the Greek Army contingent on the island. In 1970 they started to support a terrorist organization "EOKA B" that was fighting for "Enosis" primarily against the pro-independence Cypriots of Makarios.
In the spring of 1974 Makarios requested that Athens withdraw its officers from Cyprus. The colonels organized a coup and overthrew Makarios on July 15, 1974. What exactly happened in 1974 is still debated. There is significant evidence that the CIA (and other US services) were at least aware of the junta's plans and had not discouraged the coup plans. In Washington the US administration was going through the most stage of the Watergate scandal and the Nixon administration was on the verge of collapse. The foreign policy was totally in the hands of Henry Kissinger. The US policy was totally ambivalent concerning both the coup on Cyprus (Kissinger considered Makarios as the "Castro" of the Mediterranean) as well as the developing Turkish invasion.
On 21 and 22 July 1974 the Turks invaded Cyprus claiming that the Turkish Cypriot population was being "threatened" and that Turkey had the right to intervene in order to "restore constitutional order" under the rights granted by the treaty of guarantee of 1960 and most fierce fighting took place. During a secret operation meant to send in Greek commandos, three N2501 Noratlas aircraft were lost. One was shot down by friendly fire on approach to Nicosia airport killing all but one onboard, while the other two aircraft were damaged and were all abandoned at Nicosia airport. The Turkish Air Force had complete air superiority and kept on bombing/strafing Greek positions. A number of Turkish jets were allegedly shot down.
By July 24, 1974, the military regime in Athens had been replaced by a civilian government. Over the next few days a fragile cease-fire had been agreed on Cyprus following US pressure. In late July, Turkey held about 20% of Cypriot territory and negotiations were taking place in Switzerland. On August 14 the Turks resumed their offensive and occupied 37% of the island.
In 1983 Turkish Cypriots proclaimed a separate state, naming it the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). No country except Turkey has recognized this state.
Talks for the re-unification have been held sporadically, but Cyprus still remains divided. The Republic's purchase of Russian made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles capable of reaching the Turkish coast has further weakened relations between the two sides. Turkey's primary aim is for a co-federation of two separate countries with equal sovereign status. The Greek Cypriot objectives are based on United Nations resolutions calling for a federation of two communities into one political entity.
The Republic of Cyprus is very close to joining the European Union since it meets almost all political, economic and legal criteria. The expectation from the Greek side is that the EU accession will reduce Turkish fears and will act as a catalyst for a solution to the longstanding problem.
The first attempt to form an air service took place in December 1963 with the formation of the Aeroporiki Diikissi Kyprou ADK (Cyprus Air Command). This unit had its headquarters in Nicosia and under its command the 419 MPA (Mira Prostasias Aerodromiou = Air Base Protection Squadron) and 420 MPA at Lakatamia and Tymbou respectively. In May 1964 a radar was delivered and this came under the 3 SEP (Sminos Engeris Proidopiisis = Early Warning Flight) (This unit subsequently became the 3 MSEP (Mira Stathmou Elenchou Proidopiisis = Warning and Control Station Squadron). In June 1964 the 1 SA (Sminos Aeroskafon = Aircraft Flight) was formed in cooperation with the police force. This unit operated 6 light aircraft and 2 helicopters. Efforts were made with the cooperation of Greece for the acquisition of more modern jets, with limited success. A number of HAF F-84Fs and T-6s and T-33s were earmarked for operations in Cyprus without them ever seeing action. In 1964 five T-6s were dispatched secretly to the island however they were not used operationally due a UN cease-fire agreement.
From 1964 onwards the Cypriots requested modern equipment from the Soviet Union. According to certain reports YAK-11s were requested although other sources indicate that MiG-15s/17s were asked for instead. In any case none materialized. The Soviets offered SA-2 Guideline SAMs for delivery via Egypt. Due to political considerations this delivery did not take place.
In 1966 Cyprus installed a second radar station, 4 MSEP (MSEP=Mira Stathmou Elenchou Proidopiisis). A significant number of anti-aircraft guns were acquired during this period, primarily M-55 quadruple 12.7mm guns.
In 1968 the Police and ADK separated their activities and only two aircraft remained under ADK command. D-6 was A Beechcraft C-45 and D-7 a L-21B Super Cub.
The order of battle in 1974 found the ADK with:
Aeroporiko Kentro Elenchou (AKE) - Air Control Centre (Nicosia)
419 MPA - Lakatamia Air Base
420 MPA - Tymbou Air Base
3 MSEP - on Mt. Kormakitis
4 MSEP - on Mt. Kantara
After 1974 the ADK was renamed as Diikissi Aeroporias (Air Force Command). From 1986 onwards a re-equipment effort is under way with the delivery of 3 Bell 206Ls, 4 SA342L Gazelles and 2 PC-9s from which one crashed in 2005. The 2 Mi-2 Kanias were originally purchased by the Agriculture Ministry for crop spraying duties. Subsequently they have been passed on to the DA for military activities, although it is believed that they have not proven popular and that they are currently stored pending a decision to their fate.
The modern DA is primarily a force providing anti-aircraft protection for Cyprus. For this purpose the Aspide/Othello SAM system has been bought from Italy, Mistral MANPADS from France and SA-7s and TOR-1Ms from Russia.
The Air Force Command was formed from the National Guard Air Wing during 1996. Before that the Cypriot Army operated several aircraft including two Piper 22 Colts, a Beechcraft C-45 and a Dornier Do-27. In 1989 two PC-9's were delivered from Switzerland, these are withdrawn from use now as is the the single BN-2B Islander that used to form the fixed wing portion of the Air Force. The current helicopter force consist of four SNIAS SA342L HOT equipped Gazelles, two Bell 206L-3s, and three AW139s. The 11 remaining Mil Mi-35P Hind helicopters were sold to Serbia in 2021 and were handed over in November 2023. These are replaced by the twelve Airbus Helicopters H145M that were ordered in 2022.
The Cyprus Police force operates three Bell 412EP/SPs and two AW139s out of Larnaca airport. The sole Police BN-2B Islander was withdrawn from use and sold to the civilian market.
In 2001 the Elliniki Aeroporia Stratou - Hellenic Army Aviation leant two UH-1H Hueys to the National Guard of Cyprus. The Hueys were leant to Cyprus to offset a postponement of an order for more Bell 412s. The original plan was to return the Hueys once the 412s were ordered/delivered but they were grounded under US pressure in 2003 instead. The Heuys have been returned to Greece after the delivery of the AW139s commenced.
The Mira E/P-A/F (Mira Elikopteron-Aeroskafon = Helicopter-Aircraft Squadron) was disbanded in May 2002 to enable the formation of two separate Mires at Lakatamia and Paphos, both separated into two Platoons. The converged into two Mires at Paphos, 450 ME/P and 460MED. In 2019 Cyprus received its first Unmanned Areal Combat System (UCAS): the Aeronautics Defence Systems Aerostar of which four were delivered.