Nicaragua gained independence from Spain in 1821. It was part of Mexico for a brief time, then part of the Central American Federation, and achieved complete independence in 1838. Soon after, Britain and the USA both became extremely interested in Nicaragua. In 1934, General Somoza, head of the National Guard, ordered the assassination of opposition rebel Augusto Sandino and became president in 1937. Somoza ruled Nicaragua as a dictator for the next twenty years and although he was assassinated in 1956, his sons upheld the dynasty until 1979. A revolt spread and the Sandinista rebels marched victoriously into Managua on July 19, 1979. Sandinist president Daniel Ortega inherited a poor country with high rates of homelessness, illiteracy and insufficient health care. The new government established farming cooperatives, waged an education campaign and introduced an immunization program. However, military ties with revolutionary countries like Cuba and the Soviet Union were tightened, initializing huge investments in the Nicaraguan military infrastructure. Not surprisingly, the USA suspended aid to Nicaragua and allocated dollars for the organization of counter-revolutionary groups known as Contras.
In 1990, Nicaraguans elected Violeta Chamorro. The economy did not revive and the Sandinistas were not completely ruled out, but civil war was over at last. Ortega proved to be the ultimate comeback president, and was elected again in 2007 and remains in power ever since. Although no longer a hardline socialist, his leftist policies are still being frowned upon in Washington and relations with regimes like Cuba, Venezuela and Russia remain warm.
Military aviation in Nicaragua can be traced back as far as 1920 when four Curtiss JN-2s were acquired, although it was not until 1936 that the Cuerpo de Aviacion (aviation corps) of the National Guard was formed. Just two years later the name of the air corps was changed to Fuerza Aérea de la Guardia Nacional on 9 June 1938. By July 1942 lend-lease funds accounted for the delivery of more aircraft from the USA. After Nicaragua signed the Rio Treaty in 1947 it received its first combat aircraft, a batch of twelve P-47 Thunderbolts. By that time the force was known as Fuerza Aérea de Nicaragua (FAN). In 1957, was broke out with Honduras over the Mesquita region. A cease-fire was reached and the Coco-river was recognized as the border between the two countries. The jet era started in 1962, when six T-33As were delivered.
From 1978, full scale civil war broke out when FSLN-revolutionaries tried to overthrow the Somozo dynasty. The rebels were assisted by a fleet of various transports bringing in weapons and ammunitions. In the seventies, the FAN main additions were transport aircraft, like DHC-3 Otters and CASA 212 Aviocars. When Somoza finally fled the country in July 1979, five T-33As, one B-26, six T-28s, six Cessna 337s, two CASA 212s, three C-47s, two IAI201 Aravas, one Huey, three S-58Ts, four OH-6As and various Cessnas and Pipers were left behind. On 18 September 1979 the new Sandinist government set up the Fuerza Aérea Sandinista and took over the inventory.
As soon as 1980, the Sandinist government sent cadets to Bulgaria for pilots training. Russian and Cuban advisors and construction teams were flown in to expand the military infrastructure, One large new airbase was constructed north of Managua near Punte Huete, in order to receive MiG-21s. Large numbers of Mi-8 and Mi-25 assault and combat helicopters were delivered in the eighties, although a great many were lost. Contra rebels built up a considerable air force, containing C-47s, C-123s, Cessna 337s, Pipers and various helicopters. In 1990, the air force was renamed Fuerza Aérea Nicaraguënse after the conflict had ended.
In 1992, several surviving Mi-17s and Mi-25s and were sold to Peru and only about ten Mi-17s remain in service. The name of the air force changed again in 1995 to Fuerza Aérea - Ejército de Nicaragua The air force currently has only two operational squadrons, a fraction of its size in the eighties. Very few aircraft were received after 1990. The Escuadrón de Transporte operates the two An-26s, which were received from Russia in 2017, and the sole surviving An-2. The Escuadrón de Ala Rotativa operates the remaining Mi-17s, two modern Mi-171s were acquired for VIP duties in 2009.