República de Panama

Under Spanish rule from 1501, Panama was a pivotal trade route and collection point for Spanish commerce from the New World. The region achieved independence in 1821, as a region of Gran Colombia, which also included Colombia Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. However, when Gran Colombia collapsed in 1830, Panama became part of modern Colombia. Unhappy with this status, the Panamanians found an ally in the United States, which had strategic interests in the region - specifically, the construction of an Atlantic-Pacific link. A deal was signed with the Americans in 1846, allowing for the construction of a railway. But it was not until 1903 and the achievement of full independence that the Americans embarked on the construction of the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal Zone became an American Protectorate. During most of the 1980s, the country was run by Manuel Noriega. The general's policies and his personal activities, including alleged involvement in drug trafficking, produced very strained relations with the USA. After an attempted coup in October 1989 Noriega's forces quickly crushed elected president Endara loyalists. In December 1989, US President Bush authorized an invasion of the country. After a few days of fierce fighting, US forces secured control of the country and captured Noriega. The USA pulled out again on schedule, and in December 1999 the Panama Canal was officially handed over to Panamanian control.

Order of Battle Panama

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Servicio Nacional Aeronaval (SENAN)

In the last two decades two significant events took place, which greatly influenced the current status of the Panamanian air arm. Firstly, in December 1989, the US invasion in order to protect US lives, to maintain the security of the Panama Canal, to restore democracy in Panama and to capture general Noriega and bring him to justice. Following the invasion, the Panamanian Defence Forces, including the air force, which had gained considerable political power under general Noriega, were disbanded. After the restoration of law and order by the new Panamanian democratic administration, the air arm became a part of the public forces under the Ministerio de Gobierno y Justicia. The public forces the national police, the coast guard and the national air service. Secondly, the handover of the Panama Canal on 31 December 1999, marked the end of US military presence in the country from its independence in 1903. With the US looking for replacement of its military stronghold in the region, the SENAN took residence at the former Howard Air Force Base at Balboa.

The main tasks of the SENAN is to support the national administration in cases of natural disasters, monitoring the extensive coastlines and borders, particularly the Colombian border area - the so called Darien Gap - which is notorious for its presence of guerrillas and narcotraffic. Helicopters are an important part of the service, six AW139s were followed by two more in 2018 as well as a AW109 for medevac duties. Small aircraft seized from narco-traffickers are incorporated infrequently, but lately capabilities received a boost with the delivery of two Cessna 208s, a Beech 350 and two DHC-6-400 Twin Otters.

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