Revolutionary Anti-Air Defence and Air Force
Defensa Anti-Aérea y Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria
Cuban Armed Forces emblem
Founded1959; 65 years ago (1959)
Country Cuba
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Aerial defence
Size8,000 Personnel
Part ofRevolutionary Armed Forces
Major General Pedro Mendiondo Gómez[1][2]
Fin flash
Aircraft flown
FighterMiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-29
Attack helicopterMil Mi-24
TrainerAero L-39
TransportMil Mi-8, Mil Mi-17, An-24

The Cuban Revolutionary Air and Air Defense Force (Spanish: Defensa Anti-Aérea y Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria) commonly abbreviated to DAAFAR in both Spanish and English, is the air force of Cuba.



The Cuban Army Air Force was the air force of Cuba that existed prior to 1959.

Early years under Castro

Main article: Bay of Pigs Invasion

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March 2017)

When the Cuban Revolution overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista at the end of 1958, the new government led by Fidel Castro inherited most of the aircraft and equipment of the old regime, which was supplemented by the aircraft of the revolutionaries own Fueza Aérea Rebelde,[a] to form the new Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria (FAR). Arrests of many of the personnel (including 40 pilots) of the old air force meant that the FAR was short of manpower to operate its aircraft, while lack of spare parts further reduced operational efficiency and a US-inspired arms embargo restricted efforts to acquire replacement aircraft.[4]

In April 1961, CIA-backed Cuban exiles attempted an invasion of Cuba with the aim of overthrowing Castro's government. The invasion was preceded on 17 April by air attacks on Cuban airfields in an attempt to destroy the FAR prior to the invasion, with several FAR aircraft being destroyed.[5] The remaining operational aircraft were deployed against the Cuban exiles landings on 19 April, sinking one transport, the Rio Escondido and badly damaging another, the Houston, which was beached, resulting in the loss of most of the invader's supplies.[6]

In 1969, the inadequacy of the radar coverage to the south of the United States were dramatically illustrated when a Cuban Air Force MiG-17 went undetected before it landed at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida[7] and two years later, an Antonov An-24 similarly arrived unannounced at New Orleans International Airport.[7]

Later years

Cuban MiG-21MF from the 1970s

In the 1980s, Cuba with the help of the Soviet Union was able to project power abroad, using its air force, especially in Africa. During that time Cuba sent jet fighters and transports for deployment in conflict zones such as Angola and Ethiopia.

In 1990, Cuba's Air Force was the best equipped in Latin America. During this time, the Cuban Air Force imported approximately 230 fixed-wing aircraft. Although there is no exact figure available, Western analysts estimate that at least 130 (with only 25 operational[8]) of these planes are still in service spread out among the thirteen military airbases on the island. The Soviet Union was to import 40 of the latest MiG-29s, including fighters and two-seat trainers, but collapsed during this process. Only 5 fighters and 3 trainers were imported.[2].

In 1996, fighters from the DAAFAR shot down two Cessna aircraft based in Florida which were accused of dropping leaflets into Cuban airspace. The Air Force was criticized for not giving the pilots of the aircraft options other than being shot down. One aircraft escaped.[9]

In 1998, according to the same DIA report mentioned above, the air force had 'fewer than 24 operational MIG fighters; pilot training barely adequate to maintain proficiency; a declining number of fighter sorties, surface-to-air missiles and air-defense artillery to respond to attacking air forces.[10]


By 2007 the International Institute for Strategic Studies assessed the force as 8,000 strong with 41 combat capable aircraft and a further 189 stored. DAAFAR is divided into three territorial commands known as air zones, in each of which there is a Brigade with several independent Regiments and Squadrons. Each regiment has about 30 aircraft, and squadrons can vary in number, but are usually 12-14 aircraft. DAAFAR is known now to have integrated another Mig-29 and a few MiG-23s which makes it 58 combat aircraft in active service which are listed as 6 MiG-29s, 40 MiG-23s, and 12 MiG-21s. There were also assessed to be 12 operational transport aircraft plus trainers which include 8 L-39C and helicopters which are mainly Mil Mi-8, Mil Mi-17 and Mil Mi-24 Hind. Raúl Castro ordered in 2010 that all MiG-29 pilots had to have full training, they now have from 200–250 hours of flight annually together with real dogfight training and exercises. Up to 20 MiG-23 units also have this kind of training but the other 16 MiG-23 units spend more time in simulators than real flight. MiG-21 units have limited time in this exercises and spend more time in simulators and maintain their skills flying with the commercial brand of the air force Aerogaviota.

At San Antonio de los Baños military air field, south west of Havana, several aircraft are visible using Google Earth.[11]

Air bases

A Cuban Naval Vought OS2U-3


Source: [13]

2nd Guards Aviation Brigade "Girón Beach"

The 2nd Guards "Playa Girón" Aviation Brigade, based in San Antonio de los Baños, is an elite unit of the DAAFAR. The San Antonio de los Baños air base was built at the end of World War II. In 1976, the unit stationed that received the current name of the Playa Girón Guards Aviation Brigade. In April 1961, was responsible for the defense of Cuba during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.[14] Among its notable members was Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez. It is a recipient of the Antonio Maceo Order, which was awarded to it in 2014 on its 55th anniversary.[15] In October 2019, the regiment called for the immediate release of former Brazilian President and leader of the Workers Party, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.[16]


Cuban MIG-21 fighter aircraft inside VF-45 hangar.
A Cuban Mig-23BN

Current inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
MiG-21 Soviet Union Interceptor 11[17]
MiG-23 Soviet Union fighter Unknown 24[17] Retired
MiG-29 Soviet Union multirole 3[17]
Antonov An-26 Soviet Union transport 1[17] 2 crashed
Mil Mi-8 Soviet Union utility Mi-8/17 10[17]
Mil Mi-24 Russia attack Mi-35 4[17]
Trainer Aircraft
Aero L-39 Czechoslovakia jet trainer 26[17]


  1. ^ The Fuerza Aérea Rebelde consisted mainly of transports and light aircraft, which were used to carry arms and personnel to the rebel fighters, but also included three P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft and a T-28 armed trainer.[3]


  1. ^ "Preguntas sin respuestas en muerte de jefe militar".
  3. ^ Hagedorn 1993, pp. 146–147
  4. ^ Hagedorn 1993, pp. 26–27
  5. ^ de Quesada 2009, pp. 20–21
  6. ^ de Quesada 2009, pp. 27, 29
  7. ^ a b Leonard, p. 172
  8. ^ Cuban Armed Forces Review: Air Force Archived 2009-02-10 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Sections 3.18, 3.19 and 3.20 of the Resolution on the Cuban Government's Shootdown of Brothers to the Rescue Adopted by the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at the Twentieth Meeting of its 148th Session on 27 June 1996 [1] Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998
  11. ^,-82.506809&spn=0.004557,0.006899&t=h&z=17 Google Earth imagery of San Antonio de los Banos airfield
  12. ^ "Defensa antiaérea y revolucionaria Fuerza Aérea | Enciclopedia". Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  13. ^ "The Cuban Revolutionary Air Force Today. Equipment • Rubén Urribarres". Cuban Aviation • Rubén Urribarres. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  14. ^ (2014-09-08). "La unidad élite de la Fuerza Aérea de Cuba celebra su 55 aniversario - Noticias Infodefensa América". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  15. ^ Ceremonia Militar por el aniversario de la brigada de Aviacion Playa Giron, retrieved 2021-03-13
  16. ^ Ariguanabo, Radio. "Aviation Regiment demands Lula's freedom". Radio Artemisa Digital English Digital Edition. Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g "World Air Forces 2023". Flight Global. Flightglobal Insight. 2024. Retrieved 30 November 2023.