Hungarian Air Force
Magyar Légierő
Emblem of the Hungarian Air Force
Founded1918; 106 years ago (1918)
Country Hungary
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size5,750 active duty personnel
55 aircraft[1]
Part ofHungarian Defence Forces
Anniversaries15 August
Major General Nándor Kilián
Aircraft flown
FighterJAS 39 Gripen
HelicopterAirbus H125, Airbus H145M
Attack helicopterMil Mi-24
TrainerZlin 242
TransportAirbus A319, Dassault Falcon 7X

The Hungarian Air Force (Hungarian: Magyar Légierő, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈmɒɟɒr ˈleːgijɛrøː]), is the air force branch of the Hungarian Defence Forces.[2]

The primary focus of the present Hungarian Air Force lies in defensive operations. The flying units operate are organised into a single command; under the Air Command and Control Centre.[3]


1918 to pre–World War II

Following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1918, a small air arm was established operating surviving aircraft from Hungarian factories and training schools. This air arm became the Hungarian Red Air Force under the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, but was disbanded upon its downfall.[4]

World War II

Under the Treaty of Trianon (1920), Hungary was forbidden from owning military aircraft. However, a secret air arm was gradually established under the cover of civilian flying clubs. During 1938, as a result of the Bled agreement, the existence of the Royal Hungarian Air Force (Hungarian: Magyar Királyi Honvéd Légierő (MKHL)),[citation needed] was made known. The army's aviation service was reorganized and expanded.

Late 1938 the army aviation was once again reorganized. Admiral Horthy, the head of state, ordered that the army aviation should become an independent service effective 9 January 1939. Colonel Ferenc Feketehalmi Czeydner became the Air Section Chief in the Honvéd Ministry; Major General Waldemar Kenese became Inspector of the Air Force; Colonel Ferenc Szentnémedy became Chief-of-Staff, and Colonel László Háry was appointed head of the Magyar Királyi Honvéd Légierő (MKHL).

It subsequently participated in clashes with the newly established Slovak Republic and in the border confrontation with the Kingdom of Romania. In April 1941, operations were conducted in support of the German invasion of Yugoslavia and, on 27 June 1941, Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union.

In 1940, the decision was made to unite the Air Force, the anti-aircraft forces, and the civilian air defense organizations under one central headquarters.[citation needed] Colonel László Háry was retired 24 December 1940, and on 1 March 1941 the new organization was constituted. General András Littay became Air Sub-Department Chief, and Colonel Géza Vörös was appointed Head of the Air General Staff. On 1 June 1941, the Air Defense Corps was established, and Lieutenant General Béla Rákosi[5] became Commander of Army Aviation. In effect the Air Force had once again become part of the Army.

A Royal Hungarian Air Force Junkers Ju 86 1942

In the summer of 1942, an air brigade was attached to the Luftwaffe's VIII. Fliegerkorps on the Eastern Front. Beginning March 1944, Allied bomber raids began on Hungary and progressively increased in intensity. The 101st "Puma" fighter group (later wing) was the elite unit of the MKHL (its name and insignia are carried on by the "Puma" fighter squadron of the Hungarian Air Force of today). Late in 1944 all efforts were redirected towards countering the advancing Red Army, but to no avail. All fighting in Hungary ended on 16 April 1945.[4]

Post–World War II to present

A small air arm was organised along Soviet lines during 1947. Following the communist takeover, Russian military aid was stepped up and a major expansion program initiated. By 1956 the Hungarian Air Force consisted of the 25th Fighter Division (25. Vadászrepülő Hadosztály, HQ in Taszár), the 66th Fighter Division (66. Vadaszrepülő Hadosztály, HQ in Kecskemét),[6] the 82nd Separate Bomber Division (82. Önálló Bombázó Hadosztály, HQ in Kunmadaras),[7] the 28th Ground Attack Division (28. Csatarepülő Hadosztály, HQ in Székesfehérvár) and a training air division.[8] When Soviet forces invaded to suppress the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, sections of the Hungarian Air Force attacked Soviet forces and resisted Russian attempts to occupy their bases. The resistance was short-lived and the entire Hungarian air force was demobilized soon after. A reconstituted air arm was reformed in the following year as part of the Hungarian People's Army, but initially only as an internal security force. The remaining Hungarian air force assets were organised in the Aircraft Training Center (Repülő Kiképző Központ (RKK)) on April 1, 1957, with one mixed aircraft types squadron each at the main fighter air bases at Pápa, Taszár and Kecskemét. Gradually, starting in 1959 as Hungary became stable, the air force was expanded again, but it remained an integral part of the army and was essentially a defensive force.

During the Cold War period communist Hungary had numerous SA-2, SA-3 and also SA-5 (one unit) batteries and a large number of radar installations, mostly tasked with defending the Danube line against NATO air strikes. Army air defense was equipped with the SA-4, SA-6 Kub and SA-9, SA-13 systems besides conventional AAA units.

A Hungarian MiG-29 over RIAT 2008

The Hungarian People's Army Air Force operated the Yak-9, Tu-2, Il-10, Il-28, MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, MiG-21, MiG-23 and Su-22 combat aircraft during its existence. In the 1980s it had three fighter regiments (wings) at the three main bases with three squadrons each, with a total of approximately 100 active supersonic fighter aircraft. From 1989 the force was downsized several times until the early 2000s when only one active fighter squadron was remaining with often only 2–4 flyable alert ready aircraft at a given time.

In mid-1993, three batches of 28 MiG-29s were delivered from Russia as a payment in kind of government debt. They were based at Kecskemét. In 1995, a German gift of 20 Mi-24D/V's arrived.

For most other former Warsaw Pact member countries, pilot training was not a big deal. Each nation maintained an independent aviation technical college, an academy for training military aircraft pilots, and technical personnel. After the Second World War, Hungary created György Kilián Aviation Technical College in 1949, but in the 1960s domestic pilot training was discontinued and the 18 then modern Aero L-29 Delfin jet trainers were handed over to the Soviet Union. The training of pilots was conducted in several schools and bases in the USSR in the following years, and also in Czechoslovakia, in Košice. In Hungary, only helicopter pilots and technicians were trained at Szolnok.

In 1993, Hungary commenced its first pilot training course since 1956 at the Szolnok Aviation Academy. For this, 12 Yak-52 primary trainers were purchased from Romania. The German Government also donated 24 Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainers. The cost of domestic pilot training was later deemed too high after a change of government, and was halted after the completion of only one course. Also in 1997 the MIG-23s and Su-22s were withdrawn from service, the later type was retired just after an overhaul. During the 1990s all combat aircraft were fitted with new Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems to enable operations in Western airspace. In April 2002, Hungary joined the NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) pilot training program.[4]

Shortly after Hungary joined NATO in 1999, a push was made to replace the Air Force's MiG-29 fleet with a NATO-compatible fighter force. By 2001, several offers had been received, a Swedish offer with 24 JAS39C/D, the USA offered 24 used F-16's and multiple other offers had been received for the commissioning of various used aircraft. Despite the fact that the professional committees favored the F-16, on September 10, 2001, the Swedish bid won,[9] and on December 20 Hungary signed a contract with the Swedish Government.[10] The contract included leasing 14 JAS 39 Gripens, two of which are two-seaters, for 12 years beginning in 2006 (later extended until 2026). By December 2007 all 14 jets had been delivered.[11] After the lease period expires in 2026, Hungary will own the remaining Gripens.

A large-scale modernization program was launched in 2016 under the name "Zrinyi 2026". Its first significant step was the order of 36 Airbus helicopters in 2018. 20 H145M was ordered for light utility, SAR, and light attack roles.[12] Later that year 16 H225M helicopters were ordered for heavy transport and SOF roles.[13] All 20 H145Ms were delivered by the end of 2021.

In June 2020, the last plane from the Antonov An-26 fleet was retired from service, temporarily leaving the Hungarian Air Force without tactical airlift capability. Two KC-390 were ordered to fill this role in late 2020. The first aircraft is to arrive in 2023, the second in 2024.[14]

The ground-based air defence arm also got a big boost in 2020 by ordering of the NASAMS missile system[15] and the 11 ELM-2084 radars.[16] The Mistral short range air defence system was also modernized.[17]

As part of modernization program, Hungarian Air Force also interested to obtain new advanced training aircraft.[18] Hungarian Air Force perform evaluation flights of L-39NG during Aero Vodochody visit on 17 November 2021.[19] In April 2022, Hungarian official and Aero announced that Hungary have signed agreement to purchase 12 L-39NGs and expected to be arrived in 2024.[20][21]

In August 2021 an upgrade contract was signed with SAAB to modernize the Gripen fleet which would include an improved PS-05/A Mk4 radar and new armament. After implementing the MS20 Block 2 software upgrade, the Hungarian Gripens would be able to launch Meteor, IRIS-T missiles, and GBU-49 bombs. All of these weapons are under procurement as of 2022.[22]

The Hungarian Air Force plans to keep its upgraded Gripen fleet well into the 2030s and even acquire enough fighters for a second fighter squadron. 5th generation aircraft like the F-35 are too expensive, and their advanced capabilities are not necessary for the defense needs of Hungary. Airstrike capability (where stealth has a great advantage) is not a priority for the Hungarian Air Force, and no potential foe has stealth fighters in the region. Most likely, the Hungarian Air Force will skip on the 5th generation of fighter aircraft and plans to participate in one of the European fighter development projects in one way or another.[22]


Hungarian Air Force is located in Hungary
Hungarian Air Force locations 2018:
JAS-39C/D Gripen Helicopters other flying units
Air Defense Missile unit Command & Control Centre RAT-31DL radar
other sites

The following units are part of the Hungarian Air Force, but like all other operational units of the Hungarian Defense Forces they fall under operational control of the Hungarian Defense Forces Command in Székesfehérvár

The Hungarian Air Force Aircraft Repair Facility at Kecskemét Air Base falls under the Hungarian Defense Forces Logistics Center in Budapest.

59th Air Base "Dezső Szentgyörgyi"

A JAS39C over RIAT

The 59th Air Base is the home to fixed-winged aircraft of the Air Force. The 59th consists of one tactical fighter squadron and one airlift squadron.[23]

The airlift squadron, nicknamed "Teve" operates the air force's transport aircraft,[23] while the Fighter Squadron is nicknamed "Puma" and operates JAS-39C/D Gripen fighters.[24] On 19 May 2015 one two-seater Saab JAS39D Gripen crashed at the end of the runway at the Čáslav AFB. The pilots ejected safely, but the aircraft, nr. 42 with callsign PUMA66 was written off, damaged beyond repair.[25] A replacement Gripen D was delivered from Sweden in 2016.[26] On 10 June 2015, a single-seater JAS 39C, nr. 30, performed a belly landing at Kecskemét Air Base, Hungary. The pilot, Major Sándor Kádár, ejected successfully, but suffered spinal injuries.[27]

86th Helicopter Base "Szolnok"

The 86th Base is the home of the air force's helicopters. The 86th consists of one transport and one attack helicopter battalion and the base also houses a mixed training company.[28]

12th Air Defense Missile Regiment

The 12th Air Defense Missile Regiment is in charge of providing air defense to Hungary and fields:

On 11 November 2020, the Hungarian Government announced that it purchased the NASAMS medium to long range air-defence system. It is scheduled to arrive in 2023.[30]

Pápa AFB

Pápa Air Force Base was established as a military organization on 1 July 2001 as a part of Hungary's commitments to NATO's Infrastructural Development Program, and it is the legal successor of the HDF 47th Pápa Tactical Fighter Regiment.

Aircraft armament

Type Origin Role Aircraft Quantity Note
Thales FZ231  Belgium 70 mm rocket pod H145M 5 pcs[31]
Nexter NC621  France 20 mm cannon pod H145M 5 pcs[31]
IRIS-T  Germany Short range Air-to-Air Missile JAS 39 Gripen N.A. Hungary ordered unknown number of IRIS-T missiles in late 2021 for 13.6 million EUR. More to be purchased later.[32]
AIM-9L Sidewinder  United States Short range Air-to-Air Missile JAS 39 Gripen N.A.
AIM-120C AMRAAM  United States Medium range Air-to-Air Missile JAS 39 Gripen 40 pcs AIM-120C5

120 pcs AIM-120C7

In 2004 40 AIM–120C5 missiles were purchased along with 10 CATM–120 training missiles for a total of 25 389 904 USD.

In 2020 120 AIM–120C7 missiles were purchased for both the Gripen fleet and the NASAMS launchers of the air defence forces.[33]

AGM-65 Maverick  United States Guided Air-to-Ground Missile JAS 39 Gripen 20 pcs AGM–65G[34]

20 pcs AGM–65H

GBU-12  United States Laser guided aerial bomb JAS 39 Gripen N.A.
Mk-82  United States Unguided aerial bomb JAS 39 Gripen N.A.

Meteor missiles and GBU-49 guided bombs are planned to be purchased for the Gripen fleet.

Air defense assets

Name Origin Type In service Notes
SAM systems and radars
2K12 Kub 2M Soviet Union SAM system 16[35] It is scheduled to be replaced by the new NASAMS-3 system from 2025.[36]
Mistral France SAM system 45 Hungary has 45 ATLAS launchers on UNIMOG 4x4 vehicles and 9 radar-equipped MPC mobile firecontrol centeres on the same platform. New Mistral 3 missiles were purchased in 2017 and all launchers were equipped with Safran Matis thermal imaging cameras.[37][38] The MPCs are also being upgraded.[17]
NASAMS-3 Norway/United States SAM system N.A. Kongsberg Defence Systems and Raytheon were awarded a 410 million euro contract to deliver the NASAMS-3 system to the Hungarian Defence forces.[39]

The exact amount of batteries and other equipment is not yet known.

120 AMRAAM-C7 and 60 AMRAAM-ER were also purchased for the Hungarian Air Force in 2020.[40]

P–18 Spoon Rest Soviet Union 2D VHF Radar N.A. Upgraded and modernized by the HM Arzenál Zrt.[41] It is scheduled to be replaced by the new EL/M-2084 system from 2022.[42]
EL/M-2084 Israel Multi-mission radar (MMR) 5+6[43] The Hungarian government have ordered multiple ELM-2084 radar systems from Israel Aerospace Industries with Rheinmetall's Canadian subsidiary to start replacing Soviet-made but modernized radars from 2022. Rheinmetall Canada is also establishing assembly and future manufacturing site in Nyírtelek.[42][43]
Skyranger 30 Germany Anti-aircraft defense N.A. Hungary is looking to buy Lynx-based SHORAD systems. The Skyranger 30 turret is equipped with 30 millimeter KDE cannon and Mistral missiles. Beside the electrooptics the turret will have searching and tracking radar as well.[44]

Current inventory

A JAS39C fly by
A Hungarian Mi-24 in flight
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat aircraft
JAS 39 Gripen Sweden multirole JAS 39C 12[45] Leased from Sweden[46]
Airbus A319 Germany transport 2[45]
Dassault Falcon 7X France transport 1[47]
Embraer C-390 Brazil transport / aerial refueling KC-390 2 on order[45]
Mil Mi-17 Russia utility Mi-8/17 7[45]
Mil Mi-24 Russia attack Mi-24 V/P 8[45]
Airbus H145M France / Germany utility 19[45][48]
Airbus H225M France / Germany transport 6[49] 10 on order
Trainer aircraft
Zlín Z 42 Czech Republic basic trainer 242 6[45]
Zlín Z 43 Czech Republic basic trainer 143 2[45]
Aero L-39NG Czech Republic advanced trainer 12 on order[45]
JAS 39 Gripen Sweden conversion trainer JAS 39D 2[45] Leased from Sweden[46]
Eurocopter AS350 France rotorcraft trainer 2[45]

NOTE: Three C-17 Globemaster IIIs are stationed at Pápa Air Base in Hungary to support NATO's Strategic Airlift Capability operations.[50]

Aircraft markings

The Hungarian aircraft marking is a set of aligned triangles which points toward the front of the aircraft. They are the same colour as the Hungarian flag, red, white, and green. The innermost triangle is green, follow by white, and then red. It is displayed on the side of helicopters and in the standard four wing positions on aircraft. It was used by the Royal Hungarian Air Force until 1942, and then reinstated after the Second World War. The new Gripen fighters wear a NATO standard compliant grey-on-grey (low-visibility) version of the Hungarian triangle insignia.

Ranks and insignia

Main article: Military ranks of Hungary


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Further reading