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Column 122115 Wall

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Mexican Air Force has Celebrated its Centennial This Year

By Allan Wall

This calendar year, 2015, the Mexican Air Force is celebrating its 100th anniversary, having been officially established in 1915, during the Mexican Revolution. 

The Mexican Air Force, Fuerza Aérea Mexicana in Spanish, is actually a branch of the Mexican Army (as the U.S. Air Force was formerly a branch of the U.S. Army).

The Mexican Air Force has 11,770 personnel and approximately 363 aircraft.  Its commander is General Carlos Antonio Rodríguez Munguía. The Air Force is under the authority of SEDENA, a Spanish acronym for Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, the National Defense Secretariat, equivalent to the U.S. Department of Defense.  Ultimately, of course, the Air Force is under the authority of President Enrique Peña Nieto, commander-in-chief of the Mexican military.

The motto of the Mexican Air Force is Honor, Valor, Lealtad (Honor, Valor, Loyalty), and its official colors are green, white and red, the same as the Mexican Flag.  Click here to see the official symbol of the Mexican Air Force.

The official birthdate of the Mexican Air Force is February 5th, because on February 5th, 1915, during the Mexican Revolution, Venustiano Carranza, then chief of the Constitutionalist Army, formed the Army’s Military Aviation Arm (Arma de Aviación Militar) under the command of Lt. Alberto Salinas Carranza.  

The official action establishing the Military Aviation Arm was taken by Venustiano Carranza in Los Faros, Veracruz, then General Headquarters of the Constitutionalist Army.

If the February 5th date rings a bell, that’s because it’s also Mexican Constitution Day.  The Mexican Constitution was approved February 5th, 1917, exactly two years after the establishment of the Mexican Air Force.  And, Venustiano Carranza was at the head of that enterprise also, having called the Mexican constitutional convention in September of 1916.

In World War II, the Mexican Air Force’s Escuadrón 201 (Squadron 201) fought along with the U.S. against the Japanese Empire in the Pacific Theater.  Curiously, this squadron is not emphasized too strongly in Mexican history and the media, although its men served valiantly in the struggle against the Axis.

Escuadrón 201 had 25 aircraft and 300 personnel, and flew P-47D Thunderbolts.   In 1945, the unit flew 96 missions over the Philippines and Taiwan.  Of these 96 missions, a majority (53) were missions in support of the U.S. 25th Infantry Division and Philippine soldiers. 

Escuadrón 201 was commended by General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of Allied Forces in the South Pacific.

And, somewhat belatedly, but better late than never, in 2004 the government of the Philippines honored Escuadrón 201 with a unit citation, of the Rank of Legionnaire in the Philippine Legion of Honor.

Click here for a photo of an Escuadrón 201 plane in action.  Click here for a photo of Captain Radames Gaxiola, the squadron’s commander, posing with maintenance personnel after a mission. (An air force is not just composed of pilots, it relies strongly on well-trained aircraft mechanics and other personnel.)  Click here for a photo of the Escuadrón 201 exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The official mascot of Escuadrón 201 was a Disney character, Panchito Pistoles, a Mexican rooster. 

In Chapultepec Park in Mexico City there is a memorial to Escuadrón 201, located in a quiet place along the base of Chapultepec Hill.  This monument lists the unit’s members and contains the mortal remains of two of its officers who died in the war.  For a photo of the Tribuna, click here and go to photograph #8 in the photo gallery.

Today, the Mexican Air Force is oriented toward operations in the war against the drug cartels.  Thus, priorities include the use of airborne surveillance platforms, UAVs, helicopters, light attack aircraft and troop transports.  The Air Force also helps out in natural disaster recovery operations.

The Bank of Mexico has issued a 20-peso commemorative Air Force centennial coin. You can see a photo of it here.

This past August, an air show was held at “Air Base Number One Santa Lucia,” in the state of Mexico, celebrating “One Hundred Years of Loyalty.”

They put on a great show for the public, including aircraft, paratroopers and rappelling from helicopters.  There were 60 planes and 28 helicopters, with an astonishing quarter of a million in attendance.  A report and short video of the show is available here.


Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at

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