A former British colony, Cyprus became independent in 1960 following years of resistance to British rule. Tensions between the Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority came to a head in December 1963, when violence broke out in the capital of Nicosia. Despite the deployment of UN peacekeepers in 1964, sporadic intercommunal violence continued forcing most Turkish Cypriots into enclaves throughout the island. In 1974, a Greek Government-sponsored attempt to overthrow the elected president of Cyprus was met by military intervention from Turkey, which soon controlled more than a third of the island. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot-occupied area declared itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC"), but it is recognized only by Turkey. In February 2014, after a hiatus of nearly two years, the leaders of the two communities resumed formal discussions under UN auspices aimed at reuniting the divided island. The talks are ongoing. The entire island entered the EU on 1 May 2004, although the EU acquis - the body of common rights and obligations - applies only to the areas under the internationally recognized government, and is suspended in the areas administered by Turkish Cypriots. However, individual Turkish Cypriots able to document their eligibility for Republic of Cyprus citizenship legally enjoy the same rights accorded to other citizens of European Union states.
Cyprus Air Forces
The Cyprus Air Command (Greek Διοίκησης Αεροπορίας Κύπρου) is the armed air wing of the National Guard. This force does not have any fixed wing combat aircraft, but is equipped with attack and anti-tank helicopters, surface-to-air missile and integrated radar systems, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
Cyprus Air Force History
The Cyprus National Guard first formed an organised military Air Wing on the 16th August 1960, shortly after the island gained its independence from Britain to become the Republic of Cyprus. This force was equipped with a small number of light aircraft, and shared a joint command with the air-defence forces of the island and the Police.
In 1963 the Aeroporiki Diikissi Kyprou ADK (Cyprus Air Command) was formed with its headquarters in Nicosia, and two squadrons under its command - the 419 MPA (Mira Prostasias Aerodromiou = Air Base Protection Squadron) and 420 MPA at Lakatamia AFB and Tymbou AFB bases respectively. In 1964, and then again, in 1966, two radar squadrons - 3 MSEP and 4 MSEP were also created (MSEP = (MSEP=Mira Stathmou Elenchou Proidopiisis / Warning and Control Station Squadron), bringing the pre-1974 order of battle to include 4 active squadrons. In 1968 the Police and ADK separated their activities and only two aircraft remained under ADK command: a Beechcraft C-45 (D-6) and, reportedly**, a L-21B Super Cub (D-7).
In 1974, the island was plunged into crisis when Turkey invaded the north of Cyprus after a failed Greek-inspired coup of the Republic Government and attempt to militarily overthrow Archbishop Makarios, the state leader. With the island's security forces divided by loyalties and contradicting orders, the small air forces of the island remained grounded as Turkish forces invaded the island. The air-defence forces, however, were actively involved in combat action during the invasion, with a substantial number of towed and fixed anti-aircraft guns and a few radars involved in fighting the Turkish Air Force.
The Turkish Air Force suffered only minor losses in its support of the invasion, with a reported 12 aircraft being downed (2 confirmed to friendly fire, one a confirmed kill (F-100) while the majority of the rest remain unclaimed as possible accidents). The Cypriot forces themselves suffered catastrophic friendly-fire, with the accidental downing of a Greek Nortalas transport plane plus the destruction of a further 2 more on the ground by antiaircraft guns defending Nicosia International Airport.
After 1974, the ADK was renamed as Diikissi Aeroporias DA (Air Force Command).
In the mid-1980's, the Cyprus Government ordered the refurbishment, upgrading and enlargement of the armed forces to fend of a perceived future threat of further invasion by Turkey into southern Cyprus, through the self-proclaimed "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" with Turkish occupation forces.
The Air Wing received some minor procurements in the form of Gazelle anti-tank helicopters, Bell-206 Long Rangers and Pilatus patrol aircraft over the course of a few years, while the older aircraft in the inventory, including a C-45 Beechcraft, Piper PA-22's and Dornier Do-27's, were phased out.
In 1996, the Air Wing was reformed into the Cyprus Air Force / Kypriaki Stratoitiki Aeroporia.
** No evidence of a Cypriot L-21 has been established so far.
16 August 1960 Cyprus National Guard Air Wing formed
1968 Cyprus Police separate from ADK
1963 Cyprus Air Command (ADK) formed
1974 CNGAW disbanded after Turkish invasion
1982 CNGAW re-established and new aircraft ordered
1996 CNGAW renamed Cyprus Air Force
May 2002 Single Aircraft & Helicopter Squadron split into two Squadrons
The Cyprus Air Force currently has two main air bases on the island, including Papandreou AFB in Paphos, and Lakatamia AFB in Nicosia district. The military forces also use both Paphos and Larnaca International Airports on a regular basis. Larnaca is the main headquarters of the Police Air Wing, which shares joint command with the Air Force.
In recent years, the inventory of the Cyprus Air Force has expanded and modernised dramatically, driven politically by the ever increasing requirement of equipment to provide protection from modern Turkey and its occupation forces.
Main KSA roles are patrol, communications, police support, firefighting, search and rescue, coastguard activities and casualty evacuation. Its operations are restricted to the Southern Greek-Cypriot area of the island. Cyprus became responsible for carrying out SAR duties in the area in March 2002.
The 2 Bell UH-1Hs leased from the Greek Army have been grounded under major threats of sanctions by the US, and they may be returned soon. Russian media suggests that the Cyprus Government is looking at the Kamov Ka-60 Kasatka as an alternative, or the Ka-32/29 Helix as considered before.
As of 2012 the Cyprus Air Force consists of two helicopter-squadrons along with a UAV squadron equipped with IAI Searcher 2 unmanned aerial vehicles. The Cyprus Air Force also possesses a Search and Rescue Coordination Centre, which is due to equip with its own aircraft. Note that the aircraft of the Cyprus Police operate under a separate command-structure during peacetime.
- 449th Antitank Helicopter Squadron (Μοίρα Αντιαρματικών Ελικοπτέρων)
- 450th Helicopter Squadron (Μοίρα Ελικοπτέρων)
- UAV Squadron
- Search & Rescue Coordination Centre (Κέντρο Συντονισμού Έρευνας – Διάσωσης)
In late 2001, a $22 million US dollar motion to procure 4 Bell-412EP medium-transport helicopters was vetoed by the Cypriot House of Representatives. Existing political tensions between the two leading parties, DISY and AKEL, further exacerbated by a standing US embargo on arms to Cyprus, forced the purchase to be abandoned.
At the end of the year, the program was reported to have been reinstated, though other reports now suggest that this plan has been succeeded by a discrete purchase of 3 larger Mil Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters.
The new transport helicopters will serve the Cypriot Rapid Reaction Forces, and will likely operate from primary army bases rather than Air Force installations, thus allowing faster reaction time.
Source: aeroflight.co.uk and cia.gov