Military branches: Army (Ejercito Ecuatoriano), Navy (Armada Ecuatoriana, includes Marines), Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Ecuatoriana), National Police (Policia Nacional)
The Ecuadorian Air Force and Army are divided into Military Zones, each zone is defended by two or more brigades and a fighter wing. Regarding the navy this is divided into Naval Zones, each zone has the presence of Battlegroups ready for combat when the Center for Combined Military Actions calls them.
The AEE has a large complement of predominantly French helicopters (Alouttes, Cougars, Lamas, Gazelles, Fennecs and Pumas), but its most recent acquisition is the Russian Mi-171. The transport fleet consists of a variety of fixed wing types: a small quantity of Aravas, a sole surviving Turbo Porter, a single King Air, Buffalo and CN.235 make up the transport and liaison element of the brigade. Maintaining such a varied fleet must be a logistical nightmare. The exact substructure is unknown, although the aircraft seem to be allocated to various grupos rather than to the brigade itself.
The FAE was officially created on October 27, 1920. However, like in many other countries, military flying activity started before the formal date of birth of the Air Force. The history of Ecuador is marked by many skirmishes with its neighbour Peru. As a direct result of the 1910 Ecuador-Peru crisis the members of Club de Tiro Guayaquil decided to expand their sporting activities to aviation as well. Renamed Club de Tiro y Aviación they started an aviation school. Cosme Renella, who gained his civil aviation license in Italy, was asked as an instructor and the first aircraft that arrived in November 1912 was a Farman. Surviving a crash during a demonstration flight, Capitán Renella went on to fight in Europe during the first World War. Renella was a true ace, as many as 17 combat victories are ascribed to him, and he received several distinctions in Europe. His efforts in the founding phase of Ecuadorian military aviation are still honoured today by naming the Escuela Superior Militar de Aviación after him.
Aviation did not start in earnest until the early forties when an Ecuadorian mission to the United States resulted in the delivery of an assortment of aircraft for the Aviation school at Salinas. Three Ryan PT-22 Recruit, six Curtiss-Wright CW.22 Falcon, six Fairchild PT-19A Cornell and three North American AT-6A Harvard arrived in March 1942, considerably boosting the capacity of the Escuela de Aviación at Salinas.
The fifties and sixties saw a further build up of the airforce, gaining more units and aircraft. Meanwhile efforts were made in enhancing the facilities at various airbases. In May 1961 the First Air Zone (I Zona Aérea) with its subordinate unit Ala de Transportes No.11 was founded. The Second Air Zone (II Zona Aérea) controls the units in the southern halve of Ecuador: Ala de Combate No.21 at Taura, Ala de Rescate No.22 at Guayaquil and Ala de Combate No.23 at Manta as well as the Escuela Superior Militar de Aviación (ESMA) at Salinas.
The airforce has a unique mixture of types on its inventory, mostly from Western origin. The prime fighters are the Mirage F.1, Kfir C2, CE, and Jaguar Mk.1 all based at Taura with Ala 21. For advanced training and light attack missions, Strikemaster Mk.89, 90, and A-37B are in use at Manta with Ala 23. These aircraft often operate from airfields in the amazon region.
The transport wing uses various marks of the C-130 Hercules, DHC-6, BAe.748 to transport passengers, haul cargo and support the units deployed to the secondary airfields dotted around the country. Ala 11 has its own 'commercial' branch, like in many other South-American countries, the Transporte Aérea Militar Ecuatoriana (TAME). Besides the military transport aircraft, they also use Boeing 727 and Fokker 28 aircraft. Flying to locations off the beaten track, mostly lacking service by a commercial airline, TAME provides an additional service to the people of Ecuador. Presidential transport is among the tasking of Ala 11 as well; several Sabreliners are in use for this mission.
The FAE saw action on several occasions. A history of border disputes with Peru over the south-eastern Cenepa area saw escalation in 1981 and 1995. The FAE managed to down nine Peruvian aircraft in this last conflict, among which were one A-37B, two Su-22 and several Mi-8.
Besides the threat of its southern neighbour, the conflict believed being subdued by the 26 October 1998 Brasilia peace treaty, the FAE faces the war on drugs as well as many humanitarian and logistic missions into the amazon region of the country. Being a small country, supporting the relatively large airforce with a variety of aircraft types, is a burden. Nevertheless, with the perils of the recent past and present War on Drugs acting as an incentive, the FAE is dedicated to maintain a high profile. The Ecuadorian Armed Forces have the President of the Republic as their Supreme Commander in Chief, the president is advised by the Minister of Defense (this is always an Active or Pasive duty General or Admiral) and The N.S.C (National Security Council). Although the idea of founding a naval air arm dates back to 1952, the aviation branch of the navy only formed in 1967. In March 1968 it became a subordinate division resorting under the Primera Zona Naval. Starting off with fixed wing aircraft, the first helicopters followed in 1973.
The Aviacióin Naval Ecuatoriana today consists of fixed wing and a rotary wing element. They have 8 fixed wing aircraft on strength: one CN.235, one Beech 200 King Air, one Beech 300 King Air, two Beech 200 Catpass surveillance aircraft, and three Beechcraft T-34C Mentor trainers. The rotary element consists of ten helicopters: four Bell 206, four Bell TH-57A received second hand from the United States and two Bell 230. It is unclear if the aircraft are operated by escuadrillas or simply divided into an Ala Fija (fixed wing) and Ala Rotatoria (rotary wing).
All aircraft are based at Base Aérea Simón Bolívar in Guayaquil. However, the many missions in support of the other naval units and the coast guard sees their aircraft deployed to various locations and frigates. Although the idea of founding a naval air arm dates back to 1952, the aviation branch of the navy only formed in 1967. In March 1968 it became a subordinate division resorting under the Primera Zona Naval. Starting off with fixed wing aircraft, the first helicopters followed in 1973.
At the dissolution of Gran Colombia in 1830, most of Ecuador's senior army officers and many of its troops were Venezuelans, as was the country's first president, Juan José Flores. The army of 2,000 men consisted of three infantry battalions and one cavalry regiment. Even as late as 1845, when Flores was forced from his second term of office, only four of fifteen general officers were Ecuadorian. Non-Ecuadorians comprised most of the officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) of the elite cavalry units as well. Upon taking office as president in 1851, General José María Urbina freed the black slaves and recruited many of them into the military; Gen. Azarye was the first African-Ecuadorian senior general.
Beginning in the 1860s, successive governments attempted to professionalize the armed forces. Gabriel García Moreno, who dominated the political scene from 1860 until 1875, reduced the army in size and depoliticized it. Further improvements in the army occurred during the relatively prosperous period of the 1880s and 1890s under the military dictator Gen. Ignacio de Veintemilla, and successor civilian governments. French officers arrived to provide training on a newly acquired arsenal of weapons. By 1900 the army was able to repel an attack from Colombia by Ecuadorian political opponents of the government in power.
In 1905 the government established military education and training institutions and divided the country into four defense zones. Immediately preceding World War I, the army had nine infantry battalions, three cavalry regiments, three artillery regiments, and three engineering battalions. It was in the years of 1913 to 1916 that all the work done since the beginning of the century was tested. Following the assassination of Gen. Eloy Alfaro, Crnl. Carlos Concha, a famed and revered field commander started a Revolution in the northern province of Esmeraldas. The civil War had started and the army was slowly destroyed by the insurgency forces. By the year of 1914 Gen. Leonidas Plaza who was the Supreme Armed Forces Commander and acting President had to take personal control of operations and it would take another two years to end with the conflict. It was in these war that both the Army and Navy started the development of joined tasks such as landing operations in beaches, giving the a lot of experience in the field of joined operations to the Armed Forces. By the mid-1920s, it had expanded to fifteen infantry battalions. Later, under the influence of an Italian military mission, the infantry was reduced to ten battalions, although each battalion now consisted of four rather than the previous two or three rifle companies. In 1930 the army had a total strength of about 5,500 men of all ranks.
However, continual political unrest made the Army become more deliberant regarding constitutional issues. Continual rebellions, uprisings and lack of loyalty of both senior Generals and medium ranking officers made the army very weak and disorganized, in July 1941, when Peru attempted to capture Ecuadorean land in the Amazonian region which Ecuador calimed as their, the Ecuadorians were ill-prepared to resist invasion. The much larger Peruvian army of 13,000, supported by a battalion of Czech-manufactured tanks, together with artillery and air power, moved quickly into the southern coastal province of El Oro, threatening Guayaquil (see fig. 1). The fewer than 1,800 Ecuadorian troops in the area lacked air cover and could offer only limited resistance. Peruvian forces also moved into the Ecuadorian Amazonian territory without significant opposition. After a campaign lasting only three weeks, an armistice was forced. The subsequent Rio Protocol in early 1942 imposed by threat of annihilation the Ecuadorean acceptance of Peruvian claims in the Amazonian region in return for the end of the Peruvian occupation of Ecuadorean coastal areas.
Ecuador declared war on Japan late during World War II and began to receive military aid from the United States in 1942. This aid consisted at first of light weapons, mortars, light tanks, and armored scout cars. Under a military assistance agreement with the United States in 1952, the Ecuadorian armed forces, which now totaled approximately 15,000 troops, received additional equipment, including howitzers, tanks, and armored personnel carriers. Revenue coming from the oil discovered in the late 1960s financed the purchase of considerable additional ground forces weaponry as well as fighters for the small air force.
Occasional clashes with Peru occurred in the border area lost by Ecuador in the 1942 settlement of rio Protocol. These clashes flared into an outbreak of serious fighting in January 1981 called the Paquisha War. Peruvian forces had invaded further Ecuadorean soil in the towns of Paquisha, Mayaicu, and Machinaza, and caused the death of 200 Ecuadorian soldiers who were attempting to stem the invasion. The Peruvians made effective use of helicopters, air strikes, and commando teams specially trained for jungle operations. In 1983 and again in 1984, shooting incidents occurred when patrols of both countries met in the Ecuadorian territory.
The final major military operation was the Cenepa War in which Ecuadorian troops kept an outpost in Peruvian land and managed to push Peruvians back. Unlike the previous wars, Ecuador finally had air support superior to the Peruvian Air Force. Yet they had to surrender due to pressure from other countries.