The origins of the Spanish Air Force can be traced back to the early 1900s, when the "Services of Aviation and Aeronautics" were assigned to the Engineering Corps of the Spanish Army. The first military course for airplane pilots was announced on 8th March 1911; at the end of that month the first Spanish military plane (a Henry Farman) was received, in which Captain Kindelán and Lieutenant Barrón would make their first solo flight. On 28th February 1913, the Service of Military Aeronautics (SMA) was created, comprising the Aerostation and Aviation branches. Colonel Vives and Captain Kindelán were appointed director of the SMA and Commander of Aviation, respectively.
In 1913 the first flight of airplanes from the SMA participated in the Morocco campaign. This campaign gave a great boost to aeronautical development and prompted the first doctrine for military employment of aviation in the world; during this campaign the first Groups and Wings of Spanish Aviation were born.
On 15th March 1922 General Echagüe established the Aeronautical Section within the Ministry of War, thus forming the Service of Aviation. This Service incorporated air units to include reconnaissance, combat and bombing units.
On 17th January 1923 the maiden flight of the Autogiro C.4, designed by Juan de la Cierva, took place at Getafe (Madrid). This was the first rotary-wing aircraft to successfully fly in history. This began an era of unprecedented flights.
On 22nd January 1926 the seaplane "Plus Ultra", piloted by Major Franco, departed for Buenos Aires, Argentina, (¿¿??). Also, between the 5th April and the 11th May of that year the "Elcano" Squadron conducted a mock raid into the Philipines. The airplane "Jesús del Gran Poder" made the flight Sevilla-Narsiya (Mesopotamia). Barberán and Collar flew from Seville to Cuba in the airplane "Cuatro Vientos" between 10th and 20th June 1933, before vanishing during the leg to Mexico to extend their "raid".
In July 1936 a three-year civil war broke out in Spain, providing a vast practice area for the aviation that would later become involved in World War II. Airplanes were employed mainly as close support to ground operations, thus underplaying the significant potential of air power. The civil war meant, as well, the phase out of the biplanes of the old generation. Bombing operations showed the essential weakness of slow bombers, an easy target for combat airplanes. Also proven was the importance of air transport operations of armed units and the provision of supplies to under attack forces, operations that both Germany and the United States would use extensively during World War II.
On 8th August 1939 General Juan Yagüe was appointed Minister of the newly established Ministry of the Air. He developed a fertile legislative activity, which included structuring the newborn Air Force (Ejército del Aire) by Act of 7 October 1939 and creating the Arms of Aviation, Aviation Troops, and the Corps of Aeronautical Engineers, Specialists, and Clerks, as well as the Services of Engineering, Administration, Health, Legal Affairs, Chaplaincy and General Auditing.
The aftermath of World War II and the resulting isolation of Spain by the victorious powers seriously affected the development of the new Air Force and meant a hindrance for both the renewal of materiel and the procurement of fuels. As Spain reemerged as a member of international organizations in the early 1950s, all former sanctions were lifted.
In June 1952 the Air Force was reorganized into the following branches: Air Defense Aviation, Tactical Aviation, Strategic Aviation and Transport Aviation.
The signature of the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement with the United States in September 1953 gave a significant boost to the modernization of material, management systems and doctrines through the acquisition of new jet aircraft and the establishment of a new air defense network. In March 1954 the first Lockheed T-33A jet planes arrived at the Spanish Air Force's Fighter School, located in Talavera la Real (Badajoz). The magnificent F-86F "Sabre" airplanes arrived in September 1955. Also in 1955 the first Spanish-built jet plane, the HA-200 "Saeta", made its maiden flight.
From August 1956 through February 1957 the Air Force participated in the Ifni-Sahara campaign. In 1969 the Spanish Aeronautical Corporation CASA delivered the first Northrop F-5 to Morón de la Frontera Air Base, and French-built Mirage III-Es arrived to Manises Air Base in June 1970. Between 1971 and 1973 several aircraft were acquired including the Canadair CL-215 fire-fighters, the C-130 "Hercules" transports, the P-3 "Orion" sea patrol aircraft and the famous Phantom F-4C fighter-bombers that replaced the F-104G "Starfighter".
On 1st June, 1974 the 14th Wing was established in Albacete, where the first "Mirage" F-1 was introduced on 18th June, 1974. On 27th June, 1977 the Spanish jet trainer C-101 "Aviojet" made its maiden flight, and became operational on 17th March 1980.
The creation of the Ministry of Defense in July 1977 brought about a complex reorganization, which resulted in a new structure for the Spanish Air Force under the ORGEA Plan (May 1978).
The 31st Wing was created in October 1978 in Zaragoza, and the 78th Wing in April 1980 in Granada. On 11th July, 1986 the first EF-18A "Hornet" arrived and the 15th Wing was also established in Zaragoza Air Base.
The "ICARO” Detachment" was set up in December 1994 in Aviano Air Base (Italy), to participate in operations conducted in the former Yugoslavia until June 2002.
Deployment CPR in Bosnia and Herzegovina concluded in January 2001, where they had been since 1993.
2001 saw the delivery of the first three C-295s.
In 2002 conclusion of “ICARO” Detachment. Deployment of Operation “Enduring Freedom” (UMAAD in Bagram) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Djibouti. Began the ISAF mission in Herat FSB. The first Eurofighter was delibered. Detachments have operated in missions abroad on behalf of international peace and security in Kyrgyzstan, Djibouti, Kabul, Kuwait and Pristina.
The Aspa Patrol was created in 2004.
In 2005 control of the Support Base in Herat was assumed.
In 2008 the Orion Detachment on the coast of Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, started deployment of maritime surveillance aircraft in the Atalanta mission against piracy. Spanish Eurofighters were integrated into the NATO’s Integrated Air Defense System.
First launch of two Mistral missiles was made from ATLAS firing post by Air Deployment Support Squadron.
In 2009 the General Air Academy, the first University Center of Defense was inaugurated. Inauguration of NATO’s Tactical Leadership Programme Program (TLP) in Albacete Air Base. In June the detachment Sirius, withdrew from Chad having been there under the framework of the EUFOR operation since July 2008. During the month of May Operation "Southern Cross" was held in South Africa and with which the Air Force completed the integration process of the TAURUS missile in the F- 18.
2010 saw the end to the presence of Spanish units in Bosnia - Herzegovina , where they had been operating since 1992.
Spain's commitments abroad require a considerable effort which must be added to the demands within the country.
Over the years we have operated from points such as Kabul, Bagram, Mazar-e-Sharif, Manas, N'Djamena, Djibouti, Mali and Bangui. The main operations during this time are focused on the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean.
But above all this is the daily work to fulfill the tasks assigned to the Air Force, those that exceptional facts have not changed, and that can be summarized in controlling the airspace of national sovereignty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; preparation of the force, to be in a position to act when, where and as required by the Government; ongoing management of human, material, and doctrinal capital, which allow the administration of resources entrusted to us and effective use thereof; the compliance with international commitments with our allies and friends, which is materialized in the continuous relief of personnel and equipment in our detachments in operational areas and destinations abroad; and contribution to the action of the State.
With crisis and a reduced budget, but with the same dedication as always, the men and women who form the Air Force will continue to carry out their work in the service of Spain.