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Colombia: The Air Force
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Organization of the Armed Forces > Joint Commands


The Colombian Air Force (FAC), the smallest of the armed services, had a total of 10,150 personnel in 2008. This total included up to 2,000 conscripts. The commander of the air force is assisted by a staff made up of a chief of air operations, an inspector general, and a council of former commanders. The deputy commander, in addition to being the chief of staff, coordinates the FAC’s nine directorates: air operations, intelligence, logistics operations, aeronautic education, air base security and defense, logistics support, human development, judicial, and health. The FAC deputy commander also coordinates the service’s Directorate of Health.

In addition to the conventional mission of protecting Colombian airspace, the air force is involved in both antinarcotics and counterinsurgent operations. The FAC has primary responsibility for aerial interdiction, which includes detection, interception, and neutralization of aircraft used in drug-trafficking activities. The air force also plays a key role in counterinsurgent operations through direct aerial bombing, air-fire assistance to ground troops, and troop and matériel transport using a wide range of aircraft (see table 7, Appendix).

The basic unit of the air force, the Combat Air Command (Cacom), is responsible for air operations in a specific geographic area. Aircraft can be deployed or loaned to a different Cacom, as needed. The air force has six Cacom units and two training schools. The 1st Cacom is assigned to the Captain Germán Olano de Palanquero Air Base in Puerto Salgar, Cundinamarca, and operates six squadrons; its mission is air defense and combat training. The 2d Cacom is headquartered in the Captain Luis F. Gómez Niño Air Base in Apiay, Meta, and operates four squadrons; it is responsible for counterinsurgency and offensive operations. The 3d Cacom is located at the Major General Alberto Pauwels Rodríguez Air Base at Malambo, near Barranquilla, Atlántico, and operates two squadrons; it conducts search-and-rescue and maritime patrol operations along the Caribbean coast. The 4th Cacom is located at the Lieutenant Colonel Luis Francisco Pinto Parra Air Base in Melgar, Tolima, and operates five helicopter squadrons; it is dedicated to tactical support operations and training. The 5th Cacom is assigned to the Brigadier General Arturo Lema Posada Air Base in Rionegro near Medellín, Antioquia, where it operates one helicopter group and conducts search-and-rescue, transport, and heavy-helicopter support operations. The 6th Cacom is located at the Captain Ernesto Esguerra Cubides Air Base in Tres Esquinas, Caquetá, and operates two squadrons; it is devoted to counterinsurgency operations. In addition, the air force has a Military Air Transport Command (Catam), based at Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport; an Air Training Command (CAE), based at the Emavi in Cali; and an Air Maintenance Command (Caman), based in Madrid.

The air force also has two air groups, which are smaller units than the Cacoms and do not have their own operational aircraft. The Eastern Air Group (Gaori) is located in Puerto Carreño, Vichada, and is the launching base for joint operations in the Vichada, Arauca, and Vaupés region. The Caribbean Air Group (Gacar) is based on Isla de San Andrés. Gacar’s mission includes the strategic and tactical patrol of airspace and island and coastal areas and support for the navy in its search-and-rescue missions. The FAC’s training schools include the Marco Fidel Suárez Military Aviation School (Emavi) in the Cali suburb of Santiago de Cali, where officers receive instruction, and an NCO school (Esufa) in Madrid, Cundinamarca. The other schools are the Aeronautics Military Institute (IMA), which is part of the Superior War College, and the Helicopter School of the Public Force (Ehfup) in Melgar.

Last Updated: January 2010

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Colombia was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 162 of 188


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