If you’ve been on the internet, you probably at some point have seen pitches for retirement in Latin America. Believe it or not, those advertisements probably would have been just as applicable to many classic war planes in addition to people.
The P-51 Mustang, for instance, was in front-line service with the Dominican Republic almost four decades after it took control of the skies from Nazi Germany and Japan. The North American F-86F Saber was defending the skies over Bolivia until 1993 – 40 years after the end of the Korean War where it made a name for itself. The F-5A that first flew in 1959 stayed in service with Venezuela well after 2000.
Argentina called F-86 Sabers back into service during the Falklands War.
(Photo by Aeroprints.com)
In some ways, it shouldn’t be a surprise. But why did Latin America become a way for some classic planes to avoid the scrapyard or become a target drone?
Five decades after it first flew, the F-5A was still serving with Venezuela.
(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)
Well, drug cartel violence aside, there isn’t a lot of risk for a major conflict in Latin America. The last major war involving a Latin American country was the Falklands War in 1982. Before that, there was the Soccer War. The drug cartels and guerrilla movements haven’t been able to get their own air forces.
Mustangs had their best days in the 1940s, but they were all the Dominican Republic could afford to operate through the 1980s.
(Photo by Chipo)
In short, most of those countries have no need for the latest and greatest fighters, which are not only expensive to buy but also expensive to operate. Here’s the sad truth about those countries: Their economic situation doesn’t exactly allow for them to really buy the latest planes. Older, simpler classics have been the way to go, until they get replaced by other classics.
Today, four decades after blasting commies in Vietnam, the A-37 is still going strong in Latin America.
(Photo by Chris Lofting)
Today, Latin America is a place where the A-37 Dragonfly, best known for its service in Vietnam, is still going strong. Other classics, like the F-5 Tiger, are also sticking around in small numbers. In short, these planes will protect Central and South America for a long time — even after their glory days.