Venezuela and the United States didn’t always have such a contentious relationship. The country was traditionally awash with funds from oil sales, and when you have that kind of cash, everyone wants to be your friend. In 1982, Venezuela signed a deal for fifteen F-16A and six F-16B fighter aircraft from the U.S.
The country would need them just a few years later.
The threat to Venezuela’s government didn’t come from an external invader, it came from within. In 1992, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement attempted to overthrow the government of Carlos Andres-Perez, who survived two such attempts in just a year’s time. Both were led by a guy named Hugo Chavez, whose supporters were angry about the country’s outstanding debt and out-of-control spending.
TFW you’re about to run South America’s richest economy into the ground.
Venezuelan armed forces, under the command of Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez, launched two coup attempts in 1992. The second coup, which took place in November of that year, saw leaders from the Air Force and Navy take command while Chavez was still in prison for the first attempt. They learned from the mistakes of the previous attempt and seized major air bases — but not all of the pilots.
Chavez’ rebels used OV-10 Broncos to support rebel operations, but loyalist pilots were already in the air and they were flying F-16s. That’s what led to the confrontation below, filmed on the ground by a civilian.
The video above shows a government F-16 turning into the Bronco before hitting its speed brakes and firing its 20mm cannon. The burst sent the OV-10 down in flames. There’s another angle of the dogfight, taken by a local news crew.
Though both of the coups failed, Chavez ultimately became president, but through legitimate means in 1998. He won the Venezuelan presidency with 56 percent of the vote. After his election, Venezuela’s relations with the United States soured and the country could no longer maintain its fleet of F-16s due to an arms embargo slapped on by the administration of George W. Bush.
Now, the Venezuelan Air Force relies on the Russian-built Sukhoi-30 multirole fighter for the bulk of its fighter missions. It still has at least 19 F-16s, but has little capacity to care for the aging aircraft.