Lithuanian Air Force


The Lithuanian Air Force or LAF (Lithuanian: Lietuvos karinės oro pajėgos, abbreviated as LK KOP) is the military aviation branch of the Lithuanian armed forces. It is formed from professional military servicemen and non-military personnel. Units are located at Zokniai Air Base near the city Šiauliai, at Radviliškis and Kaunas.

Lithuanian Air Force
Lietuvos Karinės Oro Pajėgos
Insignia of the Lithuanian Air Force.png
Coat of arms of the Lithuanian Air Force
Active1919–1940, 1992–present
Country Lithuania
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Part ofLithuanian Armed Forces
HeadquartersGedimino 25, LT-44319 Kaunas
Anniversaries12 March 1919
2 January 1991
CommanderColonel Antanas Matutis
Brigadier General Antanas Gustaitis
RoundelRoundel of Lithuania.svg
FlagAir Force Ensign of Lithuania.svg
Aircraft flown
HelicopterMi-8MTV-1, Mi-8T, AS365, UH-60M
TransportC-27J, L-410, Cessna 172



Antanas Gustaitis at a Lithuanian airfield in 1930s.

After the declaration of Lithuania to be an independent state on February 16, 1918, the most urgent task of the new government was to organize a military force that could repel enemy armies that were coming from all sides. The first order for the creation of a Lithuanian army came on November 23, 1918.

In January 1919, an Engineering Company was formed within the military, which contained an Aviation Squad.[2] On March 12, 1919, the group was reorganized into an Aviation Company and became an independent military unit. Its leader was appointed to be marine engineer officer Petras Petronis. This date is considered to be the birthday of the Lithuanian Air Force.

Between March and December 1919 and between 1932 and 1940, the Kaunas Military Aviation School operated in that city. The school trained officers in many aviation disciplines: pilots, observers, gunners and mechanics.

The first aircraft (Sopwith 1½ Strutter) was taken by the Lithuanian military from the Red Army, on February 5, 1919, at the city of Jieznas. On February 27, 1919, eight new reconnaissance aircraft, LVG C.VI, were received. They had been purchased in Germany. In June, five more aircraft were purchased. In the following years some aircraft were taken as war booty and repaired in Lithuanian Aviation workshops, many were purchased from various countries. Later during the interwar period, Lithuania had its native ANBO series of aircraft built by the Lithuanian designers Jurgis Dobkevičius and Antanas Gustaitis.

The Lithuanian Military Aviation was active in Lithuanian wars of independence battles with the Red Army and Polish military units. The pilot performing the most military sorties was Jurgis Dobkevičius, who later became the first Lithuanian aircraft designer and builder. On May 12, 1920, Vytautas Rauba was the first Lithuanian aviator to lose his life in an aircraft crash. On October 4 of the same year, in a fight with the Polish military, the first aircraft with a Lithuanian crew was shot down. The pilot of the aircraft, Juozas Kumpis, commander of Lithuania's First Air Squadron, was severely injured and died as prisoner of the Polish military.

Starting in 1920 the military aviation branch was renamed a number of times and some time after 1928 it was named to the equivalent of the Lithuanian Air Force.

The Lithuanian Air Force supported and encouraged various aeronautics related activities, such as the sport of gliding. In 1933, in cooperation with Aero Club of Lithuania, they helped establish a Lithuanian Gliding School in Nida and send their only experienced glider pilot, Gregorius Radvenis, to be the school's instructor and supervisor.

In 1940, the Lithuanian Air Force consisted of eight Air Squadrons, including reconnaissance, fighter, bomber and training units. Air Force bases had been established in the cities and towns of Kaunas / Žagariškės, Šiauliai / Zokniai Air Base), Panevėžys / Pajuostis. In the summer time, airfields near the cities of Palanga and Rukla were also used. A total of 117 aircraft and 230 pilots and observers were listed in the books by mid-1940, at the moment of occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union.

Inventory in mid-1940
Aircraft Origin Type Variant Number in service Notes
Anbo IV / 41 Lithuania Reconnaissance / light bomber IV, 41 32 12 ANBO IV, 20 ANBO 41[3]
Anbo VIII Lithuania Bomber 1 Single pre-production unit, built in 1939
Ansaldo A.120 Italy Reconnaissance / light bomber Ady < 5 Out of the batch of 12, ordered in 1929
Dewoitine D.501 France Fighter L 13 14 acquired in 1937. No. D601-614
Fiat CR.20 Italy Fighter 7 15 acquired in 1928.
Gloster Gladiator United Kingdom Fighter Mk. I 12 14 acquired in 1937. No. G704-717
De Haviland DH.89 Dragon Rapide United Kingdom Executive transport / liaison 89M 2 Acquired in 1937
LVG C.VI Germany Liaison / trainer 2 Since 1929 withdrawn from first line service and used for training and liaison purposes[4]
Anbo III Lithuania Advanced trainer 9 Built in 1930 - 1931
Anbo V / 51 Lithuania Basic trainer V, 51 13 Five Anbo V built in 1931, five Anbo 51 built in 1936, five in 1938[5]
Anbo VI Lithuania Trainer / liaison 3 Out of 4, built in 1933-1934
Avro 626 United Kingdom Advanced trainer 3 Acquired in 1937. No. 701, 702, 703
Bucker-133 "Jungmeister" Germany Advanced trainer C 6 Acquired in 1939

Following the Soviet occupation of Lithuania the Lithuanian Air Force was formally disbanded on October 23, 1940. Part of Lithuanian Air Force (77 senior officers, 72 junior officers, 59 privates, 20 aircraft) was reorganized into Red Army's 29th Territorial Rifle Corps Aviation, also referred to as National Squadron (Tautinė eskadrilė). Other planes and equipment were taken over by Red Army's Air Force Bases No. 13 and 213. About third of Tautinė eskadrilė's personnel latter suffered repressions by Soviet authorities, significant share joined June uprising, after the start of German invasion into Soviet Union several pilots of Tautinė eskadrilė and fewer than six planes withdrew with Soviet army.

After 1992Edit

On 23 January 1992, the Minister of Defense signed an order establishing the staff for the Aviation Base of the Aviation Service.[6] But an actual base in the Šiauliai airport territory (Barysiai airfield) was not established until March, when all the infrastructure, buildings, territory and 24 An-2 aircraft were transferred from Lithuanian Airlines to the Aviation Service of the Ministry of Defense in January 1992.[6] On 12 June 1992, the first time after regaining the independence of Lithuania, An-2 aircraft, marked with the double cross of Vytis on its wings – the distinguishing sign of Lithuanian Air Force – took off from Barysiai airfield. This date is considered to be the Aviation Base foundation date. In February 1993 four L-39C Albatros aircraft were brought from Kyrgyzstan.

After 1 March 1993 Aviation Service was reformed to the Lithuanian Air Force and Aviation Base was renamed the First Aviation Base of the Lithuanian Air Force.[6] In January 1994 Lithuania officially applied for NATO membership. From 1995 to 1999, the First Aviation Base was relocated to Zokniai aerodrome nearby Šiauliai, which was used for fighter wing, radio-electronic fight and reconnaissance squadrons dislocation during the Soviet occupation.[6] By the decree of the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius, the First Aviation Base and the Second Aviation Base were reorganized into the Lithuanian Air Force Aviation Base as of 1 October 2004. Up to 2004, there were only light attack jet aircraft and transport aircraft located at the Air Base, after the reconstruction of First and Second Air Bases, helicopters are located at the Air Base too.

In 2007, two L-39ZA aircraft underwent extension of technical resources in Romania. Maintenance works included exhaustive check-up of the aircraft units and major engine repairs. New navigation equipment GNS 530 was installed and radio communication sets changed in pilot cabins. These planes are used to train fighter control officers in air policing mission and fighter command officers.[7] Furthermore, a complex program of capital overhaul, upgrade and modernisation of the Air Force's helicopters Mi-8 and twin engine short-range transport aircraft L-410 was conducted.[8][9]


Lithuanian Air Force locations 2018:
  Air Base
  Air Defence Battalion
  Air Space Control Centre
  Long-range radar station

The Lithuanian Air Force Headquarters and the Airspace Surveillance and Control Command are located in Kaunas, while the Air Space Control Centre and the Baltic Air Surveillance Network's Regional Airspace Surveillance Coordination Centre (RASCC) are located nearby in Karmėlava. Air Base, and Air Force Armament and Equipment Repair Depot are located at Šiauliai Air Base. The Air Defence Battalion, formed in 2000, is located in Radviliškis.

Air BaseEdit

The main air base is located in Šiauliai city. It is manned with professional military and also non-military personnel. It consists of a headquarters, air operation group and operational support group. The base operates various fixed wing and rotary blade aircraft.[10] The staff, aircraft and equipment of the Air Base has participated in many international training missions abroad and at home. Main tasks of the Air Base are:

  • Host nation Support for NATO Baltic Air Policing forces;
  • Search and Rescue;
  • Passenger, cargo and VIP transport;
  • Air medical evacuation;
  • Personnel deployment;
  • Army and Navy air support;
  • Air base personnel combat readiness training.

Air Defence BattalionEdit

Lithuanian Air Force AS365 Dauphin

The Air Defence Battalion’s primary missions include:

  • Defend state facilities of vital importance against military aviation attacks from the air in low and medium altitude;
  • Support land forces in fighting against ground armoured technical equipment and in other events;
  • Train military personnel in carrying out combat tasks.

Development of infrastructure is one key missions of the Air Defence Battalion currently in the stage of development.

Airspace Surveillance and Control CommandEdit

The Airspace Surveillance and Control Command works closely with the Baltic States Air Surveillance System, BALTNET. The appropriate legal documentation of the BALTNET project was developed, the Reciprocal Memorandum of Understanding concerning military personnel training was signed among Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian, and Danish Ministries of Defence. The Regional Air Spaces Surveillance Co-ordination Centre (RASSCC), headquarters of the BALTNET project, was established in the LTAF Airspace Control Centre and has been fully functioning since early 2000. Military personnel from all the three Baltic States serve as air surveillance operators at the centre and rotate according to national timetables. The Commander of the centre is appointed for two years and represents one of the Baltic States.

Armament and Equipment Repair DepotEdit

Lithuanian Air Force C-27J with an aerial refueling probe

The main tasks of Armament and Equipment Repair Depot:

  • To perform periodical works of maintenance as well as minor and medium repair of LAF armament and equipment outdoors;
  • To modernize LAF equipment according to contemporary aviation needs and NATO standards;
  • To prepare technical requirements for organizing competitions of centralized repair, modernization and purchasing of equipment;
  • To perform periodical works of maintenance, supervision and repair of life-saving equipment used in search and rescue works;
  • Under necessity, to perform works of maintenance and minor repair of special equipment of NATO partners, performing the function of air police in Lithuania. ;
  • Under necessity to provide proper room for ensuring minor repair operations of airplanes (QRA) of NATO partners;
  • Raise the level of military and professional staff preparation in order to be able in future perform periodic maintenance and repair of western type aircraft.

Baltic Air PolicingEdit

After Lithuania joined NATO organization back in 2004, its (alongside Latvia's and Estonia's) air space is protected by NATO. NATO members provide usually four fighter aircraft, based in Lithuania, to police the Baltic States’ airspace. The deployments rotate between NATO members (that started in March 2004 with Belgium Air Force F-16s) and most NATO members that operate fighters have made a deployment to Lithuania. The Baltic States are considering in the near future to protect their airspace on their own.


In line with the set priorities, the Lithuanian Air Force is implementing modernisation plans. In 2000s, the Air Force has bought three new C-27J Spartan military transport aircraft. In 2013, three Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin search and rescue helicopters were ordered from France for roughly €52 million euros. The deal was financed by the EU and deliveries began in 2015.[11] In October 2020, the Air Force announced the decision to purchase four Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the USA.[12]


Current inventoryEdit

A Lithuanian Mi-8 at the 2005 RIAT
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
L-410 Turbolet Czech Republic transport 2[13] also used for training[14]
Alenia C-27J Italy transport 3[13]
Cessna 172 United States utility RG Cutlass 1[15] used for Special forces
Mil Mi-17 Soviet Union transport 2[13]
Eurocopter AS365 France SAR / utility AS365 N3 3[13]
Sikorsky UH-60 United States utility UH-60M 4 on order[13]
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
ScanEagle United States surveillance [16][17]

Note: Three C-17 Globemaster III's are available through the Heavy Airlift Wing based in Hungary.[18]

Retired aircraftEdit

Previous aircraft operated by the Air Force consisted of the Aero L-39, An-2 Colt, An-26 Curl, PZL-104 Wilga and Mil Mi-2.[14][19]

Ranks and insigniaEdit


The rank insignia for commissioned officers for the air force.

NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
General officers (Generolai) Senior officers (Vyresnieji karininkai) Junior officers (Jaunesnieji karininkai)
  Lithuanian Air Force[20]
Generolas leitenantas Generolas majoras Brigados generolas Pulkininkas Pulkininkas leitenantas Majoras Kapitonas Vyresnysis leitenantas Leitenantas Kariūnas
(as of 2012)[21]
< 9 < 30 < 127 < 375 N/A
NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer


The rank insignia for enlisted personnel for the air force.

NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
  Lithuanian Air Force[20]
Seržantas majoras Viršila Štabo seržantas Vyresnysis seržantas Seržantas Grandinis Vyresnysis eilinis Eilinis Jaunesnysis eilinis
NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

  • Official Lithuanian Air Force website
  • Photos of Lithuanian Air Force aircraft


As of this edit, this article uses content from "Lithuanian Air Force", which is licensed in a way that permits reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, but not under the GFDL. All relevant terms must be followed.


  1. ^ Hackett 2022, p. 124.
  2. ^ A.Gamziukas, G.Ramoška, Lithuanian Air Force 1919-1940, pg. 262 [Lietuvos Karinė Aviacija 1919-1940, Lietuvos aviacijos muziejus, Kaunas, 1999, ISBN 9986-557-12-7]
  3. ^ "ANBO 41". Plieno sparnai. 1997. Retrieved 2021-04-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Pleita, Juozas. "LVG C.VI". Plieno sparnai. Retrieved 2021-04-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Ramoška, Gytis (2006). "NUMYLĖTASIS ANBUKAS. MOKOMOJO LĖKTUVO ANBO-V SUKŪRIMO IR EKSPLOATACIJOS ISTORIJA". Plieno sparnai. Retrieved 2021-04-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ a b c d Gamziukas, Algirdas (2012). Du dešimtmečiai padangės sargyboje (PDF) (in Lithuanian). Lietuvos Respublikos Krašto apsaugos ministerija. ISBN 978-609-412-018-3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Air Force pilots fly L-39 ZA aircraft again (sic)". Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
  8. ^ "Paieškos ir gelbėjimo darbus vykdys kapitaliai suremontuotas sraigtasparnis" (in Lithuanian). National Defence Ministry Republic of Lithuania.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Lithuanian manufacturers for the military" (PDF). National Defence Ministry Republic of Lithuania.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Air Base of the Lithuanian Air Force". Archived from the original on 21 June 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  11. ^ "First of the Three SAR Helicopters Lithuania Had Purchased Arrived". 3 June 2015.
  12. ^ "Lithuania signs deal for its first American military helicopters". Defense News. 13 November 2020. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d e "World Air Forces 2022". Flightglobal. 2022. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  14. ^ a b "Lietuva ketina Ukrainai atiduoti mokomąjį lengvosios atakos lėktuvą". 3 November 2021. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  15. ^ "Special forces Cessna for Lithuanian Air Force". AirForces Monthly. Key Publishing. October 2019. p. 12.
  16. ^ "Šalies sieną kariai saugo tarptautinėse operacijose patikrintais bepiločiais orlaiviais". Lithuanian Armed Forces (in Lithuanian). 2021-12-09. Retrieved 2022-01-11.
  17. ^ "Lithuanian and U.S. air capabilities exercised together in Kazlų Rūda Training Area". Lithuanian Ministry of Defense. 2019-03-20. Retrieved 2022-01-11.
  18. ^ "Heavy Airlift Wing". Strategic Airlift Capability Program. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  19. ^ "World Air Forces 2000 pg. 74". Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  20. ^ a b "Karių laipsnių ženklai". (in Lithuanian). Ministry of National Defence (Lithuania). Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  21. ^ (in Lithuanian) Principinės kariuomenės struktūros 2012 metais, planuojamos principinės kariuomenės struktūros 2017 metais nustatymo, krašto apsaugos sistemos karių ribinių skaičių ir statutinių valstybės tarnautojų ribinio skaičiaus 2012 metais ir 2017 metais patvirtinimo įstatymas


  • Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania


  • Humberstone, Richard. Lithuanian Air Force, 1918-1940 (Insignia Air Force Special No.1). London: Blue Rider Publishing, 1996.
  • Hackett, James, ed. (2022-02-14). "The 2022 Military Balance Chart". The Military Balance. International Institute for Strategic Studies. 122 (1). ISSN 0459-7222.