Military of Nicaragua

Nicaraguan Armed Forces
Fuerzas Armadas de Nicaragua

Seal of the Army of Nicaragua
Motto "Fatherland and Freedom"
Founded September 2, 1979
Current form 1995
Service branches Army Ground Forces
Army Air Force
Civil Defense Forces
Headquarters Managua
Commander-in-Chief Daniel Ortega
Minister of Defense Martha Ruiz Sevilla
Commanding General of the Nicaraguan Army General of the Army Julio César Avilés Castillo
Military age 17-49
Conscription no
Available for
military service
1,309,970 males, age 15–49,
1,315,186[1] females, age 15–49
Fit for
military service
1,051,425 males, age 15–49,
1,129,649 females, age 15–49
Reaching military
age annually
65,170 males,
63,133 females
Active personnel 14,000 (Ranked 105th)[2]
Percent of GDP 0.7% (2006 est.) (Ranked 150th)
Dollar Figure (per capita)
Foreign suppliers  Russia
 United Kingdom
 United States
Related articles
History Nicaraguan Revolution
National Guard (Nicaragua)
Ranks Nicaragua military ranks

The Nicaraguan Armed Forces are the military forces of Nicaragua.


National Guard, 1927–79

The long years of strife between the peasant and land-owning political factions and the existence of private armies led the United States to sponsor the National Guard as an apolitical institution to assume all military and police functions in Nicaragua. The marines provided the training, but their efforts were complicated by a guerrilla movement led by Augusto César Sandino that continued to resist the marines and the fledgling National Guard from a stronghold in the mountainous areas of northern Nicaragua.

Upon the advent of the United States Good Neighbor Policy in 1933, the marines withdrew. Having reached a strength of about 3,000 by the mid-1930s, the guard was organized into company units, although the Presidential Guard component approached battalion size. Expanded to no more than 9,000 during the civil war of 1978-79, the guard consisted of a reinforced battalion as its primary tactical unit, a Presidential Guard battalion, a mechanized company, an engineer battalion, artillery and antiaircraft batteries, and one security company in each of the country's sixteen departments.

The National Guard's main arms were M1 Garands and Israeli Galils, later augmented by antiaircraft guns and mortars. Nicaragua declared war on the Axis powers in 1941, immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Although Nicaragua was not actively involved in World War II, it qualified for United States Lend-Lease military aid in exchange for U.S. base facilities at Corinto. Additional shipments of small arms and transportation and communication equipment followed, as well as some training and light transport aircraft.

United States military aid to the National Guard continued under the Rio de Janeiro Treaty of Mutual Defense (1947), but stopped in 1976 after relations with the administration of Anastasio Somoza Debayle (1967–72, 1974–79) worsened. Some United States equipment of World War II vintage was also purchased from other countries—Staghound armored cars and M4 Sherman medium tanks from Israel and F-51 Mustang fighter aircraft from Sweden. Except for minor frontier skirmishes with Honduras in 1957 over a border dispute, the National Guard was not involved in any conflict with its neighbors. The guard's domestic power, however, gradually broadened to embrace not only its original internal security and police functions but also control over customs, telecommunications, port facilities, radio broadcasting, the merchant marine, and civil aviation.

Military under the Sandinista government, 1979–90

See also: FSLN

To replace the National Guard, the Sandinistas established a new national army, the Sandinista Popular Army (Ejército Popular Sandinista—EPS), and a police force, the Sandinista Police (Policía Sandinista). These two groups, contrary to the original Puntarenas Pact were controlled by the Sandinistas and trained by personnel from Cuba, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union. Opposition to the overwhelming FSLN influence in the security forces did not surface until 1980.[4]

Meanwhile, the EPS developed, with support from Cuba and the Soviet Union, into the largest and best equipped military force in Central America. Compulsory military service, introduced during 1983, brought the EPS forces to about 80,000 by the mid-1980s. The conscription law was abolished in 1990.[4]

Nicaraguan Armed Forces, 1990–95

Under an agreement between President-elect Chamorro of the National Opposition Union (Unión Nacional Oppositora - UNO) and the defeated FSLN party, General Humberto Ortega, former defense minister and commander in chief of the EPS under the Sandinistas, remained at the head of the armed forces. By a law that took effect in April 1990, the EPS became subordinate to President Chamorro as commander in chief. Chamorro also retained the Ministry of Defense portfolio.

Chamorro's authority over the EPS was very limited. There were no Ministry of Defense offices and no vice ministers to shape national defense policies or exercise civilian control over the armed forces. Under the Law of Military Organization of the Sandinista Popular Army enacted just before Chamorro's election victory, Humberto Ortega retained authority over promotions, military construction, and force deployments. He contracted for weapons procurement and drafted the military budget presented to the government. Only an overall budget had to be submitted to the legislature, thus avoiding a line-item review by the National Assembly.

Sandinista officers remained at the head of all general staff directorates and military regions. The chief of the army, Major General Joaquín Cuadra Lacayo, continued in his pre-Chamorro position. Facing domestic pressure to remove Humberto Ortega and the risk of curtailment of United States aid as long as Sandinistas remained in control of the armed forces, Chamorro announced that Ortega would be replaced in 1994. Ortega challenged her authority to relieve him and reiterated his intention to remain at the head of the EPS until the army reform program was completed in 1997.

The army reform measures were launched with deep cuts in personnel strengths, the abolition of conscription, and disbanding of the militia. The size of the army declined from a peak strength of 97,000 troops to an estimated 15,200 in 1993, accomplished by voluntary discharges and forced retirements. Under the Sandinistas, the army general staff embodied numerous branches and directorates artillery, combat readiness, communications, Frontier Guards, military construction, intelligence, counterintelligence, training, operations, organization and mobilization, personnel, and logistics. Most of these bodies appear to have been retained, although they have been trimmed and reorganized. The Nicaraguan Air Force and Navy were also subordinate to the army general staff.

Since 1990 the mission of the EPS has been to ensure the security of the national borders and to deal with internal disturbances. Its primary task has been to prevent disorder and violence wrought by armed bands of former Contra and Sandinista soldiers.

In November and December 1992, the EPS was deployed alongside the National Police to prevent violence during demonstrations by the National Workers' Front for improved pay and benefits. The EPS and the Frontier Guards also assist the police in narcotics control. A small EPS contingent works alongside demobilized Contras in a Special Disarmament Brigade to reduce the arsenal of weapons in civilian hands.

National Army of Nicaragua, 1995–present

With the constitutional reforms made in 1995, the EPS got its current apolitical nature, turning into a professional, national military institution newly named "Ejército de Nicaragua" (National Army of Nicaragua).

The National Army today is mandated not just as a force for national defense but also for public security, civil defense and national development.

Army Equipment

Light equipment

Nicaraguan military members train during a visit by the U.S. Navy

Armoured Vehicles


Anti tank weapons


Multiple rocket launchers


EW Radars

Air Force

Aircraft inventory

Aircraft Type Versions In service[8] Notes
Mil Mi-8 Hip transport helicopterMi-8
Mil Mi-17 Hip-H
A total of 60 delivered. some sold to Peru (12 Mil Mi-8 Hip-E & 48 Mil Mi-17 Hip-H delivered).
Mil Mi-25 Hindattack helicopter 28 (12 Mil Mi-25 Hind-E + 16 Mil Mi-24 Hind D)
AT-33A jet training\CAS 7-10 delivered out of service
Mirage M50 FGA 24 Mirage M50E\D\R ordered, not delivered
MiG-21 Fishbed FGA 24 Mig-21 Bis\ Mig-21U ordered-not delivered.
MiG-17 Fresco D FGA 15 out of service/reported
Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle LB 6 reported. out of service.
C-47 Dakota transport 13 out of service.
C-123K Provider transport 5 delivered
DHC-4 Caribou} transport 3 delivered
Fokker F-27 transport 2 delivered
Cessna 185 trainer 7 out of service.
Cessna 401 Titan transport 1 delivered.
Cessna 172 SkyhawktrainerT-41D1 (7 delivered).
Cessna 210 Centurionutility 2
Cessna 337 SkymasterliaisonO-2A
1 (10 delivered).
AT-28D Trojan training\COIN 18 (11 AT-28D\ 7 AT-28A) out of service.
SIAI SF-260W Warrior liaison\light attack 6 deilverd 4
Hughes OH-6A Defender attack helicopter 12 out of service.
Antonov An-26 Curl transportAn-26C2 (7 delivered).
Antonov An-2 Colt transport 11 delivered. out of service.
Mil Mi
-2 Hoplite
trainerMi-23 (10 delivered).
Piper PA-23 AztecutilityPA-23-2501 (2 delivered)
Piper PA-34 Seneca utility 8 delivered.out of service.(PA-34-200)
Piper PA28-235transport2 delivered.
Piper PA-18 Cub training 10 delivered 2
Beechcraft B-200 Super King Air transport 1
C-212 Aviocar transport 5 delivered.out of service
Bell UH-1H hlicopter 2 delivered. out of service.
Alouette-III attack helicopter 2 delivered.out of service.
Sikorsky S-58helicopter 11 delivered.out of service.
Dassault Falcon 20 VIP jet 1 delivered. out of service,
HS125VIP jet 1 delivered. out of service.
DHC-3 Otter transport 6 delivered. out of service.
IAI-201 Arava transporter 2 delivered. out of service.

See also


1  This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website

  1. "World Factbook Redirect — Central Intelligence Agency".
  2. "Nicaragua Armed Forces". 2006-07-25.
  3. "NationMaster - Nicaraguan Military statistics".
  4. 1 2 "Nicaragua: CONCODOC 1998 report".
  8. "World Military Aircraft Inventory", Aerospace Source Book 2007, Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 15, 2007.
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