Force Report: All for Latvia!

Although it has no air combat capability, the aviation branch of the Latvian National Armed Forces is on its way to becoming fully standardised within NATO. Cristian Schrik interviewed the Latvian Air Force chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Jurijs Pļaviņš and the 1st Aviation Squadron commander, Major Imants Šnitko.

Latvian Air Force

‘In association with…AIRFORCES Intelligence’

The four Mi-8MTV-1s are the most recent addition to the LAF fleet, arriving in December 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2005. All were extensively updated for SAR work by Helisota in Kaunas, Lithuania, before being delivered to Latvia and they are now marked as Mi-17-1Vs.
All photos Cristian Schrik
Lt Col Pļaviņš graduated from the Soviet Aviation Academy in 1990. A year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, he started his LAF career which included various staff functions before he became the air force chief of staff on July 22, 2015.
Maj Šnitko launched his career at the National Defence Academy in 1999 and joined the LAF a year later. He first flew the Mi-2 before going to Ukraine in 2001 for transition to the Mi-8. By the end of 2002 he was a co-pilot and SAR qualified. After becoming a pilot, and later an instructor pilot, he took command of 1. Aviācijas Eskadriļa in September 2015. He has more than 1,200 hours in the Mi-2 and over 2,000 hours in the Mi-8.

A former Soviet facility, Lielvārde aviation base has been home to the Latvijas Gaisa spēki (Latvian Air Force, LAF) since 1994. The air arm’s motto is Visu par Latviju – All for Latvia! Today, Lielvārde houses the entire LAF, including an antiaircraft battalion, an air surveillance unit (ASU), a communications and support unit and the 1. Aviācijas Eskadriļa (1st Aviation Squadron).

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