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Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops
An Oeffrag built Albatros DIII flown by Godwin Brumowski; The left man in front is Godwin Brumowski - Austria-Hungary's ace of the aces
Active 1893 - 1918
Country Austria-Hungary

The Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops (Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen or K.u.K. Luftfahrtruppen) was the air force of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the empire's demise in 1918. It saw combat on both the Eastern Front and Italian Front during World War I. Despite being much smaller and usually less technologically advanced than (German or British) air forces, it performed with tenacity and bravery during the war.


Early history

The Air Service began in 1893 as a balloon corps (Militär-Aeronautische Anstalt) and would later be re-organized in 1912 under the command of Major Emil Uzelac, an army engineering officer. The Air Service would remain under his command until the end of the war in 1918. The first officers of the air force were private pilots with no prior military aviation training.

World War I

At the outbreak of the war the Air Service was composed of a mere 10 observation balloons, 85 pilots, and around 35 to 40 aircraft. Although all of the European powers were quite unprepared for modern air warfare in the beginning of the conflict, Austria-Hungary was one of the most disadvantaged. This was due to the empire's mostly traditionalist military and civilian leadership combined with a relatively low degree of industrialisation.

Austro-Hungarian pilots faced off against the air forces of Romania, Russia and Italy, their only proximate opponents that fielded aircraft during the war. They also fought British squadrons that served on the Italian Front.

John Biggins has written a well-researched series of novels in which the hero, Otto Prohaska, serves in the Austro-Hungarian Air Force and Navy.


The aircraft employed by the Air Service were a combination of Austro-Hungarian designs built within the empire, German models that were domestically manufactured by Austrian firms (often with modifications), and planes that were imported from Germany. These aircraft included:


At the outbreak of war, Austro-Hungarian aircraft were brightly painted in red and white bands all along the fuselage. These were swiftly discarded, but the red/white/red bands on the wingtips and tail remained. Aircraft supplied from Germany generally arrived with the familiar black cross marking already applied, and this was adopted officially from 1916, though individual aircraft occasionally kept some red-white-red bands. [1]

External links/references




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