Bolivia Retires World’s Last Military-Operated T-33s

A Bolivian Air Force T-33A/N on display during an exhibition at Tarija on October 19, 2013. The final four Bolivian T-33s were retired from service on July 31, 2017. Wikimedia/Mateo33

DURING A ceremony at El Alto on July 31,  the last four T-33A/N Mk III Silver Star jet trainer and attack aircraft still remaining in service with the Bolivian Air Force (FAB) were formally retired.  They had been operated by Grupo Aereo de Caza 31/Escuadron de Caza 311, which was also celebrating its 85th anniversary during the retirement event.  Guest of honour at the proceedings was Bolivian President Evo Morales.

The type had been in FAB service for 44 years and Bolivia was the last military operator worldwide of the T-33.  The FAB’s original aircraft were acquired from Canada and delivered from August 1973, these later being supplemented by additional former French Air Force examples.  A total of 39 were eventually acquired.  During the late 1990s/early 2000s, 18 of them were upgraded by Kelowna Flightcraft in Canada to extend their service lives for a further 15 years.

Over the last couple of years, only nine had remained operational and by the time of their final withdrawal from service there were just four still active.  Their role will be taken over by the FAB’s Hongdu K-8VB Karakorams, six of which were delivered from China in 2011.