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'New' Air Force Discovered!
© Lennart Andersson

For a serious student (nerd) of the world's smaller and little known air forces the discovery of a previously unknown air force is the top prize. Have you ever heard of the Azerbajani People's Republic Air Force of 1946?

The Azerbaijan People's Government was a short-lived state in northern Iran that existed between November 1945 and December 1946. Its capital was the city of Tabriz. When British and Soviet forces occupied Iran in 1941, Soviet troops captured Tabriz. The Azerbaijan People's Government was set up by the Soviets in September-November 1945 and enjoyed acceptance from the people of the Iranian part of Azerbajan. The Shah of Iran had previously issued bans on the use of the Azerbaijani language and was not very popular.

In April 1946 lieutenants Jouri and Zarbakh of the Iranian Air Force deserted with their aircraft, a pair of Hawker Audax two-seat biplanes, and flew to Tabriz. At that time the Iranian Air Force had 33 of that type, some fitted with the Bristol Pegasus II engine and some with the Pratt & Whitney Hornet. The two aircraft flown to Azerbajan had Pegasus engines.

Iranian ir Force Hawker Audax.

In May both aircraft were making flights over Tabriz, dropping leaflets with information of the pilots' escape from the 'reactionaries' in Tehran to join the free Azerbajanis. They had expected more Iranian officers to follow, but that did not happen. When the Soviet forces withdrew, the autonomous republic collapsed and on 11 December 1946 Iranian forces entered Tabriz. The two-aircraft air force had barely existed for eight months and by 1 January 1947 the Iranian Air Force had recaptured both aircraft. The fate of the two pilots is not known.

Map of Azerbajan People's Republic. (Wikipedia)

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(c) Lennart Andersson