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 World War I in 1918. The first officers of the air force were private pilots with no prior military aviation training.

    At the outbreak of war, the Air Service was composed of 10 observation balloons, 85 pilots, and 39 operable aircraft. By the end of 1914, they managed to have 147 operational aircraft deployed in 14 units. Just as Austria Hungary fielded a joint army and navy, they also had army and naval aviation arms. The latter operated Sea-planes  Gottfried Freiherr Von Banfield became an ace in one. The Adriatic seaplane stations also hosted bombers. Lohners were the most common variant; however, the K Series heavy bombers mounted a successful offensive against the Italians that suffered few casualties.

    Austro-Hungarian pilots and aircrew originally faced off against the air forces of Romania and Russia, while also fielding air units in Serbia, Albania and Montenegro. Only the Imperial Russian Air Service posed a credible threat, although its wartime production of 4,700 air frames gave it no logistical edge over the Luftfahrtruppen before the IRAS ceased operations in mid-1917. Nevertheless, the Austro-Hungarians requested, and received, aerial reinforcements from their German allies, especially in Galicia

    On 30 September 1915, troops of the Serbian Army observed three Austro-Hungarian aircraft approaching Kragujevac. Soldiers shot at them with shotguns and machine-guns but failed to prevent them from dropping 45 bombs over the city, hitting military installations, the railway station and many other, mostly civilian, targets in the city. During the bombing raid, Private Radjoe Ljutovac fired his cannon at the enemy aircraft and successfully shot one down. It crashed in the city and both pilots died from their injuries. The cannon Ljutovac used was not designed as an anti-aircraft gun, it was a slightly modified Turkish cannon captured during the First Balkan War in 1912. This was the first occasion in military history that a military aircraft was shot down with artillery ground to air fire.

    Italy's entry into the war on 15 May 1915 opened another front and brought the Empire's greatest opponent into the air war. The new front was in the southern Alps, making for hazardous flying and near-certain death to any aviators crash-landing in the mountains. To remedy Italy's initial shortage of fighter planes, France posted a squadron to defend Venice and oppose the Austro-Hungarians.

    The 1916 Austro-Hungarian aviation program called for expansion to 48 squadrons by year's end; however, only 37 were activated in time. Two-seater reconnaissance and bomber squadrons often had a number of single-seat fighters integrated into the unit to serve as escorts on missions. This reflected the army high command's emphasis on tying fighters to defensive duty.

    During 1917, Austria-Hungary pushed its number of flying training schools to 14, with 1,134 trainees. The expansion program was stretched to 68 squadrons, and the Air Service managed to activate the 31 units needed. Nevertheless, the Luftfahrtruppen began to lose its Italian campaign as Italian superior numbers began to tell. By 19 June 1917, the situation had deteriorated to the point where an Italian attack force of 61 bombers and 84 escorting planes was opposed by an Austro-Hungarian defense of only 3 fighters and 23 two-seaters. Within two months, the Luftfahrtruppen found itself facing over 200 enemy aircraft every day. Some of the disparity can be explained by the importation of four squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps to augment the Italian fighter force in the wake of the Battle of Caporetto. Then, when winter came on, shortages of coal and other crucial supplies further hampered production for the Empire's Air Service.

    Austro-Hungarian plans for 1918 called for ramping up its aerial force to 100 squadrons containing 1,000 pilots. Production climbed to 2,378 aircraft for the year. However, withdrawal of German air units to fight in France worsened the Austro-Hungarians' shortage of aircraft. By June 1918, the Luftfahrtruppen's strength peaked at 77 Fliks; only 16 were fighter squadrons. By 26 October, a fighter mass of some 400 Italian, British, and French airplanes attacked in the air even as Italian ground forces pushed for victory.The attrited Austro-Hungarians could only launch 29 airplanes in opposition. The local armistice on 3 November 1918 was the effective end of the Luftfahrtruppen, as its parent nation passed into history.

    Luftfahrtruppen strength had peaked at only 550 aircraft during the war, despite having four fronts to cover. Its wartime losses amounted to 20 percent of its naval fliers killed in action or accident, and 38 percent of its army aviators.


    This Pilots Badge is the Austrian pilots badge denoted by the Austrian Crown to the top  and the enamelled cypher of Emperor Franz Josef to the bottom of the wreath.  The badge is in excellent condition with a Bronze eagle to the centre. Enamel work is complete and crisp. The rear of the badge has the loop type fittings instead of the normal pin system. Maker marked to Zimbler Wien (Vienna).

    WW1 Pilots badges are rare and this example is as good as it gets.