Potuguese Air Force / Força Aerea Portuguesa
By Eddy Wierenga
The history of Portuguese military aviation dates back to 1911, when a Balloon Company was founded as part of the Army Telegraphic Service, operating a handfull of aircraft. During WW I, Portugal had no aircraft of its own but Portuguese airmen flew in French squadrons. In 1918 the Military Aviation Service was founded, including a flying school, some operational squadrons, and the OGMA works at Alverca.
During the following decades, domestic and international incidents had dramatic influences on the organization of Portuguese military aviation, including the Revolution in 1926, the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, WW II in which Portugal was not directly involved but during which various allied aircraft entering Portuguese airspace were appropriated, Portugal joining NATO in 1949, the merging of the Military Aviation Service with the Naval Aviation Service into the independent Portuguese Air Force (FAP) in 1952, the uprisings in the African colonies Mozambique, Angola and Portuguese Guinea during the 1960s, and the military coup in 1974 which restored democracy after 46 years. The turmoil of the revolution and the end of the war in the African colonies in 1975, which had involved no less than 150.000 personnel, urged for a major reorganisation which reduced the 850 aircaft inventory of the FAP in 1974 to only one third of that in 1976.
Since then Portugal has regained its balance and more recent changes in the FAP organization were either the result of budget cuts, including the closure of several airbases, or intended to increase efficiency such as the relocation of squadrons, the re-introduction of an independent naval helicopter squadron, the privatization of the OGMA workshops, and system upgrades such as the F-16A/B MLU program and the P-3C CUP+ program. The latest acquisitions include the C295M transport and C295MPA marine patrol aircraft as well as the EH101 helicopter, all of which are important assets to cover the large distances between Portugal mainland and Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.