Brazil is the largest South American country by far. Every figure on Brazil is impressive: the size (8.456.510 square km), the population (approaching 180 million), the variation in its population (180 indigenous languages), the number of animal species (almost one new primate is found each year) and the many natural resources. A cultural melting pot famous for its Carnival festivities, beaches and vast jungle territory it is a country one should definitely visit.
Now a federal republic, Brazil's modern history starts with the colonial period in the sixteenth century. After initial disinterest from the Portuguese colonisation gradually took shape. The original Indian tribes were enslaved and bandeirantes hunted them down for trade exploring the Amazon basin all the way to the Andes mountain range in the process. Trading Indian slaves and sugar cane were the most important economic exploits in the seventeenth century. In the second halve of the seventeenth century the influx of African slaves replaced many Indian slaves on the plantations. The end of that century is famous for the discovery of gold, triggering a gold-rush in search of El Dorado. The wealth did not stick for long (and only to the happy few) and only left a transfer of the population from the Northeast to the Southeast as a lasting effect.
In the early eighteenth century the Portuguese Prince regent fled form Napoleon's European onslaught thus forming a united kingdom of Brazil and Portugal. His son became regent, crowned himself as Dom Pedro I and declared independence of Portugal in the process. Portugal did not have the resources to regain its former colony and the independent state of Brazil was a fact. His son, Dom Pedro II, had a more lasting influence on Brazil as he abolished slavery and the monarchy encouraged immigration and formed parliamentary institutions. A military coup, backed by the rich owners of coffee plantations, let to his demise and for a couple of decades various presidents ruled Brazil backed by the military. However, an American type constitution was adopted and Brazil floated mainly on the economic influence of the coffee trade. The economic instability of the 1930s dismantled the influence of the coffee traders, but military influence was still abundant. They intervened when Vargas lost the elections in 1930 and installed him as president anyhow.
It took several decades before the military influence was finally subdued in the eighties. A more liberal constitution was made, opposition was allowed to rule and the 1989 elections can be seen as the first truly free nation-wide elections. Collor de Melo won but was forced to resign accused of fraud, Vice-president Itamar Franco taking over in 1992. From the nineties Brazil blossomed, the new president Cardoso introduced a new currency in 1994 and foreign investments towered. Although many health and education programmes were started, the fact remains that poverty was still widespread among the Brazilian population, the next president Luiz 'Lula' da Silva had vowed to take on all these problems and surely made some headway, backed by sound economic growth figures. Having won the bid for the world cup football 2014 and the Olympic games 2016, Brazil will see another spree of investments and modernisation, steaming up to the top-3 of the world's largest economies, the oil revenues are helping a lot too of course. The current president, Dilma Roussef, has started to combat corruption within government and the municipalities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paul are making an effort in the slow but steady development of the large slums, 'favelas'. She has temporarily halted the acquisition programme for the new Air Force fighter aircraft though, as long as there is still poverty it is not wise to buy a very expensive aircraft according to her.
Brazil - Air Force / Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB)
The birth and development of military aviation in Brazil
The history of aviation in Brazil goes a long way back. The pioneering phase included balloon flights, manufacturing of experimental aircraft and early involvement of the military. In the early years pilots could not learn to fly in Brazil and the first two officers, from both the navy and army, therefore earned their wings in France. I an effort to boost aviation in Brazil the Aero-Club Brailseiro was formed on 14 October 1911 and aviation was widely promoted. Alberto Santos-Dumont, the world's first pilot of a powered flight, played a pivotal role in this campaign, European pilots were contracted by the Ministry of War to run the flying school, a familiar practice in many other Latino countries. Starting of ion 2 February 1914, the first army and navy officers were trained but it did not last long. The contractors stopped in June of the same year.
The next noteworthy impulse was the creation of a naval aviation school in 1916 and with the arrival of three Curtiss F flying boats this can be seen as the first organised military air arm in Brazil. However, the first true military use of aircraft occurred in 1914 when teniente Kirk performed aerial reconnaissance flights on behalf of the Ministry of War. This marked also the first use of aircraft in a military operation in the whole of South-America. The First World War influenced the growth of military aviation in Brazil. After a period of remaining neutral Brazil was sucked into this war because Germany torpedoed Brazilian ships. A task force was send to North-Africa and army and navy officers were send to naval flying schools in Britain. They were therefore involved in the early flying years of the Royal Air Force. Meanwhile back in Brazil the Escola de Aviação Naval (EAvN) was boosted by the arrival of more aircraft from the United States of America. After the war and with French aid a military aviation structure was created for the Army with the inception of the Escola de Aviação Militar (EAvM) on 29 January 1919. Parallel to this development, some paramilitary and police forces acquired some aircraft of their own.
The twenties saw an interesting development because both the navy and army aviation branches were involved in building up a network of civil air routes. The coastal routes being operated by the navy forming air stations in Galeão and Santos in 1922. The army using Santa Maria and Alegrete airfields activated in August 1921 took up responsibility for the inland routes. The army actually formed dedicated air units for military use which lasted until 1930 when they were amalgamated into the EAvM again. By this time the army gave full status to the aerial branch. In the thirties both the army and naval air arms received more aircraft. The army sticking with US material and the navy gaining German aircraft (mainly from Focke-Wulf) as well. With the Second World War gaining momentum in Europe the need arose to create one command to control all the aerial assets operated at that moment. Although Brazil was not involved in the war at the time, the Ministry of Aeronautics was formed and the Aviação Militar and Aviação Naval were disbanded handing their aircraft to a service originally called Forças Aéreas Nacionais. This was officially renamed the Força Aérea Brasileira on 22 May 1941 marking the official birth of the Air Force and the temporary demise of army and naval aviation.
Photo: Erwin van Dijkman
Development of he current Força Aérea Brasileira
The Brazilian air force had a flying start on 22 May 1941. Its inception was done on paper and therefore roughly 425 aircraft, albeit a strange and dated mix, were immediately available from army and naval sources. Swiftly Brazil turned to the US for more potent machines in the form of Curtiss P-40 aircraft. This was necessary because of the spreading war in which Brazilian involvement was only a matter of time with the axis countries spreading their world-wide aggression to neutral countries also. This fear became a reality when many Brazilian ships were sunk in the South-Atlantic leading tot the declaration of war on Germany on 22 August 1942.
Apart from defending the South-Atlantic sea routes in close co-operation with America, the FAB send an expeditionary force containing air elements to Europe as well. They saw action in Italy from the beginning of 1944 until the surrender of Germany on 2 May 1945. In the last stages of the war the Brazilian air force received many aircraft both in Italy and Brazil. With these assets, the P-47 Thunderbolt forming the backbone, the post-war FAB took shape. Because of these numbers of aircraft two units could be equipped with the P-47 Thunderbolt. These were 1º/1º and 2°/1° Grupo de Aviação de Caça along with another unit solely equipped with various versions of the P-40 Warhawk 3º and 4º Grupo de Caça of the 3º Regimento de Aviação, later during a large re-organization in 1947 renamed 1°/14° Grupo de Aviação.
Photo: Corné Rodenburg
Although having a large Air Force easily outnumbering most other South-American countries, a step forward was necessary. By the late forties the backbone of the FAB consisted of piston engined aircraft hampering the operational possibilities and development of the air force. A jet fighter was sought. Turning to the United States, a traditional supplier of large quantities of aircraft in the past, was a logical step. But the foreign policy of the United States was aimed at controlling the arms supply to South-American countries thus preventing an arms race or military imbalance in the region. Unable to acquire aircraft from the US, Brazil turned to Europe to fulfil its hard felt need for modern aircraft. Great Britain was willing and able, as founding father of jet aviation, to help. Having already supplied Meteors (F Mk.IV models) to Argentina in the late forties, the Brazilian request was met in with the latest version of the Meteor: the F Mk.8 fighter and T Mk.7 trainer version of which 61 and 10 were delivered respectively. Delivered from 1952 it was the start of military jet aviation in Brazil at last. The Americans finally supplied Brazil with AT-33 and F-80C aircraft in the second halve of the fifties and this was the main fighter aircraft after withdrawal from service of the Meteor in 1966.
Again in need of a thorough modernisation of its fighter, jet trainer and attack aircraft the seventies saw a boost in FAB capabilities. Firstly, the locally assembled version of the MB326 entered service in 1971 enhancing both lead-in fighter training as well as attack training. Secondly, a very capable fighter was finally received in 1972 when the first Mirage IIIEBR arrived, named F-103E in Brazilian service. Again, the US blocked the sale of the F-4 Phantom and European material was obtained. A new base was constructed at Anápolis near Brasilia the political centre of the country. The modernisation of the Air Force also included an air control network used in conjunction with patrolling Mirage aircraft. Thirdly, the FAB acquired F-5E aircraft from the United States.
Photo: Chris Lofting
FAB has been relying on Brazil's own aircraft manufacturing capabilities for its training and light attack aircraft. The Tucano and subsequent Super Tucano can be earmarked as a big hit both in Brazil and abroad. It is used for training, interdiction, close air support and light attack missions throughout the country. Furthermore, after the success of the MB326/EMB326 project, the AMX light jet attack aircraft was developed with Aermacchi of Italy. The transport units recently received the CASA 295 relieving the venerable DHC-5 Buffalo of its duties. The backbone of the transport fleet is the C-130 Hercules, augmented in the liaison and patrol role by large numbers of Embraer 110 Bandeirantes in various versions for which a modernisation program was started in 2010 with the first deliveries in 2011.
The present and future
Although modernised in some aspects, the main fighting force of the FAB still consists of seventies' age fighter aircraft. Its same struggle for modernisation is going on at this moment. President Lula da Silva has shifted priority away from a new fighter aircraft to transport and patrol aircraft (or no aircraft at all) and this same doictrine is continued by the current president Dilma Roussef. The choice for a new fighter was nearly finalised in 2004, shelved and revitalised again in 2008, and shelved once more in 2011. Finally on 18 December 2013, a deal was struck to buy 36 Gripen NG.
Meanwhile the FAB is boosted by the priority on patrol, transport and interdiction tasks. The Sistema de Vigilância da Amazônia (SIVAM) programme became operational on 25 July 2002 and has seen the introduction of airborne radar and signal gathering sensor aircraft. Special surveillance versions of the Embraer model 145 regional jetliner entered service (seeing some export success as well). Moreover, the Embraer 314 Super Tucano, a dedicated development of the other Brazilian success story the Tucano, was acquired in numbers for this programme as well. This ambitious programme integrates several means of land-based and airborne surveillance as well as patrol and attack capabilities Patrol capabilities are greatly enhanced by the advent of the P-3AM, a refurbished and vastly modernised version of the P-3B. Another exciting programme is the new transport aircraft, the C-390 set to replace the Hercules over the coming years. Also, new helicopters have been bought, a dozen Blackhawks, a dozen AH-2 (Mi-35M) and eighteen EC725, two of which are for presidential transport duties. The main fighters are the modernised F-5EM Tiger, with some former Jordanian examples being refurbished also, and leased Mirage 2000 air defence aircraft that will probably soldier on much longer than the five years period originally envisaged.
Photo: Erwin van Dijkman
Brazil - Army / Aviação do Exército (EB)
As in many countries it took quite a while for the aviation branch of the army to gain full independence and aircraft of their own. However, army officers were involved in pioneering the military use of aviation assets in Brazil as well. In fact, Lt. Ricardo João Kirk was the first army pilot and was performing reconnaissance missions in 1914. In these early years of aviation, the number of military planes grew (refer to the general history segment above). Eventually, this led to the creation of an Air Force to control all these activities. Subsequently, army as well as navy air assets were amalgamated under the 3rd armed force of the Air Force during 1941.
It took many years before the rebirth of the army took place. In 1985 the army started to study the possibilities of creating a true army aviation branch. This subsequently led to the creation of army aviation on the 3rd of September 1986. Incepted as a helicopter force the plan was to incorporate a flying unit into each army brigade. Taubaté army complex was chosen as the most important and first home of the 1st army aviation battalion (1ºBAvEx, Batalhão de Aviação do Exército) and an aviation material command was created also (DMAvEx, Diretoria de material de Aviação do Exército). The facilities were restructured; hangars, ramps, a runway, a housing area and classrooms were built. Meanwhile the army sought to acquire helicopters and they bought French material that could (in part) be license built by Helibras of Brazil.
The first two types were the AS.350L1 Squirrel dubbed Helicóptero de Ataque (HA-1) and AS565AA Panther named Helicóptero de Manobra (HM-1) in Brazil. The first Squirrel was officially inaugurated during a ceremony on April 21st, 1989 and a long kept army dream came to fruition.
Photo: Erwin van Dijkman
The present and future
Nowadays, the army is gradually growing to a fully-fledged army air force. Re-organisations took place in 1990 and 1993 and the original 1st battalion was renamed 1º Esquadrão de Aviação de Exército and was reorganised into the 1st group (1º Grupo AvEx) together with newly formed 2nd, 3rd and 4th squadrons. The squadrons no longer solely reside at Taubaté. The 4th squadron is based at Manaus in the Amazon basin and is heavily involved in anti-drug operations, it is the only unit using Black Hawk (HM-2) helicopters. Four were acquired for use in the military monitoring mission on the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border (MOMEP, military observation mission Ecuador-Peru). Early this century, the first Cougars (HM-3) started to arrive and a third base in Southern Brazil, at Campo Grande in the province of Mato Grosso do Sul is being created. Latest acquisition is the super Cougar with the army receiving sixteen of the 50 ordered by the Brazilian ministry of defence. Dubbed HM-4, it will further boost its troop transport capabilities. With that, the Aviação do Exército, or Exército do Brasil (EB) is approaching the 100 helicopter mark.
Brazil - Navy / Comando da Força Aeronaval (ComForAerNav)
Naval aviation, or Aviação Naval (AvN) as it was known then, in Brazil was in the forefront of development of military aviation. The history of naval aviation is intertwined with that of the army aviation. Both services had an aviation school of their own and existed long before the official inception of the Air Force. The birth of the naval air force as we now know it can be traced back to 1916. The Escola de Aviação Naval - EAvN was created on 23 August 1916 the first official military flying school in Brazil. They started with three Curtiss F flying boats. Army officers were trained there as well in the beginning because they did not have an aviation school of their own yet (refer to the general history segment above). The early years saw use of both flying boats, the Curtiss F and Savoia-Marchetti SM-55s for example, and regular fighter aircraft of that era, like the Boeing 256 delivered in 1932. The AvN even formed an aerial demonstration flight with their 256s.
The navy send some of its aircraft to the border with Bolivia and Paraguay during the 1934 Chaco war. These aircraft, Boeing 256s and Vought V66B Corsairs were used for border patrol duties and this marked the first serious use of the naval air arm. More modern aircraft were incorporated in the late 30s. German built Focke-Wulf FW-44J Stieglitz an FW-58B Weihe aircraft greatly enhanced both the quantity and capabilities of the AvN. By the time the air force was formed in 1941, the naval force had nearly hundred aircraft on strength. The aforementioned Focke-Wulfs constituting the majority of the fleet along with various De Havilland Moth-variants and Wacos, mostly only a few per type.
Photo: Anno Gravemaker
After the formation of the Força Aérea Brasileira it took eleven years after the before the naval air arm was resurrected. The Directoria de Aeronáutica da Marinha was formed by law on 4 August 1952 resorting under the Ministerio da Marinha. This underlined the felt necessity to have an independent naval air service with its own administrative control. The complex at Sao Pedro da Aledeia was constructed and the Centro de Instrução e Adestramento Aeronaval (CIAAN) was formed. This proved to be only the first step towards a fully development air arm. Despite of its independence the AvN was only allowed by law to use helicopters and although a ship was acquired that was capable of aircraft operations, the fixed wing aircraft remained the monopoly of the air force for a long time to come.
However, in the sixties the AvN steadily grew into a potent force nonetheless. This next important phase saw the birth of many of the flying units that are still current today. For general purpose HU-1 (1º Esquadrão de Helicópteros de Emprego Geral) was formed in 1961 flying Whirlwind and Widgeon helicopters. Moreover, a training unit (1º Esquadrão de Helicópteros de Instrução - HI-1) was created in 1962 flying Bell 47s. The anti-submarine warfare and attack duties were being carried out by SH-3 Seaking helicopters from the 1º Esquadrão de Helicópteros (HS-1) formed in 1965. The AvN worked in close co-operation with FAB's P-16 (Grumman S-2 Tracker) aircraft. The Trackers were allowed to carry out operations from the aircraft carrier NAeL Minas Gerais without being formally operated by the Marinha! In this phase of the history of AvN a dedicated attack squadron flying the Lynx helicopter (1º Esquadrão de Helicópteros de Ataque - HA-1) was formed as well in 1971.
Photo: Stephan de Bruijn
In the late eighties and nineties reconnaissance, transport, training and rescue missions were performed with various types of helicopters. More general-purpose squadrons were formed, HU-2 in 1988 with the Super Puma, HU-3 in 1994 with the Esquilo, HU-4 in 1995 with Esquilo and HU-5 in 1998 also with the Esquilo. Not all of these units were based at Sao Pedro da Aldeia. In fact, HU-3 and HU-4 started as aerial detachments (Destacemento Aéreo Embarcado) to the river patrol units of the Flotilla Amazonas (created in 1979) and Ladario respectively. Fifth squadron was born from the detachment at Base Fluvial Ilha Terrapleno de Leste an island in the Rio Grande. This historic aviation site was already in use in the early years of naval aviation in Brazil, mainly as a flying boat base. It was also used form postal flights in the second half of the thirties.
The present and future
The oddity of not being allowed to operate fixed wing aircraft was finally corrected in 1998. The change being ordered in July 1996 basically opened the way for the navy to operate any aircraft necessary for its duties. Immediately the search was started for a suitable aircraft for the First fighter and attack squadron (1º Esquadrão de Aviões de Interceptação e Ataque - VF-1), already formed on paper in 1965. The aircraft found were a batch of last generation Skyhawks no longer used by the Kuwait Air Force because they just received new F/A-18C/D aircraft. The Kuwaiti Skyhawks generally similar to the US Navy A-4M still had enough flying hours left. The agreement to buy the survivors was met on 30 April 1998 and the aircraft already arrived in Brazil on 7 September of the same year.
Since then the aircraft have been very active in several national and international (combined) exercises (TEMPEREX, ARAEX, URUEX to name a few) aboard the new aircraft carrier NAeL São Paulo commissioned on 15 November 2000. This is the former French carrier Foch. Seeking a patrol aircraft, the Navy recently negotiated a deal to acquire C-1 Trader carrier on board delivery aircraft that are remanufactured into turbo-prop patrol aircraft by Marsh aviotion at Mesa, Arizona. Truly, an exciting prospect. On the helicopter force, the navy alo particpates in the tri-service 50-aircraft EC725 Cougar deal receiving sixteen examples from 2011 onward. Lastly, six SH-60B will join the fleet in the anti-submarine and surveillance role further enhancing the navy's capabilities in the near future.
Brazilian Aircraft Types
|Air Force Types|
|A-1, A-1A/M||AMX / AMX upgraded|
|H-1H||Bell 205, UH-1H|
|VC-2||ERJ190 Lineage 1000|
|F-5E, F-5EM||F-5E, F-5BR|
|U-7, U-7A||EMB810 (PA-34)|
|Z-17||Schempp-Hirth Discus CS|
|TZ-17||Schempp-Hirth Duo Discus XL|
|TZ-23||L-23 Super Blanik|
|Z-33||L-33 Blanik Solo|
|G-19, U-19||EMB201R Ipanema|
|T-25A/C, XT-25||Neiva 621 Universal|
|AT-26A, XT-26||MB326K/M Impala|
|T-27, A/AT-27||EMB312 Tucano|
|A-29A||EMB314 Super Tucano (single)|
|A-29B||EMB314 Super Tucano (dual)|
|Z-33||L-33 Blanik Solo|
|VH-35||EC635 / Airbus Helicopters H135M|
|H-36, VH-36||EC725 / Airbus Helicopters H225M|
|L-42, L-42B, U-42||Neiva Regente|
|IU-50||ERJ550 Legacy 500|
|EU-93A, IU-93A||Hawker 800XP|
|C-95B, EC-95B, IC-95B, C-95BM||EMB110P1|
|C-95C, EC-95C, IC-95C, SC-95B, C-95CM||EMB110P1K|
|U-100||EMB500 Phenom 100EV|
|C-130, C-130M||C-130 Hercules|
|G-180||Aero Boero 180|
|AF-1 / AF-1B||A-4KU / A-4KU upgraded|
|AF-1A / AF-1C||TA-4KU / TA-4KU upgraded|
|SH-3A||AS-61D-3 / S-61D-3|
|AH-11||Super Lynx Mk21A|
|UH-15, UH-15A, AH-15B||EC725BR-B, EC725BR-M|