Robbie Shaw, assisted by Alec Molton, reports on the Brazilian Air Force and its efforts to defend one of the world’s largest countries.
THE TASK — to defend a country which has an area of 328,210 square miles (8,500,000km2) and a population of over 153 million. A country which is larger than the Continental United States or the whole of Europe, yet has a budget which is but a fraction of those mentioned.
That is the role of the Forca Aerea Brasileira. To execute this task it has a complement of some 800 aircraft and over 50,000 personnel, some 25% of whom are conscripts who serve for two years. Unlike North America and some European countries, females serve only in administrative employment, and are not permitted to become aircrew or technicians.
The Forca Aerea Brasileira (FAB) comprises five of the six components that come under the Estruhira do Ministerio da Aeronautica (Ministry of Aviation), the exception being the Departamento de Aviacao Civil (Department of Civil Aviation).
These five components are the major commands which are as follows:
Comando Geral do Ar (Air General Command),
Comando Geral de Apoio (Support General Command),
Comando Geral do Pessoal (Personnel General Command),
Departamento de Pesquisas e Desenvolvimenlo (Department of Research and Development),
Departamenlo de Ensino (Department of Training)
The bulk of the flying units report to Comando Geral do Ar which is split into seven Regional Commands (Comando Aereos Regionais), three Tactical Air Forces (Forca Aerea) and a Training Command [Comando Aereo de Treinamento). The basic flying unit is the Esquadrao (squadron) two or three of which usually form a Grupo (Wing). Due to the designation/numbering system there are for instance several No1 Grupo, such as 1° GDA, 1° GAvCa, 1° GT and 1°GTT, the letters denoting the role of the Grupo.
The Departamento de Ensino is responsible for all aircrew training until a pilot joins his conversion unit. The Academia da Forca Aerea (AFA), is located at the sprawling Pirassununga air base some three hours drive north of Sao Paulo. The base, which is home to over 100 aircraft, covers an area of over 2,314,300 square miles (215,000m2), and actually comprises two airfields, the east and west.
During the first of their four years, students will experience only 15 hours of flying on the T-25 purely as an introduction and incentive. During the second year, however, no flying is undertaken at all as the students study many aspects of aviation, including visits to operational bases, courtesy of the academy’s own C-95. Flying training starts in earnest in the third year with 65 hours on the T-25, culminating with 120 hours on the T-27 in the fourth year. The AFA comprises three flying units, of which the Clube de Voo a Vela (CVV) and Clube de Ultraleves (CU) are perhaps the least well known. The CVV is the gliding dub and the CU operates the microlights, and between them they operate some 30 flying machines of seven different types.
These include 11 Microleve MXL single-seat microlights and three of the two-seat MXL-2 variants which are known by their FAB designations T-8A and T-8B respectively. The glider fleet comprises five elderly Let L-13 Blaniks which have the FAB designation TZ-13, and one each of the Z-15 Glasflugel 201B Libelle and Z-20 Schleicher ASW-20. There are also seven Brazilian-built IPE Z-16 gliders, which have the rather quaint name Quero-Quero. For glider-towing duties there are two Ipanema U-19 Ag-planes. As mentioned, the base has two separate airfields and three parallel runways. The east field has a single 4,265ft (1,300m) runway for T-25 operations whilst the west has two 7,545ft (2,300m) long runways for T-27s. The pilot training syllabus was changed significantly in 1980 following the disposal of the fleet of T-37C aircraft primarily due to spares shortages, and the indigenous Aerotec T-23 Uirapuru basic trainer is also no longer on the inventory.
Basic training is carried out by some 60 Neiva T-25 Universal aircraft operated by 2° EIA [Esquadrao de Inslrucao Aerea). During this phase, day flying only is undertaken. The unit operates both the T-25A and C models, but predominantly the former. The T-25A is fitted with both NDB and VOR, whilst the C has more modern instrumentation and is ILS equipped. During the third year, five hours of instrument flying are undertaken in the C model in preparation for the T-27 phase.
Advanced training is carried out on the T-27 Tucano which entered FAB service in 1983. The AFA has some 40 of the type in use, all of which are finished in a high visibility orange and white scheme. During the Tucano phase, students are trained to a high standard, including day and night formation flying, instrument flying and aerobatics. The budget cuts have affected the number of Tucanos available, as at any one time about 25% of the fleet is grounded awaiting the return of overhauled engines. Prior to the instrument phase in the Tucano, students undertake 16 hours of simulator instruction.
The Academy also has a fleet of support aircraft, comprising two U-7 Senecos, a single C-95A Bandeirante and two UH-50 Esquilo helicopters. The latter are tasked primarily with search and rescue duties, while the first mentioned is the Embraer a 810 licence built version of the Piper PA-34.
The Departamento de Ensino also has several other training schools, at least one of which has its own support aircraft. This being the EEAR [Escola do Especialislas de Aeronaulica) at Guaratingueta with a C-95. This unit is a technical and air traffic control college for NCOs.
Comando Geral do Ar
Comando Geral do Ar (Air General Command) is the main operational command and is responsible for the vast majority of flying units. It is split into five major elements: CATRE — Comando Aereo de Treinamenlo (Operational Training Command), Comando Aereos Regionais (Regional Air Command), II, III and V forca Aerea (2nd, 3rd and 5th Air Force).
After graduating from the AFA all pilots report to CATRE for further training. Those destined for helicopters proceed to 1°/11°GAv Gaviao at Santos where they learn to fly on the UH-50 Esquilo, which is an AS 350 Ecureuil licence built by Helibras. Fixed wing pilots report to Natal where the resident 5° Grupo has recently been disestablished, though its component squadrons are still known as 1°/5° and 2°/5° GAv for identification purposes. The unit has a similar role to that of an RAF Operational Conversion Unit. All pilots initially join 1°/5° GAv Rumba to fly the AT-27 armed variant of the Tucano. After a certain phase of the course, the students progress to Natal and their reports from the AFA are studied, and a decision taken as to whether they have the capability of making fighter pilots. The AT-27 course lasts one year which includes a weapons phase, after which those destined for non-fighter aircraft will proceed to one of the ETA units to build up experience on the C-95, before progressing further to other types such as the C-130. Number 5° Grupo used to comprise a third squadron with C-95s for multi-engined conversion, which has since been disbanded in favour of the present system. Those destined to fry fighter aircraft progress to 2°/5° GAv Joker which operates some 25 AT-26 Xavante aircraft, which is an Embraer-built MB326GB and named after an Indian tribe. The FAB received the first of 166 AT-26s in 1971 and about 90 aircraft are still in service.
These aircraft, like the AT-27s, wear a USAF Vietnam-style green and tan camouflage scheme. During the course of their 18-month training on the AT-26, pilots will undertake all phases of frying, including combat, tactics and weapons training. The AT-26 has six underwing hardpoints which are used to carry bombs, rocket pods and a 7.62mm gun pod. The type is also used for banner towing for air-to-air firing sorties. On successful completion of this phase of the course pilots will be posted to either 1°/4° GAv at Fortaleza or 3°/10° GAv at Santa Maria for a minimum of two years operational flying on the AT-26 before being considered for progression to aircraft such as the A-l, F-5 or Mirage. All FAB AT-26 units have tail markings comprising the fighter insignia of a double arrow and the stars of the Southern Cross on a coloured fin band, which in the case of 2°/5° GAv, is light blue. The Natal base flight comprises three Neiva U-42s which are used for liaison duties and a range of support tasks such as conveying personnel to and from the weapons range 19 miles (30km) away from the base. There is also a single C-95B transport and for SAR duties a UH-50 detached from 2°/8° GAv at Recife.
COMAR — Comando Aereos Regionais (Regional Air Command) has seven regional headquarters, each of which has a C-95 Bandeirante squadron for light transport and tactical support. Four variants of the Bandeirante are used by these units: the C-95, C-95A, C-95B and C-95C. Total deliveries of these variants are 60, 20, 31 and 12 respectively, and all but the basic C-95 can be used for air and parachute drops. Most C-95s are now camouflaged, replacing the earlier grey/white livery.
COMAR I is based at Belem where 1° ETA operates both the C-95B and C-98 Cessna Caravan.
COMAR II and C-95-equipped 2° ETA are Recife based, with responsibility for Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador Air Bases.
COMAR III has responsibility for the bases in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro; Campo dos Afonsos, Galeao and Santa Cruz, with 3° ETA operating the C-95 and C-95B from Galeao.
COMAR IV and 4° ETA are located at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport, from where it operates the C-95 and C-95A with responsibility for the Guarulhos and Campo Grande bases.
COMAR V looks after the bases of Conoas, Florianopolis and Santa Maria, with 5° ETA operating the C-95A from Conoas. Anopolis and Brasilia Air Bases come under the authority of COMAR VI. The latter base shares the runway with the co-located civil airport, from where 6° ETA operates an interesting fleet of VU-9s, C-95Cs and VC-97s. Three of the six VU-9 Xingus delivered to the FAB, and a similar number or the five VC-97 Brasilias delivered are operated in the personnel transport role, and are used when called upon to augment the VIP fleet of the GTE. These types are finished in the smart white/grey livery. The unit is the sole user of the C-95C which features a lengthened fuselage, EFIS cockpit displays, large cargo/parachute door and is finished in the increasingly familiar camouflage scheme.
The final region is COMAR VII at Manaus with responsibility for that base, as well as Boa Vista and Porto Velho. The composition of 7° ETA is, however, somewhat different from that of its sister units. It operates the C-95 from Manaus but also has two detached Esquadrilha (Flights) at Boa Vista and Porto Velho operating armed AT-27s in support of the SIVAM surveillance system of the Amazon region. Some of these AT-27s have been seen in a two-tone grey camouflage, with Porto Velho-based aircraft sporting ‘PV’ tail codes. Both Esquadrilha operate a single C-98 Cessna 208 Caravan in the support role.
Each of the three numbered Air Forces have different roles. Headquartered at Rio de Janeiro are II and V Forca Aereo, with the former controlling the anti-submarine, maritime patrol, helicopter tactical support, observation and search and rescue assets.
With II Forca Aerea is Santa Cruz based 1° GAE — Grupo de Aviacao Embarcada (Embarked Aviation Wing) with the small number of P-16E (S-2E) Trackers still in use for deployment aboard Brazil’s sole aircraft carrier, Minos Gerais. These are the sole fixed wing aircraft in the carrier’s air wing, the remainder of the complement being naval helicopters. It is believed that although some 12 or 13 Trackers are still on the inventory, only about half a dozen or so aircraft are still in use.
The FAB signed a $40 million contract with the Canadian company IMP at Halifax for upgrading the Tracker fleet with improved avionics and installation of PT6A-67CF turboprops. One aircraft was converted to this standard and is designated P-16H. However, the FAB was unhappy with the work carried out and claims that the company reneged on some parts of the contract, which was subsequently cancelled. Unless a new contract is negotiated no more aircraft will be modified.
To supplement the ageing Trackers the unit also operates a small number of shore-based P-95A Bandeirante Potrulha. As an interesting aside, the unit still uses the huge 250ft (76m) high Zeppelin hangar which dominates the skyline at Santa Cruz. The FAB uses the maritime surveillance variant of the EMB-111 which is designated P-95 Bandeirante Patrulha, but is often referred to as the Bandeirulha. A total of 12 P-95A and ten P-95Bs have been delivered to three squadrons: 1°/7° GAv Orungan, TIT GAv Phoenix and 3°/7° GAv Neluno which are based at Salvador, Florianopolis and Belem respectively. The latter still has the P-95A with the other two units each operating five of the newer P-95Bs.
The P-95A first entered service with 1°/7° GAv in 1978 as a replacement for the P-15 Neptune which was retired two years earlier. The P-95s are easily identifiable by the bulbous nose radome and all-over grey paint scheme. The P-95A is equipped with the AN/APS-128 Sea Patrol search radar, high-powered searchlight and armed with unguided rockets. Built from 1990 onwards the P-95B features upgraded avionics and the excellent Thorn/EMI Super Searcher Radar. The six-man crew comprises two pilots, a tactical navigator, ESM operator, flight engineer and observer/photographer. With wingtip fuel tanks, the P-95B has some five to six hours’ endurance, and after every trip over water the propellers and underneath of the aircraft are washed down to protect the airframe from corrosion.
At Belem 1°/8° GAv Falcao Pioneiro is the sole unit to operate the armed CH-55 in the attack and observation role. The FAB received just 11 of this armed variant of the Helibras built AS 355, a few of which have believed to have been lost. Number 8° Grupo operates a further four squadrons where fixed wing types operate alongside helicopters.
At Recife 278°GAv Poti uses the UH-50 and T-25C for observation and light transport with a secondary role of search and rescue. From Campo dos Afonsos 3°/8° GAv Puma operates all eight of the CH-34 AS 332M Super Pumas and three camouflaged 1-42 Regente aircraft.
The latter are used for Army observation and FAC (Forward Air Control) and can carry underwing stores such as rockets and smoke markers. The Pumas are usually fitted with a winch for the secondary role of search and rescue in addition to their troop carrying and assault task. At Santa Maria 5°/8° GAv Panlera uses UH-1H Iroquois for attack, transport and search and rescue tasks, supported by L-42s and U-7 Senecas. Final squadron is 778° GAv Falcao at Manaus with UH-1Hs for transport and special operations in the Amazon region, supported by a small number of U-7 Senecas. The FAB’s dedicated search and rescue unit is 2°/10° GAv Pelicano which covers the whole country from its current base at Campo Grande. Primary equipment consists of five SC-95B Bandeirantes delivered in 1981 which operate with a crew of eight comprising two pilots, one loadmaster, one flight engineer and four observers/rescue crewman. A dinghy and survival pack is carried and can be dropped to survivors, whilst the rescue crewman is trained to parachute to assist and administer first aid. Up to six stretchers can be carried, and the aircraft has an endurance of six hours.
The unit also employs the UH-1H in the SAR and support role, though a rescue hoist is only fitted as and when necessary. One example of both the rotary and fixed wing types are on a 24-hour stand-by. Due to the size of the country, a number of units, particularly those equipped with helicopters, have a secondary search and rescue role. For this task their crews are trained by specialists at Campo Grande.
The final unit of II Forca Aerea is 2° ELO — Esquadrilha de ligacao & Observacao (Liaison & Observation Flight). Based at the Navy’s Sao Pedro da Aldeia base, the unit operates AT-27 Tucanos in the observation and attack role in support of naval operations. The squadron name is Duelo.
Headquartered at Brasilia, III Forca Aerea oversees all fast jet operations and the bulk of the offensive forces. Based at nearby Anapolis is the primary air defence unit, 1° GDA — Grupo de Defeso Aerea (Air Defence Wing) which now comprises just one squadron of Mirage Ills, 1°/1° GDA Jaguores. The Mirage III is known as the F-103 in FAB service and two variants are operated. The single-seat IIIEBR is known as the F-103E, whilst the two-seat IIIDBR is the F-103D. In the 1970s the FAB initially received 12f-103Es and four F-103Ds to equip two squadrons, followed by a further five Es at the end of the decode. To make up for attrition, a further six single-seaters and two two-seaters were purchased from the French Air Force in late 1988.
These aircraft and most of the survivors from the original batch have been upgraded by Dassault in France, and are easily identifiable by the canard foreplanes. Cockpit avionics improvements include HOTAS (Hands-on Throttle and Stick), and although not usually fitted to the aircraft, a bolt-on refuelling probe is available. The Mirages are used purely in the intercept role for which they are armed with Matra R530 air-to-air missiles and an internal cannon. Following the upgrade the aircraft received their present paint scheme of low visibility grey in preference to their original natural metal finish. It is believed that some 12 F-103Es and four F-103Ds remain in service at Anapolis. The squadron also operates three AT-27 Tucanos which, like the Mirages, wear the ‘AN’ tail code. The unit also has a single UH-50 for liaison duties and the base flight utilises a pair of U-42 Regentes.
During 1975/76 Brazil took delivery of 36 Northrop F-5Es and six F-5Bs, whose numbers were expanded in 1988/89 with the acquisition of a further 24 F-5E and four F-5F models, all of which formerly served with the USAF. The latter aircraft retain their former USAF grey scheme and are operated solely in the air defence role by 1°/14° GAv Pampa at Canoas Air Base, Porto Alegre. The original batch of aircraft still operates in the Vietnam-style tan and green camouflage pattern, and equips two squadrons of 10 GAvCa — Grupo de Aviacao de Coca (Fighter Air Wing) at Santa Cruz, some 37 miles (60km) north of Rio de Janeiro.
The Wing comprises two squadrons: 1°/1° GAvCa Jambock and 2°/1° GAvCa Pif Paf. All aircraft are pooled, with the badge of the former squadron on the port side of the fin and the latter squadron on the starboard. The squadrons operate in the ground attack, interdiction and air defence role, and for the latter role use, the primitive AIM-9B version of the Sidewinder missile. All the F-5s are fitted with refuelling probes and regularly practise air-to-air refuelling from KC-130 and KC-137 tankers. Like 1° GDA both F-5 Wings also use three AT-27 Tucanos for proficiency and training, whilst the base flight has the services of a pair of U-42s.
Sharing the Santa Cruz base is the sole AMX unit, 1°/16° GAv Adelfi. The AMX is known in FAB service as the A-1 and is used for close air support and to complement the AT-26 units in the ground attack role. Brazilian-built aircraft are assembled by Embraer, which manufactures almost 30% of each AMX. The FAB requirement is for a total of 79 A-1s which includes 14 TA-1 two-seat operational trainer variants to equip five squadrons. Although the first aircraft was delivered to the FAB in October 1989, due to a severe lack of funds deliveries have been painfully slow, and only some 28 aircraft have been delivered to date, including a few TA-1s. The A-1s are fitted with flight refuelling probes and are finished in a two-tone light grey camouflage, and some aircraft have recently adopted the ‘SC’ tail code, even though none of the based F-5s are similarly marked.
The AT-26 Xovante is still in operational use with three squadrons. At Fortoleza in the extreme northeast of the country is 1°/4° GAv Pacau, which is one of the units students join to gain experience upon completion of the course at nearby Natal. The squadron is tasked with attack and ground support, and also operates a small number of UH-50s, primarily for search and rescue, while the base flight operates the T-25. The remaining Xavantes are based at Santa Maria where they are operated by 1°/10° GAv Poker and 3°/10° GAv Centauro. The former is tasked with attack and tactical reconnaissance for which a Vinten camera pod is carried on the port inboard pylon, and these aircraft are designated RT-26. Anti-shipping is the primary task of 3°/10° GAv with ground attack a secondary role.
The final unit within III Forca Aerea is Recife-based 1°/6° GAv Carcora, which operates two types of aircraft with the task of reconnaissance and photographic survey, and a secondary search role. Six camouflaged R-95 Bandeirantes are operated alongside three light green R-35A Lear Jets, with the latter predominantly used for high-altitude tasks including photography for cartography purposes.
Number V Forco Aerea controls all the major fixed wing transport elements of the FAB, the majority or which are at the main Rio de Janeiro air bases of Campo dos Afonsos and Galeao. The former base is home to 10 GTT — Grupo de Jransporte de Tropos (Troop Carrier Wing) which comprises two squadrons, 1°/1° GTT Gordo and 2°/1° GTT Cascavel. The former operates five C-l 30Es and the latter five C-115 Buffaloes. Primary task of both units is parachute dropping in support of the Army’s 1 st Parachute Division, with transportation of passengers and cargo a secondary task.
Galeao Air Base adjoins Rio’s international airport and it is from here that three GT — Grupo de Transporle (Transport Wing) squadrons operate three different types. Flying three variants of the C-l30 Hercules is 1°/l° GT Coral. Three SC-130Es are used primarily for search and rescue but they also support five C-130Hs on cargo/passenger duties, whilst two KC-130H tankers are used to augment the fleet of KG 137s.
The C-130 fleet is kept busy on both internal and long-haul flights, the latter including periodic flights via Los Palmas to Lyneham in the UK and Paris/Orly to collect military hardware. There are also a number of flights into the Amazon region in support of Army bases in remote areas. Some of these have to land at prepared and some unprepared strips, and some sites are accessible only by helicopter. The fleet also undertakes seven flights a year into the Antarctic in support of scientific surveys, routeing via Punta Arenas they land at a Chilean base on the frozen ice. Crews who fly these missions must have a minimum of three years and 500 hours flying time on the C-130.
In service with 1°/2° GT Condor are 12 C-91s, perhaps better known as Avro/HS748s. The type is known in FAB service as the Avro and two versions are operated, the Series 2 and 2A, the latter featuring a cargo door. In addition to their passenger carrying tasks, the type is also used for one of the FAB’s most unusual and less glamorous tasks, that of operating the National Air Mail Service! Since entering service in the 1970s the popular 748 has had a flawless safety record. Unlike the camouflaged Here’s, these aircraft are finished in an airline-type scheme of grey and white with a dark blue cheatline.
Four former airline Boeing 707-320Cs are used by 2°/2° GT Corsario with the designation KC-137. Three grey-painted aircraft are operated for in-flight refuelling using a pair of wing-mounted Beech refuelling pods, and the probe-equipped A-l and F-5 fleet regularly practises the art of air-to-air refuelling. A fourth aircraft finished in the Avro 748 airline-type livery is used as a long-range passenger transport and although it can do so, usually Hies without the Beech pods.
Between 1968 and 1970, de Havillond Canada supplied 24 Buffalo aircraft, which in common with those of the Canadian Armed Forces is designated C-115. Of these, 17 remain in use, including five with 271° GTT. The remaining 12 are operated by 1°/9° GAv Arara from Manaus, where they support Army operations in the Amazon region. A former Buffalo operator is 1°/15° GAv Onca at Campo Grande. The unit now, however, operates the C-95B in the light transport and parachute delivery role, having converted to the Bandeirante in January 1981.
The Departamento de Pesquisas e Desenvorvimento (Department of Research and Development) has a single but important unit, the CTA — Centro Tecnico Aeroespacial (Aerospace Technical Centre). From its base at Sao Jose dos Campos, the unit operates a small but varied fleet including U-7, U-42, T-25, AT-27, XU-93, XC-95 and XC-97, The X prefix denotes that the unit’s function is primarily research and test flying, though it is also responsible for certification of new aircraft and associated equipment, including weapons.
Also within the command is the CLA — Centro de Lancamento de Alcantara (Alcantara Telemetry Centre) which is responsible for equipment used in association with the Ariane space programme rockets and satellites launched from French Guyana. To support this operation a single C-98 Cessna Caravan is based at Sao Luis airfield. The GEIV — Grupo Especial de Inspecao e Vigilancia (Special Inspection and Navaids Checking Wing) reports to Comando Geral de Apoio (Support General Command). The unit operates a few EC-95 Bandeirante and two EU-93 HS125s from its base at Rio de Janeiro’s downtown Santos Dumont airport. The Command is also responsible for the six PAMA — Parque de Materiel Aeronaulica which undertake third-level maintenance on FAB aircraft. First and second-line maintenance is undertaken at home bases. The PAMA locations are: Campo dos Afonsos (VU-9, C-95 and helicopters), Belem (C-95 and helicopters), Campo de Marte, Sao Paulo (C-l 15 and P-16), Galeao (C-91, VU-93, C-l30 and C-l37), Recife (AT-26 and R/VU35A) and Logoa Santa, Belo Horizonte (T-25 ond T-27). The lost is also the aircraft storage unit.
The Command also manages the country’s integrated air defence systems including radar, communications and computer elements. For this task the country is split into three regions:
CINDACTA I covers the southeast of the country including the main population centres of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and as far west as the capital Brasilia.
CINDACTA II covers the south of the country including parts of Argentina and Uruguay, while
CINDACTA III covers the northeast, including Natal and Recife.
In August 1994 the FAB signed a contract with Raytheon to develop SIVAM — Sistemo de Vigilancb da Amazonia, a surveillance system for the Amazon basin region. The system, however, has more than just defence requirements, as a series of airborne and ground-based surveillance radars will be supplemented by sensors, with data also being collected from remote-sensing satellites. The airborne radars will be Ericsson EriEye phased array radars to be mounted on Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias, in a similar fashion to those on Sweden’s Flygyapnet Saab 340 aircraft. One of the main tasks will be to support law enforcement, counter drug smuggling and protect the environment from unauthorised destruction of the rain forests in this remote and inhospitable region. To support ground forces, flights of armed AT-27s of 7° ETA are based at Boa Vista and Porto Velho.
The FAB also has two high-profile units report directly to the Ministry of Defence: the Esquadrilha da Fumaca and the GTE (Grupo de Transporte Especial). The former is the national aerobatic display team with bright red T-27 Tucanos based at Pirassununga. The team flies six aircraft, but has at least two spares, which are necessary as the team performs some 80 displays around the country every year.
The GTE is the VIP transport squadron, which naturally, is located at the capital Brasilia. The unit includes the Presidential Flight with two C-96 Boeing 737200s. The remainder of the aircraft are utilised in transporting government ministers and senior military officers. The executive jet fleet comprises nine VU-35A Lear Jets and six VU-93 HS125s. The latter type, now in its 25th year of service, has flown over 100,000 hours in FAB service. The sole rotary type on the unit’s inventory is the VH-55 Esquilo, with two on strength, this being the locally-built variant of the AS 355 Ecureuil. The GTE also used to operate VC-97 Brasilias, but these have been transferred to the co-located 6° ETA where they are used on occasions to supplement the GTE fleet.
Not surprisingly future aircraft acquisitions depend very much on whether the FAB receives an increased budget. The signs are looking good, however, as within the lost nine months the Brazilian inflation rate has been miraculously reduced from around 50% to single figures.
The man primarily responsible for this has recently been elected as President, and as Brazil has its own vibrant and successful aerospace industry, the signs are good.
Money will of course have to be found for the acguisition of five EMB-120 Brasilias on which the Ericsson radars will be mounted for the SIVAM project, and no doubt the FAB will be anxious to increase the rate of delivery of its A-1s.
The FAB is still believed to be keen on an avionics upgrade for its F-5 fleet, perhaps using some equipment developed for the AMX programme. The ageing fleet of UH-1H helicopters will soon need replacing. Economics may dictate an upgrade programme, though acquisition of a replacement, such as the AS 365 which is already licence built for the Army, cannot be ruled out, despite being considerably more expensive. Regardless of severe budget cuts, the Forca Aerea Brasileira remains a credible force, and although it may be dossed as a Third World country, it has dedicated personnel with first rate professionalism.
Acknowledgements: The Author wishes to sincerely thank Lt Col Antonio Cecchi and Major Roberto Mauro of FAB Headquarters for their generous assistance and hospitality, without which this article would not have been possible. Thanks are also due to travelling companion Alec Molton for his assistance, and to Jon Lake for helping to gain approval for the project.