Brazil   Brazilian Air Force - Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB)
Federative Republic of Brazil (Republica Federativa do Brasil)

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The The Brazilian Air Force History

The Brazilian Air Force (Portuguese: Força Aérea Brasileira, FAB) is the air branch of the Brazilian Armed Forces and one of the three national uniformed services. The FAB was formed when the Army and Navy air branch were merged into a single military force initially called "National Air Forces" in 1941. Both air branches transferred their equipment, installations and personnel to the new force.

According to the Flight International ( and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Brazilian Air Force has an active strength of 80,937 military personnel and operates around 715 aircraft.[2] The Brazilian Air Force is the largest air force in the Southern Hemisphere and the second largest in the Americas after the United States Air Force.

Contestado Campaign

The Contestado War was the first conflict in which Brazilian military aviation was employed. On September 19, 1914, taking advantage of a special train driving troops, three aircraft were boarded: a Morane-Saulnier biplace, a Morane-Saulnier monoplace and a Blitzer SIT biplace. The train continued from Rio de Janeiro passing through São Paulo where it would reach the São Paulo – Rio Grande railway to the station of União da Vitória.

Along the way, sparks shot through the locomotive, hitting a gallon of gasoline in one of the wagons carrying the dismantled aircraft. The fire spread, much like the planes. After the crash, only the Morane-Saulnier remained in flying condition.

In the conflict zone, he coordinated the construction of runways and hangars to be used in União da Vitória, Canoinhas and Rio Negro. Then, two Morane-Saulnier and special ammunition were brought from Rio de Janeiro, as well as a mechanic.

The first aerial activity occurred only on January 4, 1915, when a training flight followed the course of the Iguaçú River to the Timbo River. The first official mission took place on January 19 and the duration of the flight was just over an hour.

The following week, on February 25, 1915, a Morane-Saulnier had an accident. During a test flight in the vicinity of the field, the engine stopped and aircraft crashed with total loss, pilot survived.

March 1, 1915 was the scheduled date for a heavy attack on the rebels. The mission was to fly over the Valley of Santa Maria, to launch bombs on the rebels' stronghold, and to observe and direct the shots of the artillery and the advance of the infantry. Two Morane-Saulnier aircraft took off, but the attack was canceled due to adverse weather conditions, aircraft piloted by then lieutenant-aviator Ricardo Kirk suffered a crash and fell victim to fatally.

Ricardo Kirk was the first Brazilian Military Aviator. In 1891 he entered the Military Academy and he was promoted to ensign in November, 1893 and to first-lieutenant in March, 1898 and posthumously to captain in 1915.

Paulista War

Aviation had its important role in the war, although the two sides in struggle had few airplanes. The federal government had approximately 58 aircraft divided between the Navy and the Army.

On the other hand, the Paulistas had only two Potez and two Waco planes, in addition to a small number of tourist planes. At the end of July, the rebel government obtained another device, brought by Lieutenant Artur Mota Lima, who defected from Campo dos Afonsos in Rio de Janeiro. The "reds", as the federal government planes were known, not only acted on the lines of combat, but also were used to bombard several cities of São Paulo, among them Campinas, where they caused great damage. They also served as a propaganda weapon, dropping leaflets on enemy cities and into rebel concentration camps.

For the use of aerial means, General Góis Monteiro had in his Staff of two advisers, Captains Vasco Alves Secco and Carlos Pfaltzgraff Brazil.

Major Eduardo Gomes, commander of the Joint Aviation Group, who since the outbreak of hostilities had coordinated the employment of his unit and the reinforcements of the Military Aviation School, was designated, on September 16, Commander of the Air Units of the Army Detachment of the East.

On September 6, Major Ajalmar Vieira Mascarenhas was appointed Commander of the Air Units of the Detachment of the Southern Army.

The Navy's aircraft were under the direct operational control of the naval authorities, operating in support of the surface ships deployed near the port of Santos, to effect a naval blockade and also in support of the Naval Flotilla of Mato Grosso, based in Ladário. They also participated in operations with Military Aviation in the Paraíba Valley and on the southern front, in escort and observation missions.

The Air Force of São Paulo was bundled into the hands of Major Ivo Borges, Commander of the Aviation Units of the Constitutionalist Aviation, and Major Lysias A. Rodrigues, Commander of the Constitutionalist Aviation Group.


The establishment of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force in April 1918, and the creation of the Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) and the French Air Force during the 1920s drove the idea of uniting Brazilian air power under the same organization. Together with these events the Brazilian strategists were also influenced by the theories of Giulio Douhet, Billy Mitchell and Hugh Montague Trenchard.

The first public manifest to create an integrated military air service came up in 1928 when an army Major called Lysias Rodrigues wrote an article called "An urgent need: The Ministry of the Air" ("Uma premente necessidade: o Ministério do Ar"). Two years later the French Military Mission, working for the Brazilian Army, made the first steps to organize a national air arm. The idea got more support when a group of Brazilian airmen came from Italy in 1934 and explained the advantages of having a military aviation unified. Also, the Spanish Revolution and the first movements of World War II at the end of the thirties showed the importance of Air power for military strategies.

One of the main supporters of the plan to create an independent air arm was the then-president Getúlio Vargas. He organized a study group early in 1940 and the whole structure of the Ministry of Aeronautics (Ministério da Aeronáutica) was established the end of that year. This new governmental agency was responsible for the all aspects of the civil and military aviation including infrastructure, regulation and organization.

Formally, the Ministry of Aeronautics was founded on January 20, 1941 and so its military branch called "National Air Forces", changed to "Brazilian Air Force" (Força Aérea Brasileira – FAB) on May, 22. The Army ("Aviação Militar") and Navy ("Aviação Naval") air branches were extinguished and all personnel, aircraft, installations and other related equipment were transferred to FAB.

World War II Main articles: Brazilian Expeditionary Force, Italian Campaign (World War II), and Battle of the Atlantic

The Brazilian Air force made important contributions to the Allied war effort in World War II, especially as part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force on the Italian front.

From mid-1942 until the end of the war, the FAB also patrolled the Atlantic. On 31 July 1943 it claimed the German submarine U-199, which was located on the surface, off Rio de Janeiro, at 23°54′S 42°54′WCoordinates: 23°54′S 42°54′W. Two Brazilian aircraft, a PBY Catalina and a Lockheed Hudson, and an American PBM Mariner attacked the U-boat. The Catalina, named Ärará, was captained by 2º Ten.-Av. (2nd Lt.) Alberto M. Torres,[10] and hit U-199 with depth charges, sinking her. Forty-nine of the crew were killed, although twelve Germans managed to escape, including the captain. This was possible due to the Catalina's crew, who threw a lifeboat to the survivors.

1º Grupo de Aviação de Caça (1º GAVCA; "1st Fighter Group"), which saw action in Italy, was formed on December 18, 1943. Its commanding officer was Ten.-Cel.-Av. (Aviation Lieutenant Colonel) Nero Moura.

The group had 350 men, including 43 pilots. The group was divided into four flights: Red ("A"), Yellow ("B"), Blue ("C"), and Green ("D"). The CO of the group and some officers were not attached to any specific flight. Unlike the BEF's Army component, the 1º GAVCA had personnel who were experienced Brazilian Air Force pilots. One of them was Alberto M. Torres, who had piloted a PBY Catalina that had sunk U-199, operating off the Brazilian coast.

The group trained for combat in Panama, where 2º Ten.-Av. (Aviation Second Lieutenant) Dante Isidoro Gastaldoni was killed in a training accident. On May 11, 1944, the group was declared operational and became active in the air defense of the Panama Canal Zone. On June 22, the 1º GAVCA traveled to the US to convert to the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt.

On September 19, 1944 the 1º GAVCA left for Italy, arriving at Livorno on October 6. It became part of the 350th Fighter Group of the USAAF, which in turn was part of the 62nd Fighter Wing, XXII Tactical Air Command, of the 12th Air Force.

The Brazilian pilots initially flew from 31 October 1944, as individual elements of flights attached to 350th FG squadrons, at first in affiliation flights and progressively taking part in more dangerous missions. Less than two weeks later, on November 11, the group started its own operations flying from its base at Tarquinia, using its tactical callsign Jambock. Brazilian Air Force stars replaced the white U.S. star in the roundel on the FAB Thunderbolts. The 1oGAVCA started its fighting career as a fighter-bomber unit, its missions being armed reconnaissance and interdiction, in support of the US Fifth Army, to which the FEB was attached. On April 16, 1945, the U.S. Fifth Army started its offensive along the Po Valley. By then, the strength of the Group had fallen to 25 pilots, some having been killed and others shot down and captured. Some others had been relieved from operations on medical grounds due to combat fatigue. The Group disbanded the Yellow flight and distributed the surviving pilots among the other flights. Each pilot flew on average two missions a day.

On 22 April 1945, the three remaining flights took off at 5-minute intervals, starting at 8:30 AM, to destroy bridges, barges, and motorized vehicles in the San Benedetto region. At 10:00 AM, a flight took off for an armed reconnaissance mission south of Mantua. They destroyed more than 80 tanks, trucks, and vehicles. By the end of the day, the group had flown 44 individual missions and destroyed hundreds of vehicles and barges. On this day the group flew the most sorties of the war; consequently, Brazil commemorates April 22 Brazilian Fighter Arm Day.

In all, the 1oGAVCA flew a total of 445 missions, 2,550 individual sorties, and 5,465 combat flight hours, from 11 November 1944 to 6 May 1945. The XXII Tactical Air Command acknowledged the efficiency of the Group by noting that although it flew only 5% of the total of missions carried out by all squadrons under its control, it accomplished a much higher percentage of the total destruction wrought:

85% of the ammunition depots
36% of the fuel depots
28% of the bridges (19% damaged)
15% of motor vehicles (13% damaged)
10% of horse-drawn vehicles (10% damaged)

Post World War II

After the war, the FAB began flying the British Gloster Meteor jet fighter. The jets were purchased from the British for 15,000 tons of crude cotton, as Brazil had no foreign currency reserves to spare. The jet was operated by the FAB until the mid-1960s, when it was replaced by the F-80C and TF-33A, which were later replaced by the MB-326, Mirage III and Northrop F-5 jets.

During events involving the Lobster War, between 1961 and 1964, the Brazilian Air Force played an important role in monitoring and patrolling the large area of litigation with France, making its B-17 squadrons available for observation and photo-reconnaissance of French vessels close to Brazilian coast, in addition to using its most modern anti-submarine warfare means, such as the S-2 Tracker and P-2V Neptune.

Having been given authority over all national military aircraft since 1941, from her commissioning in 1961 to 1999 the Brazilian Air Force flew the S-2 Trackers of the aircraft carrier Minas Gerais while from 1965 naval aviation flew its own helicopters. Now naval aviation is also authorized to fly its own fixed wing carrier based aircraft.

Cold War

During the Cold War, the then Brazilian military government was aligned with the United States and NATO. This meant that the Northrop F-5 could be bought cheaply from the United States, which called this jet the "Freedom Fighter". Many other countries, such as Mexico, also benefited from this policy. But Brazil did not buy the F-5A Freedom Fighter, instead buying the F-5 Tiger II years later.

In the middle of the Cold War, between 1970 and 1974, the Brazilian Air Force used its attack aircraft to bomb camps of internal Maoism guerrilla groups in the regions of the Vale do Ribeira and in the Araguaia River, attacking targets inside the jungles, using NA T-6 attack planes and B-26 Invader bombers armed with napalms.

In 1977 the Brazilian Air Force conducted Operation Saucer regarding alleged UFO sightings in the city of Colares. The objects observed in the military records received the nickname of luminous bodies and were associated with phenomena reported by residents and authorities, reported by the local press, which reported alleged attacks on the civilian population.

On April 9, 1982, the Brazilian Air Force showed its ability to guarantee Brazilian sovereignty. In the midst of the Falklands War, on a rainy Good Friday night, the radar system detected a lyushin II-62M, registration number CU-T1225, Soviet-made and belonging to Cubana, a Cuban state company about 300 km away from Brasilia. Two F-103E Mirage III fighters from the 1st Air Defense Group (1st GDA), based at Anápolis Air Base, took off at around 9:00 pm to carry out the mission to protect Brazilian airspace. Under the guidance of the ground control, the two F-103Es positioned themselves next to the Cuban invader. It was then that, from the Military Operations Center, Major José Orlando Bellon said on the radio, in English: “You were intercepted. There are two combat aircraft at your side. The order is to land in Brasilia immediately ”. Under the surveillance of Brazilian hunters, they made a landing at Brasilia International Airport at 10:12 pm.

On June 3, 1982, two F-5E Tiger II fighters from the 1st Fighter Aviation Group, based at the Santa Cruz Air Force Base - Rio de Janeiro, intercepted an Avro Vulcan Royal Air Force that had technical problems when returning from a mission during the Falklands War in the South Atlantic ocean off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The aircraft was temporarily detained in Brazil.

Between the night and the dawn of the 18th and 19th of May 1986, occurred one of the most mysterious episodes in Brazilian military history, about twenty one UFOs were detected by the radars of the Integrated Center for Air Defense and Air Traffic Control (Cindacta I), based in Brasilia, taking the Brazilian Air Defense Operations Center to send F-5 Tiger II and Mirage III fighters to intercept the dozens of targets over the sky in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, on the night that became known as "the official night of the UFOs" or "UFO battle in Brazil". On May 23, 1986, the then Minister of Aeronautics, Lieutenant Ar Octávio Júlio Moreira Lima, gave a press conference, together with the fighter pilots, confirming all events. The military survey carried out by the Brazilian Air Force concluded that: "The constant facts observed, in almost all presentations, this Command is of the opinion that the phenomena are solid and reflect, in a certain way, intelligence, due to the ability to monitor and keep distance from observers as well as flying in formation, not necessarily manned."

The Embraer (Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica, Brazilian Aeronautic Co.) company has its origins as an enterprise directly managed and sponsored by the FAB. Working with Italian corporations, it developed the new AMX attack aircraft (known locally as the A-1) which makes up the backbone of the FAB's attack force. The successful Tucano T-27 trainer and the new A-29 light attack aircraft are also Embraer types used extensively by the FAB.

During Operation Traira, in February 1991, six Tucanos were used for close air support against a group of 40 rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC), which had seized a Brazilian military detachment.

Post Cold War

Embraer AT-26 Xavante, withdrawn from service in 2010.

In October, 2002, the Brazilian Air Force used its A-1 AMX fighter bombers to destroy clandestine airstrips used by the narcotics traffickers in the interior of the Amazon rainforest near the border with Suriname.

Between 2004 and 2017, the FAB worked on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) supporting the United Nations force (a joint Brazilian, Uruguayan, Chilean and Argentine force) deployed there.

On november 21, 2008, Northrop F-5 fighter jets from the 1st Fighter Aviation Group based at the Santa Cruz Air Force Base intercepted a civilian cargo Douglas DC-8 from a private company in Ghana as it entered the brazilian airspace, off the coast of Cabo Frio, littoral of Rio de Janeiro. The aircraft was escorted by the Brazilian F-5s to the Galeão Air Force Base.

In 2010, the FAB worked on the Search & Rescue mission of Air France Flight 447. The Brazilian Air Force has started a search and rescue from the Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, sending eight planes to search a stretch bounded by the coastal cities of Recife, Natal and the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha.
F-5EM Tiger II on training for the 2016 Olympic Games.

On March 12, 2012, during the Operation Agata 4, the Brazilian Air Force used two A-29 Super Tucano to destroy a clandestine runway used by drug traffickers within the Amazon rainforest.

In January 2021, in the middle of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the brazilian city of Manaus, located in the interior of the amazon rainforest, was left with an overburdened medical service needing medical supplies and transferring patients, a major operation was set up by Brazilian air force, mobilizing all its available transport aviation, aircraft C-130, KC-390, C-97 Brasilia, C-95M Bandeirantes, CASA C-105 and C-99 were deployed for the largest aeromedical evacuation operation in Brazilian aviation military history.

Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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