The Brazilian Naval Aviation was established in 1965, in the face of bitter opposition from the Air Force which until recently controlled all fixed-wing aircraft. It remains predominantly a helicopter force with 10 squadrons of rotary-winged aircraft. Having broken the Air Force monopoly on fixed-wing military aircraft operation, the Navy formed in 1995 its first ship-borne combat squadron, equipped with 23 Skyhawks acquired from Kuwait. The five Grumman S-2E ASW and four S-2A transport and training aircraft previously operated by the Air Force from the aircraft carrier Minas Gerais were retired from service and were not passed on to the Navy.

In 1956 the Brazilian Navy expanded its capability by purchasing the retired aircraft-carrier HMS Vengeance from the Royal Navy at a price of US$9 million. The carrier, which between 1952 and 1955 had been in use by the Royal Australian Navy, was renamed A-11 Nae-L (L=light) "Minas Gerais" and underwent a lengthy refit in the Netherlands.

Finally, on 6 December 1960, the carrier departed for Brazil carrying three Westland Whirlwind helicopters from the UK and three Grumman TBM-3 Avengers obtained from the Royal Netherlands Navy. The Avengers were the first fixed-wing aircraft to operate from the new carrier. Soon after, three more Avengers were added to the inventory of the Navy, although they did not operate from the carrier on a permanent basis. More fixed-wing aircraft to be operated from the Nae-L Minas Gerais were bought during 1963: six North American T-28R-1 Trojans were a start and, of course, plans were laid for new aircraft purchases.

In November 1963 the Minas Gerais sailed for the first time to conduct carrier operations with Brazilian naval aircraft. This exacerbated the long existing rivalry between the Navy and Air Force. During November 1958 the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) had already formed a squadron specially focused on carrier operations. The 1st Embarked Aviation group (1°GAE), established at the Santa Cruz base, started to train its pilots and prepare them for the arrival of S-2A Trackers and SH-34J Seabat helicopters. During 1965 the Navy lost the rights to fly fixed-wing aircraft by Presidential Decree No. 55.627.

The Air Force had finally convinced the government that it should control all fixed-wing naval aviation. All naval aircraft had to be transferred to the air force, leaving just helicopters in the navy inventory. On 8 April 1988, the current President of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, ended this absurd situation by signing Presidential Decree No.2598.

Since taking office in 1994, Cardoso had been lobbied by Naval department staff, explaining to him the importance of fixed-wing aircraft in the Navy inventory. The law returned the rights of the Brazilian Navy to operate fixed-wing aircraft.
Studies for new aircraft to be operated from the NAeL Minas Gerais began in the mid-1990s. Aircraft evaluated by the navy were the Sea Harrier, Super Etendard and A-4 Skyhawk. Any plans to acquire the Sea Harrier were quickly dropped due to excessive costs of acquisition, operations and maintenance. The Super Etendard option was abandoned, simply because these aircraft were not available for sale. By far the best candidate was the McDonnell Douglas A-4.

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For the amount of $79 million, 23 Sky hawks (20 A-4KUs and three TA-4KUs) were purchased from the Kuwaiti Air Force. The deal also included around 65,000 spare parts and armament, including AIM-9H Sidewinders and 127-mm rockets. Twenty spare Pratt & Whitney J52-P-408 engines were delivered as well.

The Skyhawk's dimensions contributed to the choice of the Brazilian Naval Command about the new airfighter because of the operational limitations of the NAeL Minas Gerais (which was launched in February 1944). By the beginning of 1997 an active search for 'Scooters' had begun.

A big advantage of the former Kuwaiti A-4KU Skyhawk was the fact that, on average, each airframe had logged only 1,700 flying hours. A letter of intent to buy was signed in December 1997. However the final signature was only to be placed after the Presidential Decree had been signed.

In late 2002, the Navy is due to receive six buddy refueling pods for the Skyhawks, ordered from the US. Even though many spare parts were delivered with the aircraft, not all of them are easily available. Therefore, the Brazilian Navy has contracted several Brazilian companies to copy and manufacture rare parts for the AF-ls. An important supplier is the "Gespi" company, located in Sao Paulo State.

Nearly all the A-4 airframes have received an intensive overhaul and not all aircraft are currently used. Due to the present small number of pilots, about one third of the total I fleet is used for flight operations.

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The Brazilian Navy is at the final stage to upgrade the fleet of Skyhawks. The primary air defense task of VF-l means the upgrade will see an improvement in that specific area of the AF-l's operational capability. Although the final package has yet to be confirmed, it is likely to comprise a radar, cockpit upgrade with multifunction displays and HUD, mission computer, FUR, data link and radar warning receivers.

These Argentine Fightinghawk-like upgrades will enable the Skyhawk to use a modern array of armament, set to include the Brazilian MEE-l air-to-air missile. Several international and national companies will bid for this contract.
The contents of the program largely depends on the budget to be made available by the Ministry of Defense. After receiving the upgrade, the AF-1(A) Skyhawk should offer the Brazilian Navy at least 6,000 hours of service.

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Although advanced training for navy pilots had been standard, basic training had involved students receiving instruction at BAN Punta Indio in Argentina, or at BA 2 Capitan Curbelo near Punta del Este, Uruguay. However, all future AF-l pilots will now receive their basic training in Brazil by the Air Force.

The first part of this three-year training course begins at BA Pirassununga, where Navy students fly over 100 hours in the T-27 (EMB-312) Tucano. The second phase -combat jet training -is undertaken at BA Natal, where another 100 hours are flown on the AT -26 (EMB-326) Xavante.

Advanced and carrier training will still take place in the US, where the student pilots are trained on the Goshawk. Again, around 100 hours are being flown. During this phase the students will make their first arrested landing on an aircraft-carrier, as well as their first catapult launch. Normally this occurs after 70 flying hours on the T-45, but it can also begin at an earlier stage of the course, dependent on the availability of a training carrier. Back in Brazil, a 50-hour AF-l conversion course will be flown. After mastering the Sky hawk, the course progresses to various combat exercises, including air-to-ground missions with bombs and 20-mm cannon, and air combat maneuvering (ACM) against other AF-Ls The training syllabus also includes FCLP (Field Carrier Landing Practice) at Sao Pedro.

After the 50-hour conversion course the AF-l pilot still needs to become carrier-qualified. A minimum of 50 hours on type is required before the pilot can attempt a trap. After 30 traps pilots receives their qualifications to operate from the NAe Sao Paulo. At a later stage, night landings will be added to the syllabus, as soon as a special landing system on the carrier becomes available. Currently VF-l has eight pilots, who are all carrier qualified, and around 10 more are expected to join the squadron this year. By 2003 VF-l will have around 30 pilots available.

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In September 2001 the first Skyhawk was landed on Brazil's new carrier, the A-12 NAe Sao Paulo. This vessel replaced the aging Nae-L Minas Gerais on its arrival on 17 February 2001.

The "Clemenceau" class carrier was bought from the French navy, in whose service it had carried the name FNS Foch (R99), and had seen action off Lebanon and in the Adriatic. With the commissioning of the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle, Foch became surplus to requirements. With the Skyhawks in mind, the 1 Brazilian government decided to buy Foch for FF80 million (US$10.5 million). This price tag only included the carrier with all its non-offensive communication systems. All defensive armament was removed, consisting of eight 12.7-mm bow-guns, two 30-mm cannon, two Crotale EDIR missile launchers and two Sadral systems. Together with Foch, the French also tried to sell some Breguet Br1050M Alize aircraft, but the Navy was not interested.

The vessel is 265 m (869 ft 5 in) long and displaces 32,780 tons in deep load. This compares with the corresponding figures for Minas Gerais of 214.1 m (702 ft 5 in) and 19,345 tons. Sao Paulo is also considerably wider, measuring 45.72 m (150 ft) at maximum beam. It can reach a top speed of 32 km (59 km/h; 37 mph) and has a range of 7,500 km (13,890 km; 8,630 miles) at a cruising speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).

On March 10 2001 Sao Paulo left Brazilian harbor on its first operational cruise. Aboard were one HI-l IH-6B (Bell 206B) Jet Ranger III, one Hu-I UH-12 (HB-350BA) Esquilo, one HU-2 UH-14: (AS 332M) Super Puma (all three types in the utility role), two HS-l SH-3A!B (ASH-3D/ 1 SH-3H) Sea Kings (in the ASW role) and three AF-l (A-4KU) Skyhawks (in the air defense role). The primary task of the carrier is air defense, and in the future it will be equipped with a maximum of 14 aircraft, when more pilots and Sky hawks become available to VF-1.

For its next cruise Sao Paulo headed south 1 on 22 April for exercises with the Uruguayan and Argentine navies, landing on Argentine Navy Super Etendards and S-2T Turbo Trackers. More trips were planned for 2002, although by the end of the year the NAe Sao Paulo returned to the naval shipyard in Rio De Janeiro to have Italian "Aspide" surface-to-air missiles installed.

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The Brazilian

Rotary Wing

Naval Aviation

During 1952 a law was passed to allow the Brazilian Navy to reorganize and to create a Navy Aeronautic Division, which occurred in a 1954: In 1955 the Naval Aviation Center and Training facility (CIAAN) was founded in Rio de Janeiro. Shortly after that the first officers were sent to the United States to be taught about Naval aviation operations.

The 1st Embarked Aviation Group (GAB) consisted of the 1st Antisubmarine Aircraft Squadron equipped with the fixed-wing Avengers, 1st and 2nd Antisubmarine Helicopter Squadrons and the one General-purpose Helicopter Squadron (HU-l), which were equipped with Widgeons as well as a couple of Bell 47s. With he arrival of more Bell 47s the first Instruction Helicopter Squadron (HI-l) was formed in 1962.

Brazilian Naval Aviation saw some more changes in the 1980s when the IH-6As of HI-1 were replaced by the IH-6B (AB 206B JetRanger III) version between 1985 and 1987. Also six more Sea King helicopters were taken into the inventory of HS-1 in 1996, this time former USN SH-3H (SH-3B in Brazil) Sea Kings. The 1995 also saw the introduction of the AH-11A Super Lynx (Mk 21A) to HA-l from 1996, as well as the modernization of the five remaining Mk 21s to 'A' standard.

Currently the Brazilian Navy has around 78 helicopters in the inventory assigned to eight squadrons. All rotary-wing aviators receive around 18 months' training in HI-1 "Garza" on the IH-6B. On successful completion of the course, pilots then transfer to the operational units of the navy for conversion to type.

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In the Brazilian Navy five units were assigned to the utility role: HU-1 'Aquia' at Naval Air Station (BAN) sao Pedro da Aldeia, HU-3 at BAN Manaus, HU-4 at BAN Ladario and HU-5 at BAN Rio Grande. Currently these units use a mixed fleet of 7 single-engined UH-12 (HB-350) and nine twin-engined UH-13 (HB-355) Esquilo helicopters, all locally manufactured by Helibras under license from Eurocopter. The largest squadron, HU-1, operates 14 Esquilos, on a wide variety of tasks including liaison, support and SAR missions. The Esquilo can be equipped with small arms such as the MAG 7.62-mm or 12.7-mm machine-gun, or heavier armament like a seven-round 70-mm rocket launcher. In addition, two of HU-1's twin-engined Esquilos are used in support of Antarctica expeditions.

Another utility squadron, the HU-2 "Pegasus", operates seven UH-14 (AS 332F) Super Pumas. In addition to various roles, these larger, long-range helicopters are used for VIP and troop transport, and in the assault role, the latter conducted in close cooperation with the marines. Due to the UH-14's large size, it is only able to operate from two "Mattoso Maia" class assault ships and from the aircraft carrier "Sao Paulo". The UH-14s do not have an automatic rotor blade folding system, which makes them harder to handle on a flight deck or in a ship's hangar. In addition, They are equipped with a self-intlating flotation system, which activates on contact with water. The need for a heavy duty or a multirole platform is obvious.

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The oldest helicopter in the Brazilian Naval rotary-wing fleet is the Sea King of HS-l Guerreiro', Locally designated SH-3A (ASH-3A) and SH-3B (SH-3H), it forms the backbone of the airborne ASW fleet, providing the carrier air group with over-the-horizon (OTH) surface ship and submarine surveillance. Seven survivors of the original SH-3A fleet (Sikorsky-Agusta built), which entered service during the 1970s, were extensively modified by Agusta in 1987.

One of the most significant parts of this upgrade included the installation of equipment which enables the SH-3A to launch the Aerospatiale AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missile. Today, only Argentina, Chile and Peru are know to have the above OTH capability.

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Six SH-3Bs (and two spares) arrived in 1996 from the US on board the Minas Gerais Carrier. These former USN SH-3Hs were bought by the Brazilian Navy to compensate for the grounded Grumman S-2 Trackers of the FAB. These Sea Kings were equipped with AQS-18V sonar, which is more powerful than the AQS-13B fitted to the SH-3A. Armament of the SH-3B includes Mk 9 depth charges and Mk 46 torpedoes.

Both types of Sea Kings in HS-1 are night vision-capable, the unit's unofficial badge featuring an owl's face to symbolize this capability . The Brazilian Navy is currently deciding on a life-extension program for all its remaining Sea Kings. According to the deputy squadron commander of HS-1, the upgrade will cover ESM, FUR, radar, communication equipment and up-to-date avionics. It is planned to finish this upgrade program by 2003/2004. Theoretically, this will enable the Sea King to remain operational in Brazil at least until 2010.

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The other helicopter with teeth in the Navy is the AH-11 A Super Lynx (Mk 21-A) of HA-l "Lince". This unit, which also has its home at Sao Pedro DA Aldeia, is unlike all other helicopters squadrons as it operates on board the frigates of the Brazilian Navy. However, as frigates are also part of the carrier battle group, the AH-11A can also be employed in protection of the Sao Paulo carrier during Blue water operations. ( or as long as the carrier remain at least 45 miles from the enemy coast).

The Super Lynx's systems and equipment allow an all-weather capability, with autonomous over-water navigation. The MIR II Mk 2 ESM can identify enemy radar emissions, while the Sea Spray 3000 radar provides 360° surface search. The AH-11-A can carry up to four Sea Skua air-to-surface missiles (with a range of 8.1 nautical miles) that works with the undernose radar Sea Spray, two Mk 46 torpedoes or two Mk 9 depth charges. HA-l's main tasks are surveillance, surface attack, over-the-horizon targeting (OTHT), vectored submarine attack and electronic warfare. However, the lack of any kind of automatic machinegun system on board, make this aircraft an extremely vulnerable target to fast patrol crafts (or even to low cost fighters) operating in littoral waters. The type's all-weather capability is also put to good use on many other tasks. The previous 5 Mk-21 Lynx were upgraded to Mk21-A Standards and new serials were assigned.

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When the Argentinean Carrier 25 de Mayo was retired in 1987, the Argentinean Naval pilots were left without its naval landing platform. Since that day, they have been training at the dummy deck in the Comandante Espora base, located in Bahia Blanca in some opportunities, the Argentinean super entendard performed occasional bolters ("touch and go" exercises) in the Minas Gerais Carrier. As the old "Colossus" class did not have enough powerful catapults, the Argentinean pilots just had the opportunity to land their aircrafts in the Sao Paulo Carrier.

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Plans for other fixed-wing aircraft are currently under review, including the offer from EMBRAER for an upgraded version of the Grumnan S-2 Tracker. After the Argentine navy showed the capabilities of its own Turbo- Trackers on the Aircraft Carrier "Sao Paulo" in May 2002, it now seems likely that EMBRAER will receive more interest from the Brazilian Navy on this particular offer.

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Brazil has made big plans for naval aviation, with upgrades scheduled for the Skyhawks, Sea Kings and the Sao Paulo Carrier, plus the desire to acquire a fixed-wing patrol aircraft such as the Turbo Tracker. With international missions in the rise and with the obvious need to integrate its naval and Marine Corps forces more and more along UN peacekeeping operations, huge investments are due to be made very soon. However, with the aircraft carrier A-12 Sao-Paulo, Brazil retains its place in the short list of countries around the planet which are able to afford an impressive power projection platform such an Aircraft Carrier. The Brazilian naval aviation market is due for mayor platform purchases and weapon systems acquisitions, in the very short term.
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