Portuguese Air Force
|Força Aérea Portuguesa
(Portuguese Air Force)
Portuguese Air Force Coat of Arms
|Founded||July 1, 1952 (62 years)|
|Role||National air defense, reconnaissance, ground forces and naval support operations, transport, search and rescue, and maritime air patrol|
|Part of||Portuguese Armed Forces|
|Command HQ||Estado-Maior da Força Aérea|
|Motto||Latin: Ex Mero Motu
"Of his own free will"
|Engagements||Portuguese Colonial War|
|Air Force Chief of Staff||General José Pinheiro|
|Attack||Lockheed Martin F-16, Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet|
|Fighter||Lockheed Martin F-16|
|Patrol||P-3 Orion, C-295MPA/Persuader|
|Trainer||Alpha-Jet, Epsilon TB 30, Chipmunk Mk 20, Aerospatiale Alouette III|
|Transport||C-130 Hercules, CASA C-295, EH-101 Merlin, Aerospatiale Alouette III, Dassault Falcon 20, Dassault Falcon 50|
The Portuguese Air Force (Portuguese: Força Aérea Portuguesa) is the air force of Portugal. In Portugal, it is referred to by the acronym FAP, but internationally is often referred to by the acronym PoAF. It is one of the three branches of the Portuguese Armed Forces.
The Portuguese Air Force was formed on July 1, 1952, when the former Aeronáutica Militar (Army Aviation) and Aviação Naval (Naval Aviation) were united in a single independent Air Force. However, its origins dates back to 1912, when military aviation began to be used in Portugal, later leading to the creation of the Army and Navy's aviation services.
- 1 History
- 2 Aircraft inventory
- 3 Organization
- 4 Units
- 5 Rank Structure
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The history of Portuguese military aviation dates back to 1911, when a Balloon Company was founded as part of the Army Telegraphic Service, later receiving a handful of airplanes. During World War I, an air unit was planned as part of the Portuguese Forces fighting in the Western Front, but was never activated. Several of the Portuguese airmen that were to integrate that air unit, instead flew in British and French squadrons. Serving in French squadron SPA 65, in November 1917, air ace Óscar Monteiro Torres became the first Portuguese pilot to be killed in an air combat, his SPAD S.VII being shot down, after himself having shot down two German fighters. In Mozambique, in the operations against German Eastern Africa, the Portuguese forces included a small squadron of Farman F.40 airplanes, this being one of the first employments of military aircraft in Africa.
In 1913, following the development of military aviation in Europe and the creation of the French Aéronautique Militaire, the Portuguese government started considering the creation of an aviation service with the intent of supporting the development of an Army and Navy aviation. As such, on May 14, 1914, the Military Aeronautical Service (Portuguese: Serviço Aeronáutico Militar) and School of Military Aeronautics (Portuguese: Escola de Aeronáutica Militar, EAM) were founded. Later in 1918, these services were reorganised and the Army's aviation was renamed to Service of Military Aeronautics (Portuguese: Serviço de Aeronáutica Militar) and was made directly dependent of the Ministry of War. The OGMA workshops at Alverca, which still exists under this name, and the first operational squadrons were founded that same year.
On September 28, 1917, the Navy Aviation Service and School was created, as well as the first naval aviation base, the Maritime Aviation Centre of Bom Sucesso, in Lisbon. During World War I, the Portuguese Naval Aviation employed flying boats based in Lisbon and latter in also in the Azores in anti-submarine patrols.
The Portuguese Navy's aviation service was later renamed two more times — in 1918 to Naval Aeronautical Service (Portuguese: Serviço da Aeronáutica Naval), and once again in 1936 to Navy Air Forces (Portuguese: Forças Aéreas da Armada).
The first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic was made by the Portuguese naval aviators Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho in 1922. They left the Lisbon Naval Air Station in Bom Sucesso, on March 30, in a Fairey III-D MkII seaplane of the Navy, specifically outfitted for the journey. The aircraft was equipped with an artificial horizon for aeronautical use, a revolutionary own invention of Gago Coutinho. They arrived on the Brazilian Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago on the April 17 and ended the journey in Rio de Janeiro on the June, 17.
The aviation of the Army gained the status of a full arm of service in 1924, becoming in equality with the other combat arms like the infantry or the artillery. It became known as Arm of Aeronautics (Portuguese: Arma de Aeronáutica) or Military Aeronautics (Portuguese: Aeronáutica Militar).
In 1931, occurred the only employment of an aircraft carrier by the Portuguese forces, when the merchant ship Cubango was transformed in an seaplane carrier to be integrated in the naval and military expedition deployed to Madeira to subdue a military uprising that had occurred in the island. Four Naval Aviation's CAMS 37 flying boats operating from the Cubando gave air support to the Government landing forces, being crucial for their victory in the subjugation of the revolutionaries.
In 1937, the Military Aeronautics underwent a major reorganization, gaining a large autonomy. Despite continuing to be administratively part of the Army, the Military Aeronautics now had a separate chain of command, with its forces under an Aeronautics Command directly dependent from the Minister of War.
Early involvement by the Portuguese military aviation included the Revolution in 1926 and the participation of a number of Portuguese pilots and other airmen in the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s.
Portugal was not directly involved in World War II, but had to defend its neutrality. An important effort was made to defend the strategic Azores islands from a possible invasion, including the deployment of most the Portuguese air combat squadrons to there. Later, good relations with the Allies resulted in the purchase of modern British and US aircraft, including the Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire and P-47 Thunderbolt, as well as others impounded after they landed due to mechanical problems or bad weather.
Portugal joined NATO in 1949 as one of its founders.
Creation of the independent Air Force
In August 1950, the Government role of Minister of National Defense was established to oversee all national military policy with coordinating authority over the Minister of the Army (former Minister of War) and the Minister of the Navy, and direct authority over the newly created role of Under-Secretary of State for the Aeronautics (Portuguese: Subsecretário de Estado da Aeronáutica), which was created with the objective of managing all the Portuguese military aviation.
The role of Under-Secretary of State for the Aeronautics was only activated and filled in 1952, when the Aeronáutica Militar was organized as an independent branch of the Armed Forces, at the same time integrating the Naval Aviation. By this new organization, the air forces included independent forces and forces of cooperation. The air forces of cooperation could be placed under Army or Navy command for operational purposes. As such, the naval aviation personnel were under the command of the Under-Secretary of State for the Aeronautics under the status of deployed, and the naval aviation units formed a semi-independent branch for operational and training purposes, designated Naval Air Forces (Portuguese: Forças Aeronavais).
These events are what is considered to be the creation of the Portuguese Air Force (PoAF) as an independent branch of the Armed Forces.
From the Army Aviation:
- Independent Aviation Fighter Group, in Espinho, with two squadrons of Hawker Hurricane fighters. Its aviation infrastructures were renamed as Base Airfield No. 1, being deactivated in 1955;
- Air Base No. 1, in Sintra, focused on flight training;
- Air Base No. 2, in Ota, with a Junkers Ju 52/3m transport squadron and three fighter squadrons, one equipped with P-47 Thunderbolt attack aircraft, and the other two with Supermarine Spitfire fighters;
- Air Base No. 3, in Tancos, with a reconnaissance squadron equipped with Lysander aircraft and a group of fighter squadrons equipped with P-47 Thunderbolt attack aircraft.
- Air Base No. 4, in Lajes, supporting transport, reconnaissance and Search and Rescue missions, with various squadrons equipped with SB-17G Flying Fortress, C-54, and the first helicopter operated by the Portuguese Armed Forces, the Sikorsky UH-19;
- Lisbon's Airfield, equipped with transport aircraft of various types. In 1955 it was renamed as Base Airfield No. 1, being once again renamed in 1978 to Transit Airfield No. 1.
From the Naval Aviation:
- Aveiro Naval Aviation Centre, in São Jacinto, Aveiro, equipped with anti-submarine Curtiss Helldiver aircraft. Once under the Portuguese Air Force command its designation was changed various times, in which the longest one in use was Air Base No. 7;
- "Sacadura Cabral" Naval Aviation Centre, descendant of the Bom Sucesso Naval Aviation Centre, in Belém, transferred to Montijo in the 1950s. This unit was initially equipped with North-American T-6, Consolidated Fleet aircraft, and various Grumman aircraft. Later it was renamed Air Base No. 6.
Development of the Portuguese Air Force
The Portuguese national metropolitan and overseas territory was divided in 1956 in three major air regions, that started to exercise the operational command of the aerial units stationed in their area – later two semi-independent commands were created inside the 1st Air Region designated as air zones:
- 1st Air Region (1ª Região Aérea), with its headquarters in Lisbon, covering Continental Portugal, the Azores, Madeira, Portuguese Guinea and Cape Verde;
- Azores Air Zone (Zona Aérea dos Açores);
- Guinea and Cape Verde Air Zone (Zona Aérea da Guiné e Cabo Verde).
- 2nd Air Region (2ª Região Aérea), with its headquarters in Luanda, covering Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe;
- 3rd Air Region (3ª Região Aérea), with its headquarters in Lourenço Marques, covering Mozambique, Portuguese India, Macau and Portuguese Timor.
In 1955, the first Portuguese paratrooper unit was created under the command of the Air Force. The Portuguese paratrooper forces would continue to be a part of the Air Force until 1993, when they were transferred to the Army.
Starting in 1960, a number of air bases and other units were installed in the Portuguese overseas territories, under the command of the 2nd and 3rd air regions and the Guinea and Cape Verde Air Zone. By the mid-1960s, Cape Verde, Portuguese Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola and Mozambique were already covered by air bases and other airfields.
The Air Force in the Portuguese Overseas War
From 1961 to 1975, the Portuguese Air Force was deeply engaged in the three theatres of operation of the Portuguese Overseas War, both with aviation and paratrooper forces.
In the Overseas War, Portuguese Air Force had both strategic and tactical air missions.
The strategic mission consisted of the interterritorial connection between European Portugal and the Portuguese Guinea, Angola and Mozambique theatres of operations, using DC-6 and later Boeing 707 aircraft. After acquiring the Boeing 707, the Air Force was able take a large share of the transport missions that until then were made through the use of merchant ships, reducing the connection time between the different territories.
The tactical missions undertaken by the Portuguese Air Force in the three theatres of operations were:
- Attack missions (independent, reconnaissance, support and escort), using F-86, F-84 and Fiat G.91 fighters, PV-2 Harpoon and B-26 Invader bombers and North American T-6 light attack aircraft. Armed helicopters and Dornier Do 27 light aircraft armed with rockets were also used in some of these missions.
- Reconnaissance missions (visual and photo), using light aircraft like the OGMA/Auster D.5 and the Do 27, but also using B-26, PV-2, P-2 Neptune, C-47 and other aircraft prepared for air photo reconnaissance;
- Tactical transportation missions (assault, manoeuver, general and casualty evacuation), using Alouette II, Alouette III and Puma helicopters, OGMA/Auster D.5, Do-27 and other light aircraft and Nord Noratlas and C-47 heavy aircraft;
- Other missions (liaison, control, operational air command post, VIP transportation and others), using several types of aircraft.
In Angola and Mozambique, Volunteer Air Formations (FAV, Formações Aéreas Voluntárias) units were formed, composed of civilian volunteer pilots who assisted the Portuguese Air Force in several missions, mostly transport and reconnaissance, using both civilian and military light aircraft.
The Air Force also participated in ground and air-ground operations with its paratrooper forces, which became one of the main shock forces of the Portuguese Armed Forces. These troops, in the beginning of the War were mainly launched by parachute to the operations areas, but later were mainly employed in air assault operations using Alouette III and Puma helicopters. Besides the four regular paratrooper battalions (one in Angola, one in Portuguese Guinea and two in Mozambique), the Air Force was also involved in the creation of the paramilitary elite Paratrooper Special Groups in Mozambique. In order to stop the guerilla infiltrations in the Angola north border, the Counter Infiltration Tactical Unit (Unidade Táctica de Contra-Infiltração) was created, a mixed aviation/paratrooper unit, grouping trackers, paratroopers, helicopters and light aircraft.
The military coup in 1974 was partly caused by the war in Mozambique, Angola and Portuguese Guinea during the 1960s. It in turn led to these countries' independence in 1975. The turmoil of the revolution and the end of the war in the African colonies, which had involved 150,000 personnel, brought about a major reorganisation which reduced the 850 aircraft inventory of the PoAF in 1974 to only one third of that in 1976.
Since then Portugal has gradually regained its balance and changed the organisation of the PoAF in the interest of efficiency. Some of the noteworthy changes during the last decade include the closure of Air Base No. 3 in Tancos and Air Base No. 7 in Aveiro, the introduction of an independent naval helicopter squadron in the Portuguese Navy, the acquisition of modern aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, which replaced the A-7P Corsair II, the relocation of several squadrons to other bases, and the privatization of the OGMA workshops.
More recently, since 2005, the Aerospatiale Puma has been replaced by 12 AgustaWestland EH-101 helicopters, mainly used in the search and rescue role, in Montijo, with two stationed at Lajes, Azores, and one on Porto Santo, Madeira. This was followed by the introduction of the EADS CASA C-295, which replaced the CASA C-212, and the arrival of five former-Netherlands Naval Aviation Service P-3C Orion to replace the older P-3P Orion fleet. The F-16 fleet has completed the Mid Life Update conversion and update, with the fighters now in service with two squadrons at Monte Real.
|F-16 Fighting Falcon||United States||Fighter||F-16AM-15MLU
|Originally 20 were bought in 1990 and another 25 in 1998 directly from the US, 1 was lost in an accident in 2002 (pilot died), 1 was lost in an accident in 2008 (pilot survived), 1 was grounded after an accident during the landing in 2013 (pilot survived), 12 were sold to Romania in 2013, 1 is being exposed as a monument at the entrance of an air base and 4 are not capable of flying anymore|
|Maritime patrol aircraft|
|CASA C-295||Spain||Maritime patrol aircraft||C-295MPA||5|
|Lockheed P-3 Orion||United States||Maritime patrol aircraft||P-3C CUP+||5|
|Lockheed C-130 Hercules||United States||Transport aircraft||C-130H
|CASA C-295||Spain||Transport aircraft||C-295M||7|
|Dassault Falcon 50||France||Transport aircraft||2|
|de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk|| United Kingdom
|Trainer Aircraft||6||From the original 30 units, seven were modified at OGMA and Indústrias Aeronáuticas de Coimbra, in 1989, including the installation of a new 180 HP engine|
|Aérospatiale Epsilon TB-30|| France
|Basic Trainer||16||Manufactured by OGMA|
|Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet|| France
|Advanced Trainer||Alpha Jet A||6||Originally 50 ex-German aircraft were received in 1992 and used as advanced trainers and ground attack aircraft. Replaced by the F-16 in the ground attack missions. The remaining aircraft are convertible to wartime operations|
|Fournier RF-10||France||Glider Trainer||4|
|Schleicher ASK 21||Germany||Glider Trainer||4|
|LET L-23 Super Blaník||Czech Republic||Glider Trainer||3|
|Aérospatiale Alouette III||France||Helicopter||SA316||7||Remaining of the 142 units received between 1963 and 1974|
|AgustaWestland AW101|| United Kingdom
|Search & Rescue
Combat Search & Rescue
- Unimog U-400
- Oshkosh T-3000
- Renault 320 DCI Premium Protec-Fire
- Mercedes-Benz 1823 Atego
- Long term planning — it is of the responsibility of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force seconded by the Vice-Chief of Staff, who runs the Staff of the Air Force.
- Short term planning — it is of the responsibility of the three major commands of the PoAF, that change the doctrinal directives into operational and technical directives:
- Air Command;
- Air Force Personnel Command;
- Air Force Logistics Command.
- Execution — The base units, depending hierarchically and functionally from the respective functional and technical Command, are responsible for the execution. They are formed into three Groups: Operational Group, Maintenance Group and Support Group, organized according to the mission and means assigned. These units are responsible for applying the directives, having the air operations as outcome.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force
The Chief of Staff of the Air Force (Portuguese: Chefe do Estado-Maior da Força Aérea, CEMFA) is the commander of the Portuguese Air Force. It is the only full General (four stars) of the Air Force.
Under its direct command are the following bodies:
- Vice Chief of Staff;
- Staff of the Air Force;
- Air Force Inspection Agency (Inspeção Geral da Força Aérea);
- Air Force Academy (Academia da Força Aérea, AFA);
- Directorate of Finance (Direção de Finanças);
- Air, Personnel and Logistics commands;
- Air Force Legal Department;
- Air Force Historical Archive.
Staff of the Air Force
The Staff of the Air Force (Portuguese: Estado-Maior da Força Aérea, EMFA) is responsible for studying, conceiving and planning the Air Force activities, supporting the Air Force Chief of Staff decisions. The EMFA is commanded by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force (VCEMA), a Lieutenant-General, who is seconded by a Major-General, called Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force (SUBCEMFA).
It consists of a Personnel Division (1ª Divisão - Pessoal), an Intelligence Division (2ª Divisão - Informações), a Operations Division (3ª Divisão - Operações), a Logistics Division (4ª Divisão - Logísticas), and of Support Units (Orgãos de apoio).
Air Force Logistics Command
The Air Force Logistics Command (Portuguese: Comando da Logística da Força Aérea) is commanded by a Lieutenant-General and has, as its mission, the management of the Air Force's materials resources in order to accomplish the CEMFA's plans and directives.
Under its command it has the following bodies:
- Directorate of Supplying and Transports;
- Directorate of Communications and Information Systems;
- Directorate of Engineering and Programs;
- Directorate of Infra-Structure;
- Directorate of Weapons Systems Maintenance;
- General Storage Complex of the Air Force (Depósito Geral de Material da Força Aérea, DGMFA).
Air Force Personnel Command
The Personnel Command of the Air Force (Portuguese: Comando de Pessoal da Força Aérea) is commanded by a Lieutenant-General that administers the human resources of the Air Force in accordance with the CEMFA's plans and directives.
Under its command it has the following bodies:
- Directorate of Personnel;
- Directorate of Training;
- Directorate of Health;
- Justice and Discipline Service;
- Social Welfare Service;
- Religious Support Center;
- Recruitment Center;
- Military and Technical Training Center of the Air Force;
- Lumiar Base.
The Air Command (Portuguese: Comando Aéreo), commanded by a Lieutenant-General, plans, directs and controls the efficiency of the air power, the air activity and defence of the national air space. It is also of the Air Command's responsibility the security of the Air Force bases and units.
The Air Command's base units guarantee the readiness of the air units and the logistic and administrative support of all the units and boards based there but depending on other commands. Organization:
- The main air bases, when they have their own air assets
- The forward air bases, when they support deployed air assets. Examples of these bases are the Transit and Maneuvers Airfields
Surveillance and detection units
The Surveillance and Detection Units (Portuguese: Unidades de Vigilância e Detecção, UVD) guarantee the operational of these same means.
- Radar Station No. 1 (ER1) — Fóia
- Radar Station No. 2 (ER2) — Paços de Ferreira
- Radar Station No. 3 (ER3) — Montejunto
- Radar Station No. 4 (ER4) - Caniço (Madeira)
Air Zones have the mission of planning, supervising and controlling the readiness of the air power resources and the air activity in their area of responsibility, of the accomplishment of the established plans. Guaranteeing, under the terms established in international agreements, the relationships with the foreign forces stationed at the base units under their hierarchic authority, but keeping the status inherent to the unit commander.
Existing Air Zones commands:
- Azores Air Zone Command
It has the Lajes Air Base (BA4) under its dependency.
- Madeira Air Zone Command (inactive)
Esquadras (squadrons) are considered to be the basic flying unit of the Portuguese Air Force, in which aircraft are integrated into to carry out missions. Squadrons are under the command and part of operational groups (Portuguese: Grupo Operacional), which in turn are dependent of the air base at which they, and the squadron, are based.
Flight squadrons receive a designation of three numerical digits, in which the first indicates its primary mission:
- 1 - Instruction squadron;
- 2 - Fighter squadron;
- 3 - Attack squadron;
- 4 - Reconnaissance squadron;
- 5 - Transport squadron;
- 6 - Maritime patrol squadron;
- 7 - Search and Rescue squadron;
- 8 - Special function squadron;
The second digit indicates the type of aircraft operated by the squadron:
The third digit is a sequential number of the same mission and aircraft type.
Esquadrilhas (flights) are the smallest flying units of the Air Force and have existed as independent units and as part of existing squadrons.
Air bases and flying units
The order of battle of the Portuguese Air Force is as follows:
- 802 Sqn. "Águias" (Eagles) — Air Force Academy squadron
- 101 Sqn. "Roncos" (Roars) — elementary and basic flying training
- 502 Sqn. "Elefantes" (Elephants) (Detachment) — search and rescue detachment
- 751 Sqn. "Pumas" (Pumas) (Detachment) — search and rescue detachment
- 201 Sqn. "Falcões" (Falcons) — F-16 fighter squadron
- 301 Sqn. "Jaguares" (Jaguars) — F-16 fighter squadron
- 501 Sqn. "Bisontes" (Bisons) — tactical transport squadron
- 502 Sqn. "Elefantes" (Elephants) — tactical and general transport squadron
- 504 Sqn. "Linces" (Lynxes) — VIP and MEDEVAC transport squadron
- 751 Sqn. "Pumas" (Pumas) — search and rescue squadron
- 103 Sqn. "Caracóis" (Snails) — complementary flying training and operational transition training
- 552 Sqn. "Zangões" (Drones) — tactical air transport operations and complementary flying training in helicopters
- 601 Sqn. "Lobos" (Wolves) — maritime patrol squadron
- 552 Sqn. "Zangões" (Drones) (Detachment) — search and rescue detachment
- 751 Sqn. "Pumas" (Pumas) (Detachment) — Search and rescue detachment
- 502 Sqn. "Elefantes" (Elephants) (Detachment) — Search and rescue detachment
- Military and Technical Formation Center of the Air Force — Ota, Lisbon (LPOT)
- Air Museum (Museu do Ar) — Air Base No. 1 (BA1) — Sintra, Lisbon (LPST)
- General Storage Complex of the Air Force (DGMFA) — Alverca, Lisbon (LPAR)
- Field Firing Range of Alcochete (Campo de Tiro de Alcochete) (CTA) — Alcochete, Setúbal
|NATO Code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D)||Student Officer|
|Ranks in Portuguese||Marechal
da Força Aérea
|Ranks in English||Marshal
of the Air Force
Sergeants and enlisted
|Rank in Portuguese||Sargento-
|Rank in English||Command Chief Master Sergeant||Chief Master Sergeant||Senior Master Sergeant||Master Sergeant||Technical Sergeant||Staff Sergeant||Sergeant||Corporal||Senior Airman||Airman First Class||Airman||Airman Basic|
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cchbriefwas invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Air force of Portugal.|
- Portuguese Air Force, official website
- Portuguese Air Force Public Relations, official YouTube channel
- Portuguese Air Force Reports at Scramble
- 751 Squadron, official 751 Squadron website