Portuguese Air Force
|Força Aérea Portuguesa
Portuguese Air Force
Coat of Arms of the Portuguese Air Force
|Founded||July 1, 1952|
|Role||National air defense, reconnaissance, ground forces and naval support operations, transport, search and rescue, and maritime air patrol|
|Size||7,500 military personnel
1,000 civilian personnel
|Part of||Portuguese Armed Forces|
|Command HQ||Estado-Maior da Força Aérea|
|Motto||Ex Mero Motu (Of his own free will) (Latin)|
|Air Force Chief of Staff||José António de Magalhães Araújo 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 (PoAF) (Portuguese: Força Aérea Portuguesa, FAP) is the air force of Portugal. Formed on July 1, 1952, with the Aeronáutica Militar (Army Aviation) and Aviação Naval (Naval Aviation) united in a single independent Air Force, it is one of the three branches of the Portuguese Armed Forces and 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 Order of battle
- 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 and received a handful of aircraft. 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 Oscar 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 an aviation squadron, one of the first uses of combat 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 Aeronautic Service (Portuguese: Serviço Aeronáutico Militar) and School of Military Aeronautics (Portuguese: Escola de Aeronáutica Militar, EAM) are founded. Later in 1918 these services are reorganised and the Army's aviation is renamed to Military Aeronautical Service (Portuguese: Serviço de Aeronáutica Militar) and are made directly dependent of the Ministry of War. The OGMA workshops at Alverca, which still exists under this name, and the first operational squadrons are founded that same year.
On September 28, 1917, the Navy Aviation Service and School is created, as well the first naval aviation base, the Maritime Aviation Centre of Bom Sucesso, in Lisbon. The Portuguese Navy's aviation service is 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).
In 1924, the aviation of the army becomes a full arm of service, in equality with the infantry or the artillery. In 1937, it suffers a major reorganization, being endowed with an autonomous general command, practically becoming independent, although for administrative purposes it still stays integrated in the Ministry of the Army.
Early involvement by the Portuguese military aviation included the Revolution in 1926 and the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. Portugal was not directly involved in World War II, although good relations with the Allies resulted in the purchase of 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 function of National Defense Minister is established to oversee all national military policy with authority over the Ministry of the Army (former Ministry of War), Ministry of the Navy, and the newly created function of Under-Secretary of State for the Aeronautics (Portuguese: Subsecretariado de Estado da Aeronáutica), which is created with the objective of managing all the Portuguese military aviation.
Later in 1952, the Under-Secretary of State for the Aeronautics creates the General-Command of the Air Forces that starts to exercise the unified command over the aviation units of the Army and Navy. This new organization of the air forces started by including independent forces — the Army's former Ground Air Forces — and cooperations forces — the Navy's aviation service. 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 in 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 ultramarine territory was divided in 1956 in three major air regions, that start to exerce 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 War, the two main mission of the Portuguese Air Force was the strategic one and the tactical one. The strategic mission consisted in 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 carried away 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 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 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 BA3 Tancos and BA7 Aveiro, the re-introduction of an independent naval helicopter squadron, 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, the intention to acquire helicopters for the Army, to be based at Tancos, and the privatization of the OGMA workshops. The F-16A/B's are slowly being converted into F-16AM/BM's, with 31 already on the flightline at Monte Real, while at the Montijo base the 12 ordered EH-101's have now entered active service. Two are stationed at Lajes, Azores, and one on Porto Santo, Madeira.
- 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 (CEMFA), seconded by the Vice Chief of Staff (VICE-CEMFA), who runs the Air Force Headquarters (EMFA) with the Personnel, Intelligence, Operational and Logistics Divisions.
- 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:
- 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.
Air Force Headquarters
The Air Force Headquarters (Portuguese: Estado-Maior da Força Aérea, EMFA) are responsible for studying, conceiving and planning the Air Force activities, supporting the Air Force Chief of Staff (CEMFA) decisions. EMFA is commanded by the Vice Chief of Staff - VCEMFA who is seconded by a Major-General Pilot, called Vice Commander of EMFA.
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).
Under its command it has the following units:
- Air Force Inspection Agency (Portuguese: Inspecção Geral da Força Aérea IGFA);
- Air Force High Studies Institute;
- Air Force Academy (Portuguese: Academia da Força Aérea, AFA);
- Directorate of Computer Science (Portuguese: Direcção de Informática, DINFA);
- Air Museum;
- Air Force Historic Archive;
- Air Force Music Band;
Administrative and Logistic Command
The Administrative and Logistic Command of the Air Force (Portuguese: Comando Logístico e Administrativo da Força Aérea, CLAFA) 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 units:
- Logistics Directorate;
- Electronics Directorate;
- Infra-structure Directorate;
- Aeronautical Mechanic Directorate;
- Transportation Unit;
- CLAFA Administrative Service;
- Armaments Office;
- General Storage Complex of the Air Force (Portuguese: Depósito Geral de Material da Força Aérea, DGMFA);
- Air Force Airfield Engineering Group;
- Electronics Maintenance Centre.
The Operational Command of the Air Force (Portuguese: Comando Operacional da Força Aérea, COFA), 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 COFA's responsibility the security of the Air Force bases and units.
The COFA 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 means Air Bases 1, 4, 5, 6 and 11
- The Advanced Air Bases, when they support detached or operational air means. Example of these bases are the Operational 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)
The Portuguese Air Force aircraft are integrated in flight squadrons dependent of the air bases where they are based. These 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.
The Personnel Command of the Air Force (Portuguese: Comando de Pessoal da Força Aérea, CPESFA) 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 units:
- Personnel Directorate;
- Instruction Directorate;
- Medical Directorate;
- Justice and Discipline Council;
- Social Welfare Council;
- Religious Support Council;
- Health Institute of the Air Force;
- Air Force Hospital;
- Aeronautical Medicine Center;
- Air Force Psychology Center;
- Air Force Conscription Center;
- Lumiar Air Base;
- Air Force Military and Technical Training Centre.
Order of battle
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
|Oficiais Generais - General officers|
|Oficiais Superiores - Senior officers|
|Capitães e Subalternos - Junior officers|
|Capitão||Tenente||Alferes||Aspirante a oficial|
|Captain||Lieutenant||Second Lieutenant||Officer Candidate|
|Sargentos - Sergeants|
|Chief Master Sergeant||Senior Master Sergeant||Master Sergeant|
|1º Sargento||2º Sargento||Furriel||2º Furriel|
|Technical Sergeant||Staff Sergeant||Sergeant||Senior Airmen|
|Praças - Airmen|
|Cabo-adjunto||1º Cabo||2º Cabo|
|Airmen 1st Class||Airmen||Airmen Basic|
|Pessoal Em Preparação - Personnel Undergoing Training|
|Cadete de 4º Ano||Cadete de 3º Ano||Cadete de 2º Ano||Cadete de 1º Ano|
|4th-year Cadet||3rd-year Cadet||2nd-year Cadet||1st-year Cadet|
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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