Brazilian aircraft carrier São Paulo (A12)
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|Laid down:||15 November 1957|
|Launched:||23 July 1960|
|Commissioned:||15 July 1963|
|Decommissioned:||15 November 2000|
|Identification:||Pennant number: R99|
|Fate:||Sold to the Brazilian Navy|
|Namesake:||State of São Paulo|
|Launched:||1960 by France|
|Commissioned:||15 November 2000|
|Out of service:||14 February 2017|
|Status:||Demobilised, to be Decommisioned|
|Notes:||see Foch (R99) for prior history|
|Class and type:||Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier|
|Length:||265 m (869 ft)|
|Beam:||31.7 m (104 ft)|
|Draught:||8.60 m (28.2 ft)|
|Propulsion:||6 Indret boilers, 4 steam turbines producing 126,000 hp, 2 propellers|
|Speed:||32 knots (59 km/h)|
|Range:||7,500 nautical miles (13,900 km) at 18 knots|
|Complement:||1,338 men (1,920 including the air group). 984 men if only helicopters are carried.|
|Armament:||four 100 mm turrets, two SACP Crotale EDIR systems, five 12.7 mm machine guns, 4 dual Simbad launchers|
|Aircraft carried:||39 aircraft: 22 jets and 17 helicopters. A-4KU Skyhawks, AS 532 SC Cougars, HB 350 & HB.355 Ecureuils, and SH-3 Sea Kings|
NAe[a] São Paulo was a Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier in service with the Brazilian Navy. São Paulo was first commissioned in 1963 by the French Navy as Foch and was transferred in 2000 to Brazil, where she became the new flagship of the Brazilian Navy. IHS Jane's reported that during its career with the Brazilian Navy, São Paulo suffered from serviceability issues and never managed to operate for more than three months at a time without the need for repairs and maintenance. On 14 February 2017, the navy announced the ship's demobilisation and subsequently decommissioning.
The aircraft carrier São Paulo was built in France between 1957 and 1960, and served in the French Navy as Foch. In September 2000, she was purchased by Brazil for US$30 million — no aircraft were included in the price — to replace the aged World War II-era carrier Minas Gerais, which had been in commission for over 40 years. Brazil had previously approached other countries, such as Spain, who wanted to construct a US$500 million carrier for Brazil, about the acquisition of a carrier. The government had already purchased a flotilla of 23 used A-4 Skyhawk fighter planes from Kuwait for $70 million; these planes, along with existing helicopters already in the national defense inventory, were to compose the São Paulo fighter-bomber group. These A-4s (designated AF-1) are capable of carrying armament including rockets, free-fall bombs, and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
The Clemenceau-class aircraft carriers, of which São Paulo is the last surviving member, are of conventional CATOBAR design. The flight deck is 265.5 metres (871 ft) long by 29.5 metres (97 ft) wide; the landing area is angled at 8 degrees off of the ship's axis. The forward aircraft elevator is to starboard, and the rear elevator is positioned on the deck edge to save hangar space. The forward of two 52-metre (171 ft) catapults is on the bow to port; the second catapult is farther back on the angled landing deck. The hangar deck dimensions are 152 metres (499 ft) by 22 to 24 metres (72 to 79 ft) with 7 metres (23 ft) overhead.
In September 2000, São Paulo was purchased while still operational, an unusual process for such a large ship. She was received by the Brazilian Navy and was incorporated into the Brazilian Navy on 15 November 2000. The incorporation of São Paulo and the AF-1 fighter group marked the realization of Brazil's long-held goal of being able to conduct aerial defense of its naval forces with fixed-wing aircraft.
The transfer of the aircraft carrier São Paulo to the Operative Sector of the Navy adds to our naval power an important magnification in its ability of defense of the Brazilian interests at sea. A country as ours, possessing an extensive coast, with more than 7,000 kilometers of coast, requires a naval power compatible with its stature in the international scene. Today, as before, Brazil is concerned about implementing concrete measures that offer the nation the guarantee of respect to its sovereignty. We are and we will always be a nation that fights for peace, however, that does not mean being able to do without modern Armed Forces, enabled and endowed with adequate dissuasive potential. Few countries, even today, have the capacity to operate with efficiency in the high seas. It is important that Brazil continues to be one of them."
Since her construction, São Paulo has received multiple upgrades, leaving her with a diverse range of technologies. In her current form, she is expected to remain effective in her role for the foreseeable future, though further modernization efforts are expected as she is converted into a combat-ready vessel.
In her first three years of service as São Paulo, the ship completed several missions, some in foreign waters, particularly Operations ARAEX, PASSEX, and TEMPEREX, which is used annually to qualify and train the Argentine Navy's Super Étendards and S-2T Turbo Trackers.
São Paulo currently serves mainly to train pilots to fly carrier operations. She is actively used for the qualification and re-qualification of rotary and fixed-wing pilots (with about 500 catapult launches)[clarification needed], and she was used during the first Brazilian exercises to practice carrier-based attack missions.
On 17 May 2004, an explosion took place in the steam network of the engine room. The explosion initially killed one crew member and injured ten others. All casualties were airlifted by helicopter to the Marcilio Dias Naval Hospital, Rio de Janeiro. Two of the injured crew later died in hospital from their injuries. Cause of the explosion was a rupture in the vapor pipeline. After this accident, the Navy decided to undertake an extensive overhaul to repair and modernize the ship.
Upgrade (2005–2010) and sea trials
During 2005–10, São Paulo underwent extensive modernization. The upgrade included inspection and repair of the steam turbines; maintenance of the surface condensers; retubing of boilers; repair of two high-pressure compressors; revision of the AC electrical generator; purchase of spare parts; maintenance of pumps, valves, and structural items; addition of two API oil-water separators; installation of two water cooling units; upgrade of the chemical oxygen generator; repair and treatment of oil tanks; substitution of the Naval Tactical Data System; installation of a closed-circuit television system; installation of an IFF transponder; installation of a MAGE system (ESM); flight deck inspection, repair, and painting; upgrade of the Optical Landing System processing unit; and revision of the aircraft catapults. The upgrade was completed in July 2009, and the São Paulo was initially due to be fully operational by August 2010.
Twelve Brazilian Navy A-4 Skyhawks were also scheduled to be upgraded by Embraer at a cost of $140 million. The upgrade was similar to the ones done for the AMX and F-5EM aircraft of the Brazilian Air Force. The program included restoring the aircraft and their current systems, as well as implementing new avionics, radar (specifically the Elta 2032 radar system), power production, and autonomous oxygen generating systems. Possible weapons to be included in the upgrade were MAA-1B, Python 4, and Derby AAMS.
According to an article in the October 2010 issue of Air Forces Monthly, it has been confirmed that Brazil has purchased ex-Australian and ex-Uruguayan C-1 Trader airframes, for conversion into AEW planes and Tanker aircraft. All of the planes were to be upgraded to S-2T Turbo Tracker configuration with Honeywell TPE 331-14GR engines. The purchase included nine airframes, of which two were for tanker conversion to refuel the AF-1 Skyhawks, and three were for AEW. The rest were purchased as for spares or for cargo duties. The AEW radar requirement was to have a range of 250 miles at 25,000 feet. Operational lifespan for the airframes was to be 10 years. They were expected to be ready in 2011 and 2012.
São Paulo's SH-3 helicopter fleet was to be replaced by six S-70B Seahawk helicopters. They were purchased in 2008, upgraded, and refurbished for delivery. The helicopters and a package of engines and support equipment were scheduled for delivery in 2009.
At the end of 2010, sea trials began, and as of 2011 São Paulo had been evaluated by the CIASA (Inspection Commission and Training Advisory).
Refit and decommissioning (2012–2017)
São Paulo was expected to rejoin the fleet in late 2013, but suffered another major fire in 2012. As of September 2016, she continued to undergo repairs; the commander of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Eduardo Leal Ferreira, said plans were in place to renew the carrier's propulsion system. The ship's catapult was also reported to have problems. On 14 February 2017, the Navy announced the ship would be demobilised and subsequently decommissioned, citing the uneconomical cost of further repairs.
São Paulo (foreground) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) during a combined training exercise in June 2004
São Paulo in Rio de Janeiro in 2007
Argentine Navy Turbo Tracker operating on São Paulo
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