Protecting Brazil’s Riches
The start of exploration of the oil deposits along the Brazilian coast caught the attention of foreign powers. Multinational companies, supported by the governments of their countries, did not recognize the region as Brazilian territory and affirmed that the fields were in international waters. The Brazilian government, concerned about the growing threat to its sovereignty, decided to increase its vigilance, conducting patrols in the region, and threatened to attack vessels that violated its maritime territory for prospecting and exploration activities in search of natural resources.
The 1st Interception and Attack Air Squadron is headquartered at São Pedro D’Aldeia Naval Airbase (Rio de Janeiro). Created by the Brazilian Navy 12 years ago, the Falcon Squadron marked the return of fixed-wing aircraft to Naval aviation. The A-4 Skyhawk plane flown by the VF-1 Squadron is a living legend among fighter planes.
Designed by McDonnell Douglas in the 1950s to carry out nuclear attack missions and to be capable of operating from aircraft carriers, it began a history of success that has lasted until now. It has participated in wars countless times, including during the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, the Falklands War, and the Gulf War. The 12 planes currently in service in the Brazilian Navy were purchased from Kuwait, from a lot of 23, in 1998.
While in service in the Kuwaiti Air Force, they participated in the Gulf War, in a very unusual operation. When Saddam Hussein invaded the country, several pilots succeeded in fleeing with their aircraft to Saudi Arabia, from where they took off on attack missions, dropping tons of bombs on, precisely, Kuwaiti territory, trying to free the country from Iraqi occupation.
When these aircraft arrived in Brazil, they were painted with the phrase “Free Kuwait” and brought with them sand from the desert, and in some cases, bullet holes in their fuselages. Even so, they were acquired in great condition, since they belonged to the last lot manufactured between 1977 and 1978, in the A-4KU version. In Brazil, they were named the AF-1 (single-seat) and AF-1A (two-seat). The A-4 is a robust airplane and can carry its own weight in weapons of different kinds.
In 2009, the Navy Command signed a contract with Embraer Defesa e Segurança to modernize 12 aircraft. This modernization process will enable greater independence in the operations conducted by the squadron and greater efficiency in fulfilling the missions for which it is responsible. It will also extend the A-4 Skyhawk’s useful life by at least 15 years, preparing the crews to operate in the contemporary theater of naval operations.
Although not currently anticipated, anti-ship missiles and BVR missiles could also be integrated into the aircraft in a second phase. The most important part of this modernization will be training Naval aviation fighter pilots to operate the future generation of F-X2 aircraft, since we know that the model chosen by the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) will be the same one acquired by the Brazilian Navy, which wants to acquire at least 12 aircraft by 2020.