Military Wiki
Força Aérea Portuguesa
Portuguese Air Force
File:Brasão da FAP.png
Coat of Arms of the Portuguese Air Force
Founded July 1, 1952
Country  Portugal
Type Air Force
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
150 aircraft
Part of Portuguese Armed Forces
Command HQ Estado-Maior da Força Aérea
Motto(s) Ex Mero Motu (Of his own free will) (Latin)
Air Force Chief of Staff José António de Magalhães Araújo Pinheiro
Roundel Normal roundelLow visibility roundel
Fin flash Portugal Air force fin flash.svg
Aircraft flown
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 language: 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.

Its Aerobatic display teams are the Asas de Portugal jet aircraft display team and the Rotores de Portugal helicopter display team.


Portuguese De Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moth at the Portuguese Air Force Museum

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.[1]

The Army and Navy aviations

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 language: Serviço Aeronáutico Militar ) and School of Military Aeronautics (Portuguese language: 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 language: 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.[1][2][3]

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 language: Serviço da Aeronáutica Naval ),[4] and once again in 1936 to Navy Air Forces (Portuguese language: Forças Aéreas da Armada ).[3][5][6]

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

PoAF North American T-6 at the Portuguese Air Force Museum

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 language: Subsecretariado de Estado da Aeronáutica ), which is created with the objective of managing all the Portuguese military aviation.[1][7][8]

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 language: Forças Aeronavais ).[9][10]

These events are what is considered to be the creation of the Portuguese Air Force (PoAF) as an independent branch of the Armed Forces.

With this merger, the PoAF started to have in its charge all the aviation infrastructures that until then belonged to the Army and the Navy. These included the following:[2][6][11][12]

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

Asas de Portugal display team.

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.

In 1958, the Naval Air Forces and the Ground Air Forces were completely integrated in the Air Force, ending any type of administrative connection, respectively, to the Navy and to the Army.[6][13]

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

Paratroopers being launched by a Portuguese Air Force's Alouette III, in an air assault operation in Angola, in the 1960s.

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.[14]

The tactical missions carried away by the Portuguese Air Force in the three theatres of operations were:

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 post-War

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.

An EH-101 helicopter from the Portuguese Air Force.

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. The Portuguese Air Force is distinguished by its engineers as they receive older versions of attack and transport helicopters and upgrade them successfully and turn them into up-to-date helicopters.

Aircraft inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Versions Quantity[15] Notes
Fighter aircraft
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States Fighter F-16AM-15MLU
35 12 for sale, two lost in accidents, one preserved[16]
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
Transport aircraft
Lockheed C-130 Hercules United States Transport aircraft C-130H
CASA C-295  Spain Transport aircraft C-295M 7
Dassault Falcon 20  France VIP Transport aircraft 1
Dassault Falcon 50  France VIP Transport aircraft 2
Trainer aircraft
de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk
Trainer Aircraft 6
Aérospatiale Epsilon TB-30  France Basic Trainer 18
Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet  France
Advanced Trainer Alpha Jet A less than 15 Convertible to wartime


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 less than 10
AgustaWestland AW101 / Italy Search & Rescue
Fisheries Protection
Combat Search & Rescue
Model 514
Model 515
Model 516



The Cross of the Order of Christ, insignia of the Portuguese military aviation

Portuguese Air Force is located in Portugal
Air Base
Cortegaça Military Air Field (AM2)
Lisbon Military Air Field (AT1)
Fóia Radar Station (ER1)
Paços de Ferreira Radar Station (ER2)
Montejunto Radar Station (ER3)
Location of the main Air Force units in Continental Portugal. Not included are units in the Azores and Madeira (off-map to west).

The Portuguese Air Force is structured in three decision levels:[21][22]

  • 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 language: 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 language: Inspecção Geral da Força Aérea
  • Air Force High Studies Institute;
  • Air Force Academy (Portuguese language: Academia da Força Aérea

, AFA);

  • Directorate of Computer Science (Portuguese language: Direcção de Informática


  • Air Museum;
  • Air Force Historic Archive;
  • Air Force Music Band;

Administrative and Logistic Command

The Administrative and Logistic Command of the Air Force (Portuguese language: 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 language: Depósito Geral de Material da Força Aérea


  • Air Force Airfield Engineering Group;
  • Electronics Maintenance Centre.

Operational Command

The Operational Command of the Air Force (Portuguese language: 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.

Base Units

PoAF's F-16A fighter prepares to refuel from a KC-10. March 19th, 1999

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 language: 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

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:

Flight Squadrons

A PoAF's CASA C-295 tactical transport aircraft

PoAF Alpha-Jet with commemorative painting of the 50th anniversary of 103 Squadron

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:

0 - Fixed-wing aircraft;
1 - Mixed;
5 - Rotary-wing aircraft;

The third digit is a sequential number of the same mission and aircraft type.

Personnel Command

The Personnel Command of the Air Force (Portuguese language: 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:[23]

Portuguese Air Force Air Base No. 4, at Lajes, Azores.

An Alouette III light helicopter

Air Base No. 1 (BA1) — Sintra, Lisbon (LPST)

Air Base No. 4 (BA4) — Lajes, Azores (LPLA)

Air Base No. 5 (BA5) — Monte Real, Leiria (LPMR)

Air Base No. 6 (BA6) — Montijo, Setúbal (LPMT)

Air Base No. 11 (BA11) — Beja (LPBJ)

Transit Airfield No. 1 (AT1) — Lisbon (LPPT)

Maneuvers Airfield No. 1 (AM1) — Ovar, Aveiro (LPOV)

Maneuvers Airfield No. 3 (AM3) — Porto Santo, Madeira (LPPS)

Secondary units

  • 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[24]

Rank Structure

PoAF Hummer and Condor tactical air control vehicles

Oficiais Generais - General officers
General Tenente-General Major-General Brigadeiro-General
General Lieutenant-General Major-General Brigadier-General
Oficiais Superiores - Senior officers
Coronel Tenente-Coronel Major
Colonel Lieutenant-Colonel Major
Capitães e Subalternos - Junior officers
Capitão Tenente Alferes Aspirante a oficial
Captain Lieutenant Second Lieutenant Officer Candidate
Sargentos - Sergeants
Sargento-mor Sargento-chefe Sargento-ajudante
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

Soldado-cadete Soldado-recruta
Cadet Recruit

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Portuguese Military Aviation in brief". October 20, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Aircraft serialling systems". October 25, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Revista da Armada 81, p. 16
  4. "Drecreto-Lei nº 3743" (in Portuguese). Diário da República. January 11, 1918. Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  5. "Decreto-Lei nº 27059" (in Portuguese). Diário do Governo. September 30, 1936. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Aviação Naval (Portuguese Naval Aviation) in brief". October 20, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  7. Revista da Armada 356, p. 10
  8. "Decreto-Lei nº 37909" (in Portuguese). Diário da República. August 1, 1950. 
  9. Revista da Armada 356, p. 10–11
  10. "Decreto-Lei nº 39071" (in Portuguese). Diário da República. December 31, 1952. 
  11. "Aeronautical infrastructures". 20 October 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  12. "Air Units". 29 October 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  13. "Decreto-Lei nº 41492" (in Portuguese). Diário da República. December 31, 1953. 
  14. "Esquadra 501 - História" (in Portuguese). 501 Squadron - History. Esquadra 501. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  15. "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal. 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  16. "F-16 Accidents & Mishaps for the Portuguese Air Force". Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "OPSAS BA11: Meios" (in Portuguese). October 5, 2005. Archived from the original on August 4, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  18. "Mercedes Unimog of Air Force". 1 October 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  19. "Mercedes 1823 Atego". 30 July 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  20. "PORTUGAL M1025 HUMMER (M-PAV-2)". 31 January 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  21. "Força Aérea Portuguesa - Organização" (in Portuguese). Portuguese Air Force. 24 January 2012.*. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  22. "Força Aérea Portuguesa - Estrutura" (in Portuguese). Portuguese Air Force. 24 January 2012.*. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  23. "Força Aérea Portuguesa - Esquadras de Voo" (in Portuguese). Portuguese Air Force. 24 January 2012.*. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  24. "Campo de Tiro - Alcochete" (in Portuguese). Portuguese Air Force. 24 April 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
Cite error: <ref> tag defined in <references> with name "cchbrief" has no content.


External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).