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The Portuguese Air Force (PoAF) ( , FAP) is the air force of Portugalmarker. 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 the 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.


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 in the Western Front, while the Portuguese Army had no aircraft, Portuguese airmen flew in British and French squadrons. 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 1914 the Military Aeronautic Service (Serviço Aeronáutico Militar) and the Military School of Aeronautic (Escola Militar de Aeronáutica, EMA) are founded, but it is in 1918 that these services are reorganised and renamed to 'Military Aviation Service' and are made directly dependent of the Ministry of War. The OGMA workshops at Alvercamarker, which still exists under this name, and the first operational squadrons are founded that same year.

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 Army Ministry.

In 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 Aeronautical Naval Services (Serviços da Aeronáutica Naval), and once again in 1931 to Navy Air Forces (Forças Aéreas da Armada).

Early involvement by the Portuguese military aviation included the Revolution in 1926, the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, and World War II, in which Portugal was not directly involved but during which various allied aircraft entering Portuguese airspace were commandeered. Portugal later joined NATOmarker in 1949.

Initial units

PoAF North American T-6 at the Portuguese Air Force Museum
In 1950, its created the State Sub-Secretary of Aeronautic ( ) with the objective of managing all the Portuguese military aviation. Later, in 1952, the State Sub-Secretary of Aeronautic creates the General-Command of the Air Forces that starts to exert the unified command over the aviation units of the Army and Navy. The new organization of the air forces starts by including the Independent Forces and the Forces of Cooperation. The Forces of Cooperation include the Naval Aviation Forces (formed by the former by the former Naval Aviation units) and the Ground Aviation Forces. This events are considered to be the creation of the Portuguese Air Force as an independent branch.

With this merge the PoAF started to have in its charge all the aviation infrastructures that until then belonged to the Army and the Navy. These means included the following:

From the Military Aviation Service:
  • Independent Aviation Fighter Group, in Espinho, with two squadrons of Hurricane fighters. Its aviation infrastructures were renamed as Airstrip-Base No. 1, being deactivated in 1955;
  • Air Base No. 1, in Sintra, focused in flighting instruction;
  • Air Base No. 2, in Otamarker, with a Junkers Ju 52/3m transport squadron and three fighter squadrons, one equipped with F-47 Thunderbolt attack aircraft, and the other two with Supermarine Spitfire fighters;
  • Air Base No. 3, in Tancosmarker, with a reconnaissance squadron equipped with Lysander aircraft and a group of fighter squadrons equipped with F-47 Thunderbolt attack aircraft.
  • Air Base No. 4, in Lajesmarker, 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 Airstrip-Base 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 designated 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 Belémmarker, transferred to Montijomarker in the 1950s. This unit was initially equipped with North-American T-6, Consolidated Fleet aircraft, and various Grumman aircraft. Was renamed later to Air Base No. 6.

Air Force branch

The Portuguese national metropolitan and ultramarine territory was divided in 1956 in three major aerial regions, that start to exert the operational command of the aerial units stationed in their area – later two semi-independent commands were created inside the 1st Aerial Region designated as air zones:

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

The military coup in 1974 was partly caused by the revolutions 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 Tancosmarker, and the privatization of the OGMA workshops. The F-16A/B's from the second batch are slowly being converted into F-16AM/BM's, with 18 already on the flightline at Monte Realmarker, while at the Montijomarker base the 12 ordered EH-101's have now entered active service. Three are stationed at Lajes, Azores, and two 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.


The Portuguese Air Force is structured in three decision levels:
  • 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 ( , 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 consist of a Personnel Division (1ª Divisão - Pessoal), a 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 ( IGFA);
  • Air Force High Studies Institute;
  • Air Force Academy ( , AFA);
  • Directorate of Computer Science ( , DINFA);
  • Air Museum;
  • Air Force Historic Archive;
  • Air Force Music Band;

Administrative and Logistic Command

Coat of Arms of the Administrative and Logistic Command
The Administrative and Logistic Command of the Air Force ( , CLAFA) is commanded by a Lieutenant-General, and has as its mission the management of the Air Force's materials and financial resources in order to accomplish the CEMFA's plans and directives.

Under its command it has the following units:
  • Logistics Directorate;
  • Electronics Directorate;
  • Finances Directorate;
  • Infra-structure Directorate;
  • Aeronautical Mechanic Directorate;
  • Transportation Unit;
  • CLAFA Administrative Service;
  • Armaments Office;
  • General Storage Complex of the Air Force ( , DGMFA);
  • Air Force Airfield Engineering Group;
  • Electronics Maintenance Centre.

Operational Command

The Operational Command of the Air Force ( , 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

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, 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 ( , UVD) guarantee the operational of these same means.

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

The Portuguese Air Force aircraft are integrated in flight squadrons dependent of the air bases where they are based. These flight squadrons receive a number of three algorithms, 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 algorithm indicates the type of aircraft operated by the squadron:
0 - Fixed-wing aircraft;
1 - Mixed;
5 - Rotary-wing aircraft;

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

Personnel Command

The Personnel Command of the Air Force ( , 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

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

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

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

Air Base No. 6 (BA6) — Montijomarker, Setúbalmarker (LPMT)

Air Base No.marker 11marker (BA11) — Beja (LPBJ)
  • 101 Sqn. "Roncos" (Roars) — elementary and basic flying training
  • 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

Operational Airfield No.marker 1marker (AT1) — Lisbonmarker (LPPT)

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

Porto Santo AirportmarkerPorto Santomarker, Madeiramarker (LPPS)

Secondary units

Rank Structure

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 Sub-Lieutenant
Sargentos - Sergeants
Sargento-mor Sargento-chefe Sargento-ajudante
Chief Master Sergeant of the A.F. Chief Master Sergeant Senior 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



A twin-seat F-16B of the Portuguese Air Force taxis for takeoff

On Order



See also

External links

Aérospatiale SA 319 Alouette III Light utility helicopter SA 319 Expected to retire in 2008-2011. Also operated by the PoAF aerobatic display team Rotores de Portugal
Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma Search & rescue, utility helicopter SA 330S Operational in Azores
Aérospatiale TB-30 Epsilon

Light trainer
AgustaWestland EH101

Tactical transport, search & rescue, utility helicopter
Alexander Schleicher ASK 21 Aerobatic instruction
CASA C-212 Aviocar Tactical transport, search & rescue Series 100 Being replaced by CASA C-295 aircraft
Series 300
CASA C-295 Tactical transport, search & rescue
Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet

Light attack aircraft, advanced trainer Alpha-Jet A Former-Luftwaffe aircraft, offered by Germanymarker for the use of the Beja Air Basemarker — BA11. Also operated by the PoAF aerobatic display team Asas de Portugal
Dassault Falcon 20 VIP transport & ILS Calibrations
Dassault Falcon 50 VIP transport
de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk

Trainer OGMA Chipmunk T.20
LET L-23 Super Blanik Flight training
Lockheed C-130 Hercules Tactical transport C-130H
Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon Fighter F-16 A OCU Being updated to Mid Life Update (MLU) standard
F-16 B OCU
F-16 AM
F-16 BM
Lockheed P-3 Orion Maritime patrol aircraft P-3P Being retired
P-3C Update II.5/CUP-CG Former-Royal Netherlands Navy aircraft being updated.

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