The Navio-Aeródromo [Ship-Aerodrome] "São Paulo" is the flag-ship of the Brazilian Squadron. It replaced the "Minas Gerais", already with more than 40 years of use. The "São Paulo" is new, bigger, quicker and with bigger operational capacity that its predecessor, with excellent state of conservation.
Of the nine countries (Brazil, France, India, Italy, Russia, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the United States) that currently possess ship-aerodrome or ships of amphibious assault, endowed with deck of opened flight, only four (Brazil, USA, France and Russia) possess embarked aircraft of conventional type, while six (Spain, USA, Great-Britain, India, Italy and Thailand) operate aircraft STOVL.
The old French Foch was bought to substitute the aged Minas Gerais for a bargain: US$ 12 million in 2000. Only it came "bare" and without the main thing, the airplanes. The government then made another one "good business": US$70 million for a flotilla of used A-4 fighters from Kuwait. The problem is that the A-4 did not possess operational armament, or the ones that wwere in flight condition would not have the form to participate in combat. The São Paulo practically only serves to train the pilots to land and to take off of the deck. The acquisition showed an arguable ambition from the strategical point of view, as the entire capability is simply preparation for future comabt capabilities decades more hence.
The President of the Republic, Fernando Enrique Cardoso, in the ceremony of transference of subordination of the ship-aerodrome "São Paulo" for the operative sector of the navy of Brazil - Port of Santos/SP, noted "The transference of the Ship-Aerodrome "São Paulo" for the Operative Sector of the Navy adds to our Naval Power important magnifying of its capacity of defense of the Brazilian interests in the sea. A country as ours, possessing of the extensive coast, with more than 7 a thousand kilometers of coast, requires a compatible Naval Power with its stature in the international scene.
"Today, as yesterday, the Brazilian State is worried in implementing measured concrete that offers to the nation the guarantee of respect to its sovereignty. We are and we will always be a nation that fights for the peace, what it does not mean to be able to do without modern Armed Forces, able and endowed with adjusted potential dissuasório. Few countries, still today, have capacity to operate with efficiency in high-sea. It is important that Brazil continues to be one of them."
Since its construction it passed for diverse updates of equipment and sensors, what it leaves apt to still fulfill it perfectly its mission for a good time. With this acquisition our Navy will be able to far operate its aerial ways of the Brazilian coast, where the interests it country will be in game. 23 huntings bombing A-4 Skyhawk had been acquired, assigned Af-1 here to compose the aerial group of the "São Paulo", together with the existing helicopters already in the inventory of that Force. The beginning of the operative life of the "São Paulo", associated to the acquisition of the airplanes of AF-1 combat, represents landmark of new phase of the Brazilian Naval Force. Its transference for the Squadron to consolidate the operational capacity of the aviation of embarked fixed wing. It gives the Navy the projection and the stature that the Nation awaits.
The aircraft carrier "São Paulo" was constructed in France, in the period of 1957 the 1960, having served to the French National Navy under the name "FOCH". Its attainment for the Brazilian Government in September 2000, still in an operational state, was an unknown process for a ship of this transport, having been received in only two months and fifteen days and incorporated on 15 November 2000. The incorporations of the "São Paulo" and the AF-1 to the Navy of Brazil made possible the concretion of the old yearning of the Force, of being able to carry through the aerial defense of the naval forces from embarked aircraft of fixed wing.
Its crew consists of approximately 1,300 military (80 officers and 1,220 enlisted). This number can be raised for 2000 men, given the composition of the Destacamento Aéreo Embarcado (DAE), that it in accordance with varies the nature and intention of the missions attributed to Força-Tarefa which will be integrated.
In the first three years of service, the ship carried through important missions, some in the foreig waters, such as Operation "ARAEX", where it made possible the maintenance of the qualification of the pilots of the Argentina Armed Forces, and, currently, it has looked for to remain itself operative, despite the budgetary cuts of the Force.
Between its facts they are the qualification and requalification of pilots of helicopters and airplanes, with about 500 catapult launches, and the first relative exercises of our Navy to the operations of attack from an aircraft carrier.
The acquisition of the "São Paulo" made possible to the Navy to operacionalizar aircraft AF-1 and raised the Brazilian Naval Power to a new platform, compatible with the strategical dimension of the Country, enabling to fulfill it to it an ample specter of missions, that vary since typical of time of peace until the ones of crisis time or the conflict.
The carrier undertook regular operations until 2005, when a rupture of a high pressure steam pipe caused three deaths and eight injuries and led the Brazilian navy to put the ship into dry dock for maintenance ahead of schedule. Since then, the São Paulo was inactive, undergoing routine maintenance and troubleshooting, as well as significant equipment upgrades to replace aging parts, and its aircraft fleet has been upgraded, too. Following this work, the São Paulo would be fully operational in the new decade, ready for use by not only Brazilian, but also Chinese pilots.
Plans for cooperation between Brazil and China on naval aviation were first disclosed by Brazil's Defense Minister Nelson Jobim in an interview in May 2009 with the Brazilian defense news web site Defes@Net. In a discussion of strengthening security ties with China, Jobim said China wanted to build up its naval forces, and one of its priorities was carrier training, for which it needed Brazilian assistance. According to Jobim, “the Chinese are acquiring aircraft carriers to project power in their region”.
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