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Navio-Aerdromo Minas Gerais

Dating back the the last years of World War II, the Minas Gerais was too small to act as a conventional carrier, and she later served largely as an ASW dedicated vessel, with secondary helicopter assault capabilities. The Minas Gerais started life in 1945 as the Royal Navy's 'Colossus' class light fleet carrier HMS Vengeance. Loaned to the Australian navy in the mid-1950s, she was purchased and named after one of Brazil's important states Brazil in 1955. Comprehensively refitted in the Netherlands, the Minas Gerais received new weapons, a steam catapult, an angled flight deck, a new island superstructure and new American radar. Used from the start for anti-submarine warfare, the Minas Gerais originally shipped an air group of eight Grumman S-2 Trackers, four Sea Kings and four or five utility helicopters.

The navy insisted on its own air arm with both navy planes and pilots. The controversy between the Brazilian Navy and the Brazilian Air Force to made the only Brazilian aircraft carrier inoperable and caused a serious rift between the two services. Brazil's planeless aircraft carrier the Minas Gerais steamed out of Guanabara Bay one day in 1964 for routine training exercises. When she returned five days later, her normally bare deck showed five airplanes and four helicopters. The incident revived a bitter four-year-old in- terservice dispute between the Brazilian navy and airforce. The navy planes on the deck of the 19,200-ton English-built carrier represented a clear-cut slap in the face to Air Force pilots who contended aviation was properly their domain, not the Navy's.

Four Brazilian presidents avoided making a final decision to end the dispute, including President Humberto Castello Branco who nullified the navy's unilateral action and ordered the aircraft back to land. The argument kept the Minas Gerais without aircraft during the first years it had been in the bay. After years of intense rivalry between the navy and the air force for the control of naval aviation, President Castelo Branco decreed in 1965 that only the air force would be allowed to operate fixed-wing aircraft and that the navy would be responsible for helicopters.

Given a refit between 1976 and 1981, the carrier entered the 1990s with an unchanged air group, but there was some doubt as to the future of the fixed-wing Trackers. The Minas Gerais was a gently aging ship, at the age of 40 in the early 1980s, she was exceptionally clean, with a very competent crew. Among those who make their home at sea, she is what is known as a happy ship. At the bow of the ship, below the flight deck level, is the cable deck where the big capstans for raising the anchor are housed. It is a large, open space, where at regular intervals panels are open to the outside. At most of these open ports are long, wooden park-type benches. They are a popular refuge from the strain of hours on watch.

She underwent several refits, though there were plans to replace the Minas Gerais with a larger conventional carrier. The Brazilian Navy purchased the French Aircraft Carrier "Foch" from the French government for 80 million French francs (US$10.49 million). The Foch was decommissioned on 15 November 2001 and transferred to Brazil as NAe Sao Paulo A-12 on the same day.

On 13-24th January 2001, flight trials were made by three A-4 (A-1) Skyhawks on the deck of Minas Gerais. The operation, called CATRAPO I entered the history books of Brazilian naval aviation, as this was the first time that fixed-wing jet aircraft piloted by Brazilian naval aviators had made hooked landings and catapult assisted take-offs in the NAeL. On 18 Januray 2001 Capit Tenente Fernando Souza Vilela made the first deck landing, and on the same day Capit Tenente Marcos Antonio Souza de Araujo carried out catapult launches.

The Naval Command and the Brazilian Ministry of Defence were looking into the possible future uses of the Minas. On 16 February 2001, the NaeL Minas Gerais went on one of her last active sea duties as part of the Brazilian Navy. The veteran A-11, along with A-4 went to sea to form the reception for its successor NAe S Paulo arriving from Europe that day.

Minas Gerais was downclassed to a Helicopter Support Ship in 2001 with the aim of eventual retirement due to being surplus to requirements. A ceremony was held in honor of Minas Gerais (A-11) on 09 September 2001, in the AMRJ (Arsenal de Marinha of Rio De Janeiro). Then on 16 October 2001, Minas Gerais was finally de-commissioned by the Brazilian Navy.

In 2002, she was sold at auction for USD $2 million to HK Jiexin Shipping, a Hong Kong company. The company claimed it would anchor her in Zhoushan, China, near Shanghai and convert her into a museum with shops and a bar. However this bid was rescinded, and the Minas Gerais was set to be scrapped. The formal rescinding of HMS Vengeance/Minas Gerais ship ownership contract with H.J. Jienxiin (HK Jiexin Shipping) was reported on 04 September 2003. Ownership was handed over to Arusha shpping with completion in December 2003.

As of 2004 she was at the Naval Dockyard at Rio de Janeiro where she was mothballed as "Care and maintenance" but with 350 men onboard the ship to keep the remaining systems operating.

An active campaign by a British group tried to safeguard Vengeance in 2003-2004 however there was a complete lack of support from the British Government or the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Naval Museums in the UK.

Her fate was sealed and with no assistance to preserve her in the UK, Vengeance was towed to Alang in India and was scrapped 2004-5.



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