Fiat G.91R/3 5447 (A.Mimoso)
Fiat G.91R/3 5447 (A.Mimoso)

Força Aérea Portuguesa (Portuguese Air Force) in brief

In May 27, 1952 is published the Law 2055 that joined in a unique entity - Força Aérea Portuguesa- (Portuguese Air Force) the  Army and Navy air branches. July 1, 1952 was appointed as the initial date for the official existence of the Air Force.

The new born Portuguese Air Force started with  the following installations and flying units:

 It must be said at this point, that the flying unit was still the Esquadrilha, with 10 to 12 aircraft. Slowly, this began to give place to the Esquadra with 25 aircraft, according to NATO standards to which the young Air Force began to adapt itself.

The early fifties saw not only the reorganization of the Air Force according to NATO philosophy but also the incorporation of several Naval Aviation aircraft, and the reception of  modern aircraft, including the first jets in 1952.

In addition  new air bases  were added :

The first air defence radar detection  station was operating  in 1955 at Serra de Montejunto (Batina Radar).

The squadrons also received a new designation system with two digits, the first one indicating the Air Base to which they belonged. As an example  the two squadrons of F-86F at B.A.5 were 51 and 52 forming together the Grupo de Caça 501 (Fighter Group 501). Each Squadron had 25 aircraft.

In 1958 a mission was sent to Angola to study the re-activation  of the Air Force there. This study gave some indications for the installation of air units , and in April 1959 the "Exercicio Himba" (Himba Exercise) took to Angola 6 C-54, two Dakotas and 6 PV-2 Harpoons.

In December 1958 there were 322 aircraft on the inventory, and in December 1960 they numbered 386.


With the  war in Angola in 1961, and later in Guiné-Bissau and Moçambique the Air Force had to move in a short period aircraft and material to three fronts, using  the available resources  at the time. B-26 Invader 7106 at OGMA 1971 (Photo L.Tavares)

In the mid-sixties the structure in Africa was as follows.

Primeira Região Aérea (First Air Region) with headquarters at Lisbon:

Included Aeródromo de Trânsito 1  at Sal Island (Cape Vert Islands), B.A.12 at Bissau, and Aeródromos de Manobra  at Bafatá, Tite and Bubaque.

Segunda Região Aérea (Second Air Region) with headquarters at Luanda (Angola):

Included Aérodromo de Trânsito 2 at São Tomé Island (South Atlantic), Base Aérea 9 at Luanda (Angola), two Aeródromos-Base  at Angola, 6 six Aeródromos de Manobra  and three Aeródromos de Recurso  .

Terceira Regiao Aérea (Third Air Region) with Headquarters at Lourenço Marques (Moçambique)

Included Air Base 10 at Beira, 4 Aeródromos Base, 7 Aérodromos de Manobra, and 5 Aeródromos de Recurso.

 Practically all types of aircraft were used in Africa: from the jets (F-84G in Angola and Moçambique, F-86F in Guiné Bissau, G.91 in Guiné, Moçambique and Angola) to the DO-27 and Austers, passing through the Dakotas, C-45's, and Noratlas.

Also during the sixties  the Base Aérea 11 at Beja was activated, which also  housed part of the training syllabus of the Bundesluftwaffe.

In 1964 was commemorated the cinquentenary of the Military Aviation with a impressive air festival (and the first since 1956) at Alverca.One of the authors (the elder one...) still remembers very well the low level bombing and guns firing of the F-86F  Sabre.

Iin December 1971 the aircraft in FAP inventory had increased to  684.

1974 - to date

With the end of war in Africa, FAP rapidly decreased in size, adapting to the new situation, and in  February 1978  a change in the structure defined the flying units as follows:

 T-37C 2424 at  OGMA 1977 (Photo L.Tavares)

Esquadrilhas - 4 to 6 aircraft

Esquadras - The basic unit with 2, up to 4 or 6 Esquadrilhas.

Grupo - Composed by two or more Esquadras

The Esquadras were designated by three digits no more related with the Air Bases in which they were located , but with their mission.

So the first digit meant: 1 - Training, 2- Fighter, 3-Attack, 4 -Reconnaissance, 5 - Transport, 6 - Maritime Patrol, 7 - Liaison, 8 - Search and Rescue. The second digit meant 0- Fixed Wing Aircraft, 1- Helicopters, and the third digit the chronological order of appearance.

This organization remains more or less the same today.

For the actual organization and equipment of  FAP the best way is to look at their official and very well presented page located at


Besides our archives, we used the following books and magazines for this section:

- Presença da Força Aérea em Angola - Edgar Cardoso - 1963
- 50 anos de Aviação Militar - OGMA - 1964
- MAIS ALTO - Special Edition - May 1964 - Cinquentenary of FAP
- Força Aérea Portuguesa - July 1966 - FAP edition
- História da Força Aérea Portuguesa - 3º Volume - Edgar Cardoso - 1984
- Bordo de Ataque - José Krus Abecasis -Coimbra - 1985

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