OuterMarker - aviation reviews and photography
New Fighters On The Block - Fighter Day 2007
Author: Guilherme Bystronski
Photography: Author
A-1s F-2000Cs & F-5Es

Fighter’s Day in Brazil, an annual commemoration staged to celebrate the achievements of a select and proud group of pilots of the 1º GAvCa, provides by far and away the best chance one has to see the fighters currently operated by the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB - Brazilian Air Force). It brings to Base Aérea de Santa Cruz (BASC – Santa Cruz AB) near Rio de Janeiro aircraft from every single fighter squadron in Brazil, sometimes from places as far away as the Amazon. During the weeklong meetings that culminate in a big aerial display on Fighter’s Day itself, the tarmac is filled from the beginning with several different types of airplanes, something quite uncommon nowadays in most air arms (to the displeasure of all enthusiasts, it must be said) due to the fact most countries try to rationalize as much as they can their fleets. The number of F-16s each year at RIAT, for example, is a perfect example of that.

The date chosen for this annual commemoration, April 22, is particularly important for the FAB, since it was on this very same date in 1945, near the end of World War II, that the P-47Ds then flown by the 1º GAvCa ‘Senta a Pua’ and heavily involved in the Italian campaign, registered its highest numbers of sorties in a single day. Each year the FAB fighter squadrons come to Rio de Janeiro, where the 1º GAvCa is currently based, to take part in the Reunião da Aviação da Caça (RAC - Fighter Aviation Reunion), where their pilots spend the week discussing doctrine, technical and operational aspects of their trade and refining their operational techniques.

P-47D Thunderbolt
Flag hoisting
F-5EM F-5Es
F-2000C F-5E
F-5EM A-29A

A touching moment during the festivities this year was provided by the awarding of the Ordem do Mérito Aeronáutico (roughly translated as the Aeronautical Merit Award) to a USAAC veteran, then-Major Hugh Dow, whose unit (the 347th FS) belonged to the same group (the 350th FG) the 1º GAvCa was assigned to in 1945 (although it was called a group, the 1º GAvCa was incorporated as a squadron in the aforementioned group). He actually flew a few sorties with Brazilian P-47Ds, but was brought down by ground fire in January 1945, and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp. With less World War II pilots among us each day, it was nice to see the FAB remembering the links established during those difficult years between the two air arms, and invite to this year’s commemoration a pilot from an allied country.

The main reason, however, that explains the large number of enthusiasts and media representatives covering this year’s commemorations, was the expected participation of the FAB newest fighter, the Mirage 2000C/Bs, which are locally called F-2000C/Bs. Although these Mirages are second-hand aircraft drawn from AdlA squadrons (more specifically, from EC01.005 “Vendée” and EC02.005 “Ile-de-France”), they have been subjected to an extensive life-extending maintenance programme (called VP Brèzil) at Orange AB, which will allow them to soldier on for at least ten more years. It is expected that, in the meantime, Brazil will select a brand-new platform to anchor its air force, which will then replace these twelve Mirages that have been purchased from France (of which six have already been delivered, four being at hand during the event – two more will arrive this year, and the balance in 2008). The aircraft being considered include the Dassault Rafale, Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker, SAAB Gripen, and lately also the Eurofighter Typhoon has been mentioned as a possibility, as long as the unit price is somewhat reduced.

F-2000C F-2000C
A-29B F-5E
A-1B AT-26

Besides the 1º GDA, which brought the Mirage 2000C/Bs from central Brazil, the following squadrons were also represented that week at Rio de Janeiro: the local boys form the 1st and 2nd squadrons of the 1º GAvCa (F-5E/EM Tiger II – the EM is a modernized F-5E with an Italian FIAR Grifo-F/BR radar, datalink, and glass cockpit, among other improvements), the 1º/14º GAv (F-5E/EM), the 1º/10º GAv (RA-1A/B, a reconnaissance version of the AMX), the 3º/10º GAv and 1º/16º GAv (A-1A/B, or AMX/AMX-T, as they’re known in Europe), the 1º/3º GAv, 2º/3º GAv, 3º/3º GAv, and the 2º/5º GAv (A-29A/B Super Tucanos, or EMB-314, a light attack/fighter version of the regular Tucano), and the 1º/4º GAv (AT-26, better known as the MB-326GB). Although in many cases some of these aircraft won’t be considered fighters elsewhere, they fulfill some fighter roles in the FAB, so they are allowed to take part in the commemoration.

More photos

The author would like to acknowledge and thank Ten. André Luis, Ten. Fábio and Maj. Alcantara for their contribution to this report.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional