Name: São Paulo (A12)
Namesake: State of São Paulo
Launched: 1959 by France
Commissioned: 15 November 2000
Fate: Undergoing an extensive upgrade. Scheduled to be operational by December 2009.
São Paulo is the flagship of the Brazilian Navy. It replaced the World War II-era carrier Minas Gerais, which was in commission for over 40 years. The São Paulo is newer, bigger, faster and has greater operational capacity than its predecessor.
The former French Foch was bought to replace the aged Minas Gerais at a bargain price of $12 million USD in 2000, no aircraft included. The government had already purchased a flotilla of used A-4 Skyhawk fighters from Kuwait for US$70 million. Brazil's A-4s are capable of carrying armament including rockets, free-fall bombs and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, though the São Paulo currently serves mainly to train pilots to fly carrier operations.
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso noted during the transfer ceremony that:
"The transfer of the aircraft carrier São Paulo to the Operative Sector of the Navy adds to our naval power an important magnification in its ability of defense of the Brazilian interests at sea. A country as ours, possessing an extensive coast, with more than 7 thousand kilometers of coast, requires a naval power compatible with its stature in the international scene. Today, as before, Brazil is concerned about implementing concrete measures that offer the nation the guarantee of respect to its sovereignty. We are and we will always be a nation that fights for peace, however, that does not mean being able to do without modern Armed Forces, enabled and endowed with adequate dissuasive potential. Few countries, even today, have the capacity to operate with efficiency in the high seas. It is important that Brazil continues to be one of them."
Since its construction, the ship has received multiple upgrades over the years, leaving it with a diverse range of technologies. In its current form, it is expected to remain effective in its role for the foreseeable future, though further modernization efforts are expected as it is converted into a combat ready vessel. Twenty-three A-4 Skyhawk have been acquired (designated AF-1) to compose the fighter-bomber group of São Paulo, together with the existing helicopters already in the national defense inventory.
An AF-1 Skyhawk (A-4KU) on board the São PauloThe aircraft carrier São Paulo was constructed in France from 1957 to 1960. It served the French Navy as Foch. Its purchase by the Brazilian government in September 2000 while still operational was an unknown process for a ship of this caliber, and it was received by the Brazilian Navy in only two months and fifteen days and incorporated on 15 November 2000. The incorporation of São Paulo and the AF-1 to the Navy of Brazil realized a long-held goal of being able to carry through the aerial defense of the naval forces with fixed wing aircraft.
In the first three years of service as São Paulo, the ship completed several missions, some in foreign waters (particularly Operations ARAEX, PASSEX, and TEMPEREX which is annually used to qualify and train Super Etendards and S-2T Turbo Trackers of the Argentine Navy).
(2005-2010) and Sea TrialsFrom 2005 to 2010, the São Paulo underwent an extensive modernization program. The upgrade included: inspection and repair of the steam turbines; maintenance of the surface condensers; retubing of boilers; repair of two high-pressure compressors; revision of the alternating current electrical generator and purchase of spare parts; maintenance of pumps, valves and structural items; purchase of two API oil-water separators; installation of two water cooling units; upgrade of the chemical oxygen generator; repair and treatment of oil tanks; substitution of the Naval Tactical Data System; installation of a closed-circuit television system; installation of IFF transponder; installation of MAGE system (ESM); flight deck inspection, repair and painting; upgrade of the Optical Landing System processing unit; revision of the aircraft catapults. The upgrade was complete in July 2009, and the São Paulo was initially due to be fully operational by August 2010.
Twelve Brazilian Navy A-4 Skyhawk will also be upgraded by Embraer at a cost of $140 million. The upgrade will be similar to the ones done for the AMX and F-5EM aircraft of the Brazilian Air Force. The program includes restoring the aircraft and their current systems, as well as implementing new avionics, radar, power production, and autonomous oxygen generating systems. Possible weapons to be included in the upgrade are Python 4 and Derby AAMS.
The Brazilian Navy has contracted Marsh Aviation to convert four S-2T Turbo Trackers to AEW configuration, and four more for tanking and COD duties.
According to an article in the October 2010 issue of Air Forces Monthly, it has been confirmed that Brazil has purchased EX-USN C-1 Trader airframes, Ex-Australian and Ex-Uruguayan airframes for conversion into AEW planes and Tanker aircraft. All the planes are to upgraded to S-2T Turbo Tracker configuration with Honeywell TPE 331-14GR engines. The purchase includes 9 airframes, 2 for tanker conversion to refuel the AF-1 Skyhawks, and 3 for AEW. The rest will be for spares or cargo duties. The AEW radar requirement is to have a range of 250 miles at 25,000 feet. Operational lifespan for the airframes is to be 10 years. They are to be ready by 2011 and 2012.
The São Paulo's SH-3 helicopter fleet is to be replaced by six ex-USN S-70B Seahawk helicopters. They were purchased in 2008, and are currently being upgraded and refurbished for delivery. The helicopters and a package of engines and support equipment are expected to be delivered in 2009.
At the end of 2010, sea trials began, and as of 2011 the São Paulo has been evaluated by the CIASA (Inspection Commission and Training Advisory). It is expected to rejoin the fleet in late 2011.
São Paulo's complement is 1,920 (the ship's company is 64 officers and 1274 sailors, plus there are 582 in the air group).
It is actively used for the qualification and re-qualification of rotary and fixed-wing pilots (with about 500 catapult launches) and the first Brazilian exercises to practice carrier-based attack missions.
Class and type: Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 24,200 tonnes - 32,800 tonnes (full load)
Length: 265 metres (869 ft)
Beam: 31.7 metres (104 ft)
Draught: 8.6 metres (28.2 ft)
Propulsion: 6 Indret boilers, 4 steam turbines producing 126,000 hp, 2 propellers
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h)
Range: 7,500 nautical miles (13,900 km) at 18 knots
Complement: 1,338 men (1,920 including the air group). 984 men if only helicopters are carried.
Electronic warfare and decoys:
DRBV-23B air sentry radar
DRBV-50 low-altitude or surface sentry radar (later replaced by a DRBV-15)
NRBA-50 approach radar
DRBI-10 tri-dimensional air sentry radar
several DRBC-31 fire radar (later DRBC-32C)
DRBN-34 navigation radars
Armament: four 100 mm turrets, two SACP Crotale EDIR systems, five 12.7 mm machine guns, 4 dual Simbad launchers
Aircraft carried: 39 aircraft: 22 jets and 17 helicopters. Composed of A-4KU Skyhawks, AS 532 SC Cougars, HB 350 & HB.355 Ecureuils, and SH-3 Sea Kings