Surveillance and Aerial Control of Brazilian Territorial Waters
By Dialogo October 04, 2011
Two years after the beginning of World War II, the Axis threat made itself felt under the waters of the South Atlantic. German and Italian submarines operating in the region conducted a series of torpedo attacks on Brazilian merchant vessels, forcing President Getúlio Vargas to declare war on Germany and Italy, on August 22, 1942.
Four days later, a Vultee V-11 plane from what was then Gravatai Air Base (today’s Canoas) attacked a submarine 50 miles from Ararangua, off the coast of Santa Catarina state. The Air Patrol was consequently the leading actor in Brazil’s first military action, off the country’s south coast, in the largest conflict of the twentieth century.
Over 60 years have gone by since the end of World War II, and in the same region, at any hour and in the area’s typical severe weather conditions, there is always a maritime patrol aircraft ready to preserve Brazil’s sovereignty in its territorial waters.
The 2nd Squadron, 7th Aviation Group, is headquartered at Florianopolis Air Base. The Phoenix Squadron is the only Brazilian Air Force (FAB) Air Patrol unit based in the southern part of the country. It is equipped with P-95B Bandeirulha aircraft, the patrol version of the EMB-110, a domestically developed airplane manufactured by Embraer. With a range that has been extended to over seven hours, thanks to the incorporation of fuel tanks into the wings, the Bandeirulhas have an area of responsibility that encompasses 3.5 million km² of Brazil’s territorial waters, soon to be extended by another 950,000 km², the area known as the Blue Amazon.
At the same time that the Government announces the discovery and exploration of important petroleum reserves in the pre-salt region, international greed for these areas also increases. On the other hand, more than 90 percent of Brazilian trade passes through the country’s territorial waters. Protecting these maritime routes and this submerged wealth is something that makes the Air Patrol more and more important every day.
The P-95B Bandeirulha aircraft had their baptism of fire in 1982, when Brazil leased two aircraft on an emergency basis, at Argentina’s request, to counter the threat posed to the Falkland Islands by the British fleet. In this conflict, they operated as part of the Exploration and Reconnaissance Squadron between May and June of 1982.
These aircraft can be armed with SBAT-70 rockets mounted on four pylons installed at fixed locations under the wings. Due to their low performance, in the event of war the Bandeirulhas would not engage in direct combat against military targets, since they are only able to launch rockets against small enemy patrol ships and merchant vessels or serve as command, control, and electronic warfare aircraft.
Their main task consists in interdiction and combat support. The P-95B, through the powerful search radar installed in its nose, can detect, locate, identify, and vector fighter-plane attacks on surface targets. This command-and-control task has been constantly performed in support of air-surface exercises by Air Force A-1 (AMX) fighters and Brazilian Navy A-4 Skyhawks.
With the support of the onboard secure signals espionage, attack, electronic warfare, and electronic espionage systems, the aircraft may be used as a communications and control center for combat operations at sea.