Saturday, June 16, 2007

Informations about the João Belo class

In the Military Zone I present a brief description of the João Belo class frigates. As I reported, the two remaining vessels will be sell to Uuruguay. The authorities of Montevideo plan to use this two frigates (similar to those they now operate) for about seven years, at a cust of 15 millions of euros.

Constituem juntamente com as fragatas Meko 200 os principais meios de combate da Armada. Inicialmente foram recebidos quatro navios, porém, actualmente apenas se encontram no activo três fragatas. (...) Atendendo aos requisitos da Armada para operar nos combates nas colónias africanas as fragatas foram equipadas para realizar estas missões. (...)
A modernização destes navios apenas ocorreria no final da década de 1990 (quando tinham já uma vida operacional de 30 anos), com a modernização a ocorrer em apenas três dos quatros navios iniciais, visto que a N.R.P. "Roberto Ivens" tinha sido abatida em 1998. A falta de verbas implicou apenas algumas alterações: foram modernizadas as acomodações e instalações para tripulantes, a capacidade para armazenamento de água doce foi aumentada, os sensores e sistemas electrónicos modernizados, e retiraram-se a terceira peça de 100mm (Mod55) e o morteiro anti-submarino. Esta modernização permitiu essencialmente capacitar o navio para o cumprimento de missões de manutenção de paz e prolongar a sua vida operacional.
Actualmente cumprem na Armada as missões de treino e luta ASW, embora mais recentemente tenham participado em missões de paz e em vários exercícios.
Em 2000, no âmbito da missão da UNTAET, parte para Timor-Leste a N.R.P. "Hermenegildo Capelo", tendo como função render a N.R.P. "Vasco da Gama" (Meko 200), prestando auxílio à população timorense durante o processo de transição.
Recentemente, em 2001, a fragata N.R.P. "Sacadura Cabral" integrou a EUROMARFOR uma frota constituída por vasos de guerra de Portugal, França, Espanha e Itália. No âmbito desta missão participou entre outros, nos exercício Trident d'Or e Tapon cujo fim é avaliar as prestações dos navios nas missões de luta ASW.
Espera-se que estes navios continuem a navegar até 2010, altura em que se pensa virem a ser substituídos por unidades novas ou usadas (...)

In the second half of the 1990s, Portugal executed a modernization of the three frigates which were operational (a fourth had been redraw from service). The modernization (fully described on this article) gave allows that these ships accomplish secundary missions on the portuguese Navy, since the modern Vasco da Gama class has become the backbone of the fleet. Actually, the N.R.P. Hermegildo Capelo was deployed in East Timor, in 2000, and, usually, the ships of the class have been assigned to surveillance and instruction missions, but also too international exercises.

[Photo taken with a Nikon F65 cammera and a Nikon AF 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G lens]

The 1990s' modernization consisted, for example, in the instalation of a new and modern sonar (AN/SQS-510, the same model used by the Vasco da Gama class), Mk32 Mod5 triple torpedo tubes, a new navigation radar and communication and control systems, a new electronic warfare system. The anti-submarine mortar and the third Mod 55 artillery gun were retired in order to reduce the crew. The ships were also prepared to recieve women sailors. This modernization clearly gave to this 1960s ships a new life and increased their capabilities.

[Photo taken with a Nikon F65 cammera and a Nikon AF 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G lens]

In addition, the João Belo class can recieve a large number of marines to support amphibious operations and other missions. This capability was used, for example, in 1998, in the Guiné-Bissau during the rescue of the portuguese refuges.
During the last decade, the portuguese Navy was studying their replacement. On 2005, it seemed clear that Portugal would recieve two american OH Perry frigates. A brief article which includes some references to the programme is avaible in Defesa Net.
When the socialists returned to the power, in the same year, it become clear that another option could be taken (see another article that I wrote for Defesa Net). In fact, by the year 2000, Portugal had even studied the two Jacob van Heemskerck class frigates. Finally, in 2006, an agreement was signed for the delivery, in 2008 and 2009, of two Karel Doorman frigates. Comparing with the previous option, they are more recent ships, they have several weapon systems and sensors and equipements in common with the Vasco da Gama class (Meko 200PN) and they're multi-role ships. It's true that the portuguese Navy wanted a air-defence ship but a frigate OH Perry with her SM-1 missiles could not accomplish that mission due the new meneaces and anti-ship missiles.

Pedro Monteiro

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Portugal Air Show 2007

The main reference for the portuguese aviation enthusiasts is the Portugal Air Show, a biannual airshow. This year, it will happen, as usual at Évora, between 14th and 16th September. In this site you can check the first information (text in portuguese).

Pedro Monteiro

Asas de Portugal

The Asas de Portugal, one of the two acrobatic teams of the portuguese Air Force, is equipped with the Alpha-Jet. Last weekend, at June 9th, they made a demonstration in Setúbal, as part of the official commemorations of Portugal's national day.
This season, they have several demonstrations in international airshows:

22th June: Midnight Sun Airshow, Finland
22th Jully: Sanicole International Airshow, Belgium
1th September: Bex International Airshow, Swiss

For the portuguese readers, we will be abble to see their impressive demonstration in the following occasions:

30th June: Dia da Força Aérea, Beja
15th and 16th Jully: Festival Aéreo, Coimbra
14th and 15th September: Portugal Air Show, Évora

Pedro Monteiro

Army Day

Every year, in October, the portuguese Army commemorates its day. In 2005, the ceremony took place at Coimbra, where the Brigada de Intervenção (the medium brigade, then called Brigada Ligeira de Intervenção) has its command. As usual, there was an exhibition of equipements and, in adition, a military parade happened on Av. Emídio Navarro, near the Mondego, Coimbra's iconical river.
Below, I present some photographs of the vehicles which were present at the exhibition.

The three types of wheeled armoured vehicles operated by the portuguese Army are shown in the photo. Begining in its left side, a Panhard VBL M-11, a Cadillac Gage V-150 with a Cockerill turret with a 90mm gun and, finally, a Bravia Chaimite V-200.

Another look of the armoured vehicles in the exposition at Coimbra.

Portugal operates HMMWV vehicles. The first vehicles - M1025 A2 version - were bought in 2000 for the peacekeaping mission in East Timor. In 2003, more vehicles - M1097 version - were recieved in order to transport and support the Firefinder system of the portuguese artillery. Currently, some vehicles of the first batch - with an armour kit M-PAV 2 from the israeli Plasan - are operating in Afghanistan.

A M60 A3 TTS main battle tank from the Brigada Mecanizada (portuguese Army's heavy brigade, called Brigada Mecanizada Independente at that time). Portugal recieved about one hundred of these in the 1990s - they replaced the M48 A5 and the remaining M47. The military parade, as in the majority of the last commemorations, did not envolved armoured vehicles.

Pedro Monteiro

Monday, June 11, 2007

Portuguese frigates to Uruguay

According a contact of mine in Montevideo, the portuguese frigates from João Belo class (similar to the french Commandant Rivière, modernized in 1999 with, for example, a new sonar and comunication systems) will be transfered to Urugay. The authorities in Montevideo haven't annouced this fact yet since first the acquisition needs a parliamentary approval.
In the case of the portuguese navy, the two ships will be replace by two Karel Doorman, bought to The Netherlands in last December.

[Photo taken during the Navy Day of 2003, in Ílhavo, with a Nikon F65 and 28-80mm zoom lens and a Fuji Superia ISO 100 film]

Pedro Monteiro

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Portugal's National Day

In this year, the official celebrations of the June 10th - Portugal's national day - took place in the city of Setúbal.
Since the last year the programme includes a military ceremony and, in this year, a exhibition of several weapon systems and equipements of the portuguese Armed Forces. In the ceremony - transmited by the public broadcasting television - were present more than 1.200 troops and 100 vehicles (for example, M60 tanks and M113 armoured personnel carriers or the wheeled vehicles Chaimite). During it, EH-101 Merlin helicopters, as well as F-16 and Alpha-Jet fighters flew over the troops. In the port of the city, the President of the Republic inspected the naval fleet, which included the frigate NRP Vasco da Gama and the tall ship NRP Sagres.
Although I didn't had the opportunity of make a report, I hope this photographs (from the Presidency of the Republic - are interesting for the readers.

The President of the Republic, Cavaco Silva, makes his speech to the troops (Photo: Presidency of the Republic -

The President of the Republic, Cavaco Silva, during the military parade (Photo: Presidency of the Republic -

The frigate NRP Vasco da Gama in Setúbal (Photo: Presidency of the Republic -

M109 A5 howitzers pass in front of the tribune (Photo: Presidency of the Republic -

This year, the military parade included troops with their combat equipment; it was the case of the Comandos, an assault troops unit, also known as the "red berets" (Photo: Presidency of the Republic -

For the portuguese readers, I post the speech of the President of the Republic to the armed forces that, this year, focused the peacekeeping missions and the new structure of the armed forces that'll allow a better interoperability between the three branches.
Celebramos hoje, 10 de Junho, o muito que nos distingue como Nação. (...) Ao rever-se, orgulhoso na sua História, Portugal também se revê nas suas Forças Armadas. (...) A associação das Forças Armadas às comemorações do Dia de Portugal sublinha o carácter eminentemente nacional da Instituição Militar, cujo percurso histórico se confunde com o da Nação. (...)
Em apenas 30 anos, as Forças Armadas Portuguesas reduziram o seu efectivo de mais de 300 milhares de homens para pouco mais de 40 mil elementos. Adaptaram a sua doutrina, evoluindo para uma força de projecção e de reacção rápida, incorporaram o serviço militar feminino e abandonaram o serviço militar obrigatório. Nos últimos 15 anos, internacionalizaram-se, projectando cerca de 24 mil militares para o exterior.
As Forças Armadas levaram a cabo uma das reformas mais profundas no âmbito da Administração Central do Estado, mostrando ser uma organização viva, flexível e dinâmica. (...) O reforço da acção conjunta é um objectivo que deve ser alcançado em futuro próximo. (...) Importa definir e concretizar o reforço de competências do Chefe do Estado-Maior General das Forças Armadas, criar um Comando Operacional Conjunto e promover as reformas relativas ao ensino superior militar e aos serviços de saúde. (...) Qualquer processo de transformação implica investimento. A execução das Leis de Programação Militar e de Programação de Infra-estruturas constituem, por isso, peças chave da modernização e operacionalidade do Sistema de Forças Nacional. São investimentos avultados mas necessários, que podem e devem ser rentabilizados, alargando o seu emprego a outras missões de interesse público, para além das de natureza estritamente militar, evitando a duplicação de meios e promovendo o aproveitamento de recursos humanos altamente qualificados. (...)

É assim no Kosovo, em defesa da segurança e da estabilidade na Europa; é assim no Afeganistão, combatendo os flagelos do terrorismo e do narcotráfico; é assim no Líbano, para restabelecer as condições de vida de uma população martirizada pela guerra. É assim em tantos outros locais, onde militares portugueses contribuem para a salvaguarda da paz e da segurança internacional, promovendo os valores da liberdade, da democracia e do respeito pelos direitos humanos. (...)

Pedro Monteiro

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A-7P Coirsair II

The Vought A-7P Coirsair II was operated by Portugal between 1981 and 1999. A total of 50 aircrafts were recieved: a first batch of 20 arrived between 1981 and 1982, a second between 1984 and 1986. But, in fact, the Air Force never operated 50 aircrafts - the maximum number should have been 46, because, when the last Coirsair landed in Monte Real, three had been lost in Portugal and also another one during the flight to Portugal.
The portuguese pilotos pushed the A-7P to its limits. Although the majority of the missions of the fleet were tactical air support for land operations (TASLO) or maritime operations (TASMO), the Coirsair had to defend the portuguese air space, a situation for which it was not the best option due to its characteristics and weapon systems.
During eighteen years of operations with the Cross of Christ in their wings, the A-7 fleet flew 64.000 hours. Currently, the Air Force operates the F-16 OCU in 201 Squadron "Falcões" and the F-16 MLU in the 301 Squadron "Jaguares" - the last one has taken the responsability of the missions of the 304 Squadron "Magníficos", desactivated in 1999.
The following photos show the aircraft (tail number 15521) that made the last flight of the fleet - in 9 July, 1999. They were taken during my visit to Monte Real, in July of 2004.

General view of the A-7P '15521' in statical exhibition in the air base of Monte Real, home of the F-16 fleet.

General view of the aircraft. The right side of the vertical stabilizer shows a tiger, symbol of the 304 Squadron "Magníficos", the last operator of the A-7P on the Portuguese Air Force.

A shot showing the left side of the vertical stabilizer with a falcon, the symbol of the 302 Squadron "Falcões".

A vertical photo of the aircraft.

[All the photos were taken with a Nikon F65 and 28-80mm zoom lens and a Fuji Superia ISO 100 film]

Pedro Monteiro

Musée des Blindes de Saumur

In the french city of Saumur is a famous tank museum - the Musée des Blindes de Saumur (check here the official web site). The museum has the largest collection in the world of Second World War german tanks, as well as a significant number of vehicles (e.g., East Europe and First World War tanks) in working condition. The museum has more than 850 vehicles, a third of which work and 200 on permanent display. Usually, an exhibition with the working vehicles is organized in July. You may find that a vehicle referred in the website or here isn't occupying its designated spot because many of the vehicles are moved from time to time for maintenance.

For a complete history of the museum, the portuguese readers can check an article published on Jornal do Exército (the official magazine of the portuguese army) in 1981 (page 1 and page 2). In this link you can also check a scan that I made of a list and plan with the equipment on display. Finally, as an aditional suggestion, I would recommend the reading of this text by Michael J. Meese.
In the summer of 2003, I had the opportunity to make a visit - obviously, I took a few shots and filmed the vehicles in exposition. Here it's a sample of the shots that I took.

A point of interest in the collection is the diversity of vehicles from East Europe countries. Saumur's collection includes, for example, a T-34, T-54/55 and T-72 tanks; tracked PT-76 and BMP-1 and wheeled BTR-70 and BRDM-2 (photo) combat vehicles. In the photo a BRDM-2, a combat reconnaissance and patrol vehicle with a crew of 4 and 7 tons of weight.

An iraqui T-55 tank captured by french forces in the first Gulf War, 1991. Over 95.000 T-54/55 were produced, making it the most-produced tank series in history. The simplicity of these vehicles is due to two reasons: their production was easier and faster; the average lifetime of a tank in fight was less than 45 minutes, so it would be a waste of resources to improve this vehicles. Because of this, Varsaw Pact trusted in the superiority of the numbers over the quality of the material.

A french AMX-30B main battle tank with a mine clearing device, as used in the first Gulf War, 1991. When the french troops found large minefields in the iraqui battlefield they had to improvise: they've used mine rollers recovered from East Germany. These machines were operated by remot control.

A reconnaissance light tank Engesa EE-9 Cascavel Mk II. This 12 tons vehicle has a 90mm gun and its engine can achieve a maximum speed of 100 km/h. The vehicle of the collection was operated by Lybia. Along with Brazil, Lybia was the main operator of the Cascavel (400 vehicles purchased).

The german tanks used during Second World War are well represented. In the photo, a Panzer III armed with a 37mm gun. The collection includes, for example, a Panzer IV, Marder vehicles, a Tiger I, a Tiger II, a Panther, Jagpanther V OR an IV/70A tank destroyers and Schutzenpanzerwagen SD. KFZ 251/7 half-trancked vehicles.

A french army's Panhard VBL light armoured vehicle - note the characteristic

An AMX-30 Pluton, a modified version of the AMX-30 main battle tank for launch a tactical nuclear weapon (15 to 25 KT). The french army has withdrawn these vehicles from service due to the end of the Cold War.

[All the photographs were taken with a Nikon F65 and 28-80mm zoom lens and a Fuji Superia ISO 100 film; the use of a tripod, as well of the auto-focus would have improved them.]

Pedro Monteiro

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Military Museums

The Portuguese Army has several military museums around the country. In the city of Coimbra - known for its ancient and prestiged University and academic tradition - the military museum has a representative collection of the armoured vehicles and tanks which served in this military branch. Here're some photographs.

An impressive M47 Patton main battle tank. Portugal was the first NATO country, after the United States, to recieved this tank (Coimbra, 2005).

A Panhard EBR vehicle armed with a 75mm caliber gun mounted in a FL 11 turret. Portugal was the only operator of the transport version, the Panhard ETT. One vehicle is also presented in the military museum (Coimbra, 2005).

A look at the collection of anti-aircraft guns of the museum (Coimbra, 2005).

It's a good place to visit if you pass by Coimbra. But, for the enthusiasts of armoured vehicles, the museum of Saumur, in France, is, of course, the main reference.

Pedro Monteiro

Portugal Day

As happened last year, in June 10th it will take place a military ceremony as part of the commemorations of Portugal's national day. This year, the event will take place in Setubal, near Lisbon.
In the last year, the ceremony took place in Oporto, where this photo was taken.

The NRP Corte Real, a frigate from Vasco da Gama class (Meko 200PN).

Pedro Monteiro