Why Is Brazil Selling Their Aircraft Carrier?

David Axe

Key point: Brazil's accident-prone carrier is very old and it is unclear how Brazil intends to replace her.

The Brazilian navy has begun auctioning off its only aircraft carrier. The attempted sale of Sao Paulo leaves the Brazilian fleet with just one aviation vessel, the helicopter carrier Atlantico. And it effectively strands the navy’s small fleet of carrier-compatible Skyhawk fighters.

The 33,000-ton-displacement Sao Paulo has a storied past, as Robert Beckhusen explained in a 2017 story. “Sao Paulo was originally the Foch, a Clemenceau-class carrier which first launched in 1960,” Beckhusen wrote. “During her 40 years in service with the French navy, Foch’s air wings dodged Yemeni MiGs, intervened in the Lebanese civil war and bombed Serbia during the Kosovo conflict.”

France sold Foch to Brazil in 2000, and the renamed Sao Paulo carried out exercises and launched Brazil’s AF-1 Skyhawk attack planes from her flat, catapult-launch deck — similar to U.S. carriers and the Charles de Gaulle, France’s sole remaining fleet carrier. ...

Brazil paid France $12 million for the carrier but sank $100 million more keeping her seaworthy Fires broke out aboard the vessel at least twice, once in 2004 — killing several sailors — and again 2012. The accidents forced costly repairs and kept the carrier in port for long periods of time.

Sao Paulo was supposed to rejoin the fleet in 2013, but the accidents kept sidelining her. “By the end of 2016, Sao Paulo was still undergoing repairs and there were reports that it might take another decade to get the ship fully operational again,” Joe Trevithick noted at The War Zone.

“By the time the Brazilian navy finally decided to just retire the ship in 2017, it was the world's oldest commissioned aircraft carrier,” Trevithick continued. “In the better part of two decades that the flattop had flown the Brazilian flag, she had spent just 206 days at sea.”

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