April 21, 2009:
Instead of buying new aircraft. Brazil is refurbishing and upgrading the twelve A-4 light bombers they operate off their carrier Sao Paulo. Eleven years ago, Brazil bought 23 A-4 Skyhawk light bombers from Kuwait for $70 million.
The 11 ton A-4 can carry about four tons of bombs, along with two 20mm autocannon. The U.S. built A-4 entered service 53 years ago and nearly 3,000 were built until production stopped in 1979. The United States continued using them until six years ago (as "aggressor" aircraft representing hostile enemy aircraft in training exercises.) The ones Brazil bought were sold, new, to Kuwait in the 1970s, and saw heavy combat (1,361 sorties) during the 1990-1 war with Iraq. The Brazil refurb will fix some age problems, while also installing new electronics, radar and other equipment.
Nine years ago Brazil bought the 32,000 ton French aircraft carrier Foch (which was still in service) for $12 million. The A-4s (which the Brazilians call AF-1s) have mainly operated from the carrier. The A-4 was always popular with pilots and ground crew. It is a rugged aircraft that is easy to fly. Ten foreign nations bought A-4s, and the aircraft saw combat flying for four nations.