The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) is holding the Escudo-Tínia 2023 Joint Exercise (EXCON) in southern Brazil.The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) is holding the Escudo-Tínia 2023 Joint Exercise (EXCON) in southern Brazil.

The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) is holding the Escudo-Tínia 2023 Joint Exercise (EXCON) in southern Brazil.

By Nelson During – DefesaNET

The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) is holding the Escudo-Tínia 2023 Joint Exercise (EXCON) in southern Brazil. The EXCON Escudo Tínia, planned and prepared with great care by the FAB’s Preparedness Command (COMPREP), takes on a significance far beyond training and gauging the operational level of squadrons, pilots, support teams, command and control and anti-aircraft defense. In all, around 1,200 military personnel, 30 FAB aircraft and 12 air squadrons and the FAB’s First, Second and Third Anti-Aircraft Defense Groups (1st, 2nd and 3rd GDAAE) are taking part, as well as units from the Brazilian Navy and the Brazilian Army. It includes naval aviation with the A-4 Skyhawk from VF-1 and helicopters from the three forces. EXCON Tinia continues until November 17th.

On Media Day (03NOV2023), the take-off of 12 F-5EM/FM fighters from various squadrons was the most exciting moment. As the fighters performed a ballet around the runway, memories flashed back 18 years to when the modernized F-5EM was presented at the same Canoas Air Base in 2005.

This was a three-handed job (EMBRAER Defesa, AEL Sistemas and the FAB), and it turned out to be the best modernization job ever carried out by the Brazilian aeronautics industry. The success of the FAB’s F-5 modernization was recognized internationally in 2008, when the Pampa Squadron (1st/14th Gens) took part in the Red Flag. The Brazilian fighters piloted by young and experienced pilots managed to record several kills of more modern aircraft such as the F-15 and F-16, a remarkable achievement for a South American air force. It is recognized that the FAB has the most modern F-5s in the world.

This modernization was a bridge to the future F-X1, which would become the F-X2 and the remarkable little fighter still remains in operation as the backbone of the FAB, leaving behind the Xavante, Mirage III, Mirage 2000, AMX, and already casting a shadow over its replacement. In August 2005, at the invitation of the Aeronautics Command, DefesaNet had the honor of taking part in a presentation to GDA pilots in Anápolis on the characteristics of the Mirage 2000C/B.

On that occasion, the editor of DefesaNet took the floor and congratulated the “Jaguars”, as the GDA pilots were called, who maintained the “Spirit of the Hunt”, even with their Mirage IIIs no longer in sight and with many operational difficulties. The glamorous unit was even shunned by the pilots. The 12 fighters were received by the GDA in 2006 to give the FAB a temporary umbrella until the new fighter was decided. The Mirage 2000C/B fighters fulfilled their mission and were withdrawn from service.

They are missed today. The little notables remain in service. In 2014, the F-X2 was chosen and the contract signed in 2015. The F-X2 aircraft turned out to be the “Modern Sisyphus” (a Greek fable about the man who had to endlessly roll the stone to the top of the hill). The members of the GDA have been keeping the “Spirit of the Fighter” alive for eight years.

Other aircraft are at the end of their careers, such as the AMX A-1, which is due to be withdrawn from service in 2025. The only aircraft in the FAB’s arsenal capable of dropping laser-guided bombs, armed reconnaissance and target acquisition, as well as being able to operate Electronic Warfare and Reconnaissance pods.

The group of journalists and spotters who witnessed the take-off of the 12 F-5E/FM fighters may not have known about all the stages reported above, but they recognized that they were witnessing a remarkable moment of bravery, determination and persistence to keep the spirit of the fighter alive. DefesaNet published an article that had wide repercussions, “Gripen and Sweden – The impacts of geopolitics on the Gripen Program and the need to re-evaluate”.

We recognize that we were wrong, we were ambitious in the article, carried away by emotion, our future will not be the F-35, but the F-16. It remains to be defined which Block it will be (level of modernization). Or exactly back to the year 2000, when Lockheed Martin offered the aircraft to the FAB and to Chile and Argentina. Curiously, if the information is confirmed, Brazil will be the last to have the F-16.

The VIP Day of EXCON Escudo-Tínia 2023 will not be a mere protocol event. In the presence of Defense Minister José Múcio, Air Force Commander Lieutenant-Brigadier Marcelo Damasceno and almost 50 brigadiers, they won’t be coming south to light up the Pampa, but to set the course for the Brazilian Air Force.

The situation for the FAB is one of block obsolescence: the AMX A-1 is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2025. And the F-5EM/FM fighters are expected to be in operation until 2032-2034.

Dear Sirs, the time is here and now! The Minister of Defense and the Commander of the Air Force were supposed to go to Sweden, but international events have made them change course. The Minister will go to the USA at the end of the month, but he could be shot down by the Itamaraty “nomenklatura”, who don’t know their way around a tape measure.

We run the risk of having disinterested pilots not only in the GDA, but in BACO, BASM, BASC and wherever else there are air bases. Except in the Special Transportation Group (GTE). Remember that the 2008 plan was that every four years a squadron would take part in an international exercise like Red Flag. It’s been 15 years since the FAB took part in a major NATO-standard exercise.

And the Leonardo M346 is already an urgent necessity for advanced pilot training and to replace the AMX A-1M, the FAB’s only attack aircraft, a capability that is as strategic for the force as air defense. Mythology tells us that Sisyphus was considered the most cunning of his time. The world is in a crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen for decades.

Are we ready and able? Right or wrong, the responsibility lies with the decision-maker. It’s time to act and decide. The FAB urgently needs combat aircraft and we can’t wait any longer. Extending the life of the F-5EM is no longer an option. Others are already on the table awaiting a decision.

*** Translated by DEFCONPress FYI Team ***

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