New lease of life for Brazilian Skyhawks

A true timeless classic: the A-4 Skyhawk was given a new lease of life today in Brazil. The first of 12 Skyhawks was re-delivered to the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil) after being upgraded to A-4KU Skyhawk II (locally known as AF-1B Falcão) standard by Embraer.

The upgrade brings the Skyhawks to a standard similar to that of the air force’s F-5 Tigers and involves the installation of HOTAS (Hands On Throttle and Stick) cockpit controls, a Head Up Display (HUD), two MDF displays in the cockpit, plus a new Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) system. The modification program started in 2009, but was struck by many delays.

The new equipment, along with structural updates, will make the Skyhawks continue on until 2025. Embraer’s modernization program also includes supplying briefing and debriefing stations that are already being used for the training and proficiency of pilots of the VF-1 Falcão Squadron, in order to improve their use, to reduce costs, and to bring greater effectiveness to mission planning and execution.

“For the Brazilian Navy, the modernization of the AF-1 aircraft at Embraer is another important step in capacitating base of Brazil’s defense industry, and the results achieved will allow Naval Aviation to operate an aircraft with state-of-the-art sensors and equipment, representing a large forward leap in the Navy’s capacity,” said Fleet Admiral Eduardo Bacellar Leal Ferreira, Navy Commander.

 A non-upgraded A-4 Skyhawk lands on board the São Paulo. (Image © Marinha do Brasil)
A non-upgraded A-4 Skyhawk lands on board the São Paulo. (Image © Marinha do Brasil)

The update is quite remarkable,as the first flight of the A-4 Skyhawk happened over 60 years ago, on 22 June 1954. The type also still serves as a jet trainer in Israel, however not for much longer.

The twelve Skyhawks – nine single seaters and three two seaters – are deployable on board Brazil’s sole aircraft carrier São Paulo. However, the carrier – formerly ‘Foch’ in service with the French Navy – suffers from serviceability issues. The Skyhawks in question are former Kuwait Air Force aircraft that fled Kuwait when Iraq invaded the country in 1991.

© 2015 editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The first modified Skyhawk II, seen during the hand over.(Image © Marinha do Brasil)