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Sao Paulo

Aircraft carrier

Sao Paulo ship

The Sao Paulo is the only aircraft carrier used by a Latin American country

Entered service 2000
Crew 1 920 men
Sea endurance ?
Dimensions and displacement
Length 265 m
Beam 31.7 m
Draught 8.6 m
Flight deck length 166 m
Flight deck width 30 m
Hangar deck length 152 m
Displacement, standard 25 000 t
Displacement, full load 34 000 t
Propulsion and speed
Speed 32 knots
Range 13 900 km at 18 knots
Propulsion 6 x oil-fired boilers, 4 steam turbines producing 126 000 hp, driving power to 2 shafts
Airwing 40 aircraft and helicopters
Artillery 4 x 100-mm guns
Missiles 2 x Crotale EDIR air defense missile launchers, 4 x Simbad air defense missile launchers


   Few countries in the world operate aircraft carriers. And Brazil is one of them, even if barely. Brazil is the only country in Latin America to maintain an aircraft carrier.

   The Brazilian Sao Paulo is a Clemenceau class aircraft carrier. It was originally commissioned with the French Navy in 1963 as the Foch. It served a long an successful career with the French Navy before being replaced by their new nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

   The Foch was decommissioned and sold to Brazil in 2000. The ship was refitted and recommissioned as the Sao Paulo. It became the new flagship of the Brazilian Navy. It replaced the Brazilian Minas Gerias, a former British Colossus class aircraft carrier. The Brazilians had operated the Minas Gerais for many years and were experienced in catapult take-offs and arrested landings.

   The Sao Paulo can carry a mix of up to 40 aircraft and helicopters. Typical completement is 22 aircraft and 17 helicopters. The ship has 2 catapults and 2 elevators that lift the aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck.

   Current airwing of the Sao Paulo aircraft carrier is rather weak and has limited offensive capabilities. Its main interceptor and attack aircraft is the A-4KU Skyhawk. In 1998 Brazilian Navy acquired 20 ex-Kuwaiti A-4KUs. These aircraft carry Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles and free-fall bombs. In 2015, these aircraft were repaired and upgraded. However the ageing Skyhawks have only a limited anti-shipping and ground attack capability and can not match modern air superiority fighters and ground attack aircraft. It is possible that Brazil plans to acquire Gripen-M lightweight multi role fighters to replace the current airwing.

   Helicopters carried on board include AS.532 SC Cougar, HB.350 and HB.355 Ecureuils, and SH-3 Sea King.

   Overall the acquisition of the Sao Paulo has increased the capability and effeciveness of Brazilian naval air operation. However this aircraft carrier has a bad record. During the carrier's 16-years service with Brazil's Navy the ship managed no more than 3 months service between maintenance periods. Brazilian Navy struggles to operate this ship due to funding problems. Currently this aircraft carrier currently serves mainly for pilots training.

   Brazil has taken the steps to modernize the Sao Paulo to serve until the late 2030s. Modernization is planned to begin in 2017. It is planned that the ship will return to service in 2021. Power and propulsion systems of the ship will be upgraded. After modernization the Sao Paulo is planned to have speed in excess of 27 knots. Other upgraded include work on aircraft elevators, catapults and arresting gear. However all upgraded might become challenging due to the carrier's age. The Sao Paulo is more than 50 years old. Plans to acquire new carrier have bee delayed due to funding problems.

   Brazil has 7 400 km coastline and significant offshore energy reserves. So no wonder why this country is committed to maintain its aircraft carrier.


Name Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
Sao Paulo (A12) 1957 1960 1963 / 2000

active, in service


Sao Paulo ship

Sao Paulo ship

Sao Paulo ship

Sao Paulo ship

Sao Paulo ship

Sao Paulo ship

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