The Brazilian Navy’s Sao Paulo aircraft carrier is being auctioned at a starting price of $ 1,275 million, just one-tenth the price that Brazil bought from France about 20 years ago.
In South America, apart from the United States, only Brazil is the country that currently owns the aircraft carrier, A12 Sao Paulo. In September 2019, the Brazil’s Ministry of Defense announced the start of the auction process for its retired carrier, with bids starting at just $1,275 million, almost one-tenth the amount which it paid to buy from France almost two decades ago.
Sao Paulo was officially decommissioned by Brazilians two years ago. The ship, formerly known as Foch, was the Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier of the French navy from 1963 to 2000. Brazil bought Foch in 2000 for $ 12 million and changed its name to Sao Paulo with the hull number A12 to replace the Minas Gerais aircraft carrier, which had been built since World War II and underwent many years of service. At the time, only the United States, France and Brazil were the only three countries to use CATOBAR-equipped aircraft carriers – the Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery system.
The acquisition of the Sao Paulo aircraft carrier is part of an effort to equip the Brazilian navy with combat capability between fighter squadrons and aircraft carrier. However, the vessel did not meet the expectations of the Brazilian navy. Until being fully “retired” in 2017, Sao Paulo had nearly a decade of rest.
Even in 2004, a steam-powered power supply system exploded, killing one crew member and putting Sao Paulo on a major overhaul between 2005 and 2010. The total cost of repairs and upgrades the carrier grant up to 19 million USD.
The carrier Sao Paulo has a standard displacement of 24,200 tons and 32,800 tons at full load. The ship is 265 m long, the beam is 31.7 m and the draft is 8.6 m. The crew consists of 1,338 people, including 64 officers, this number can be raised for 2000 men. The ship has a hangar with a length of 180m, a width from 22 to 24m and occupies a total area of 3,300m². She has a typical design of Western aircraft carriers, with a spacious flight deck that can launch two fixed-wing aircraft at the same time, one at the bow and one along the portside. There are two steam catapults, one located forward on the deck and the other at an angle. The catapults can launch aircraft weighing between 15t and 20t to 110 nodes. The aircrafts are recovered via a corner deck running from the stern to starboard. The carrier is equipped with two elevators with the capacity to lift a 15t aircraft in nine seconds. The aircraft carrier has space to store 3,000m³ of jet fuel and 1,300t of ammunition.
The Sao Paulo’s propulsion system consists of 6 Indret boilers that provide steam for 4 steam turbines generating 126,000 horsepower, driving two propellers. The ship can reach a maximum speed of 32 knots, an operating range of up to 7,500 nautical miles at 18 knots. Sao Paulo is equipped with electronic warfare & decoys sets including the DRBV-23B air sentry radar, DRBV-50 low-altitude or surface sentry radar, later replaced by a DRBV-15. There are also NRBA-50 approach radar, DRBI-10 tri-dimensional air sentry radar, several DRBC-32C fire radar and DRBN-34 navigation radars.
The Sao Paulo’s airwing can operate up to 39 aircraft, including 22 jets and 17 helicopters. Its main interceptor and strike aircraft is the A-4KU Skyhawk. In 1998, the Brazilian Navy bought 20 Skyhawks from Kuwait. These aircraft can carry Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and conventional bombs. Although it has undergone upgrades, Brazil’s A-4s generally have very limited capacity, not comparable to the modern generation aircrafts of other sea powers. The helicopters carried onboard include AS 532 SC Cougar, HB 350 and HB 355 Ecureuils and SH-3 Sea King. It can also operate Argentine Navy Super Etendards and S-2T Turbo Trackers.
After nearly two decades of operation, Sao Paulo ship only made 206 days of voyage, but also traveled more than 85,000 km.