Sao Paulo carrier, formerly known as Foch, was the Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier of the French navy from 1963 to 2000.


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, the Sao Paulo, with bids starting at just almost one-tenth the amount which it paid to buy from France almost two decades ago.

Sao Paulo was officially decommissioned by Brazilians 3 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.

Brazil Aircraft Carrier Sao Paulo
Brazil Aircraft Carrier Sao Paulo


The carrier Sao Paulo has a standard displacement of 24,200 tons and 32,800 tons at full load. The ship is 265m (869.42 ft) long, the beam is 31.7m (104 ft) and the draft is 8.6m (28.21 ft). The crew consists of 1,338 people, including 64 officers, this number can be raised for 2000 men.

Sao Paulo has a hangar with a length of 180m, a width from 22 to 24m (72-78.7ft) 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. 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.

Electronic systems

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.


The ship is armed with four 100mm modèle 64 turrets and two SACP Crotale EDIR systems. The Crotale EDIR short-range anti-air missile can be used against low-flight anti-ship missiles and aircraft.

The Crotale system integrates the main sensors, the firing system of the turret and a central coordination system. The turret can hold eight ready-to-launch missiles in watertight containers.

18 further missiles are stored in a magazine behind the turret. Four dual Simbad launchers and five 12.7mm machine guns are also fitted on the vessel.


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. Until decommissioned in 2017, this carrier served primarily for pilot training.

Not to mention in 2004, the steam power supply system exploded, causing one sailor to die and put Sao Paulo into a state of overhaul between 2005 and 2010. The total cost of repair and upgrade Sao Paulo grant up to 19 million USD. Sao Paulo was then trial run, and was expected to return to the fleet in 2013. But in 2012 the ship continued to face fire and had to be repaired.

As of 2016, Sao Paulo has not been repaired yet, and it may take another decade, so the ship was given a “rest” in 2017. After nearly two decades of operation, Sao Paulo ship only made 206 days of voyage, but also traveled more than 85,000 km.

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