Invaders in Service with Brazil

Last revised August 26, 2000


The Forca Aerea Brasileira (FAB) was the largest Invader operator next to the United States and France. However, none of the FAB's Invaders ever fired a shot or dropped a bomb during actual combat.

Brazil declared war on the Axis powers on August 22, 1942. A Brazilian Expeditionary Force participated in combat in the Italian campaign in 1944-45. As an American ally in the war in Europe against Germany and Italy, Brazil had received a lot of US arms and equipment under Lend-Lease. In addition, Brazil had gotten lots of arms supplies from the USA in subsequent postwar American Republics Projects.

In the early 1950s, the bomber squadrons of the FAB were equipped with a mix of Douglas A-20K Havocs, Lockheed PV-1 Venturas and PV-2 Harpoons, Boeing B-17G Fortresses, plus a large number of North American B-25 Mitchells. As the last of the A-20s, Venturas, and Harpoons began to reach the end of their service lives, the FAB decided that it needed an interim attack aircraft that would fill in the gap until state-of-the-art jet attack aircraft could be acquired. The B-26 Invader seemed to be an ideal choice.

A batch of B-26Bs and B-26Cs was offered to Brazil by the United States in 1956. Selected aircraft were taken out of storage at Davis-Monthan AFB and were overhauled by the Fairchild facilities at St. Augustine, Florida and Hagerstown, Maryland. The first examples were delivered to Brazil in September of 1957, the last arriving in February of 1958.

14 B-26Cs and 14 B-26Bs were initially delivered, and were assigned FAB serials between 5145 and 5172. The B-26s were issued to the 5o Grupo de Aviacao at Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, replacing that unit's B-25 Mitchells. The group had two operating units, the 1o/5o Gav and the 2o/5o Gav. The group's initial mission was primarily training. This training role lasted until 1963, when 1o/5o Gav centralized all the B-26s, becoming a dedicated attack unit, while 2o/5o re-equipped with Beech H18S trainers. 1o/5o moved to Recife in 1971, and operated there until it was disbanded in 1973. 1o Esquadrao do 10o Grupo de Aviacao (1o/10o Gav) flew nine B-26s from 1971 onward.

In 1966, wing spar cracks had started to show up in some of the FAB's Invaders. In an attempt to prolong their service lives, in 1968, several FAB Invaders were flown back to Tucson, Arizona for an upgrading by the Hamilton Aircraft Company. Most of the changes involved IRAN (Inspect and Repair as Necessary) of avionics, communications equipment, and weapons systems. 15 aircraft were refurbished. In addition, three new aircraft (FAB serials 5173/5175) were acquired by Hamilton from surplus stocks as attrition replacements. Unfortunately, one of the FAB B-26 was so badly corroded that it had to be struck off in Arizona and replaced by another.

In addition, a civilian B-26 was impounded by the Brazilian government in June of 1966 due to its involvement in illegal smuggling activities. It sat derelict at Brasilia until 1970, when the FAB finally took it on charge and used it as a transport aircraft under the FAB serial number of 5176.

In spite of the Hamilton rebuild program, wing spar cracks began to reappear in the wings of many FAB B-26s in 1972, which led to the decision to retire the B-26 from FAB service rather than to attempt to keep them in the air for much longer. The withdrawal took place in stages, beginning in 1973 and lasting until December of 1975. The aircraft were replaced by EMBRAER-built Macchi MB-326GB light attack aircraft. Most were scrapped, but a couple of FAB B-26s have been preserved in Brazilian museums, and one was sold back to the USA in 1984.

Sources:


  1. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

  2. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1988.

  3. American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  4. Foreign Invaders--The Douglas Invader in Foreign Military and US Clandestine Service, Dan Hagendorn and Leif Hellstrom, Midland Publishing, 1994.

  5. US Library of Congress Country Study--Brazil