NAeL Minas Gerais - Brazilian Navy

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HMS Vengeance as Minas Gerais A-11
History of the ship as HMS Vengeance with the Royal Navy


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History of the ship as HMAS Vengeance with the Royal Australian Navy


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Related History Items

HMS Vengeance Association reunion, Novatel, Nottingham, April 2002
Further details can be obtained, by contacting: The Secretary, Derek (Lew) Lewis at: 

See also the Association web page

(source: Public Relationships Service of the Brazilian Navy)
Serviço de Relações Públicas da Marinha do Brasil

Colossus-class Light Fleet Carrier 

Vengeance was a light fleet aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy's Colossus Class. She was built by Swan Hunter, launched on 16th November, 1942, and commissioned 14th January, 1945.

Brazilian Navy 1960-2001

HMS Vengeance was decommissioned in 1955 from the Royal Navy and sold to Brazil on 12th December 1956, where she was commissioned into the Brazilian Navy in 1960 and renamed Navio-Aeródromo Ligeiro (NAeL) Minas Gerais, and coded A-11.

Origins of Brazilian Naval Aviation

Brazil has a long tradition of naval aviation going back to the early 1900s. In Brazil five years after the pioneering flight of Santos Dumont in 1911, two facts already showed the interest of the Navy with aviation, including on 29 April 1911, when Lieutenant of the Navy Jorge Enrique Moller received his Pilot Wings in France, the first Brazilian military member to fly. Then on 14 October 1911, the Aéro Brazilian Club, was established with its first president, Almirante Jose Carlos de Carvalho. The FIRST PHASE of  the history of Brazilian Naval Aviation started on 23 August 1916, with the signature, by President Wenceslau Braz, of the Decree of creation of the School of Naval Aviation, the first military school of aviation of the country and, therefore, the cradle of Brazilian military aviation and the landmark of birth of Naval Aviation. 

In 1941, under the new Ministry of Aeronautics, the Army and Navy air arms merged - Aviação Militar e Aviação Naval - forming the  Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB) - the aerial component of the Brazilian Armed Forces. The Navy took part in WW2 without any aerial defence, and it was only in 1952 that there was resurgence of naval aviation forming the SECOND PHASE of the history of Brazilian Naval Aviation. This was initiated with the creation of the Aeronautics Division of the Navy, foreseen in the Law nº 1658, of  4 August 1952, that effectively established a new administrative organization for the Navy department. This laid the way for the Brazilian Navy to modernise her Fleet including the purchase of the British aircraft carrier HMS Vengeance in 1956 as NAeL Minas Gerais.

Vengeance and Brazil

The ship was initially sold to Brazil as Minas Gerais on 12th December 1956 for a total of US$9
million. After major refits over a period June 1957- December 1960, with extensive modifications at Verolme Dock Rotterdam, and the fitting of a 8.5 degree angled deck, she was returned to the UK on 18 October 1960 for flight tests of landing and take-offs with RN aircraft of 700 Squadron.  The squadron carried out 27 launchings of the turboprop Gannet and 34 with the Seahawk. After the tests, the British observers considered the ship as one of most equipped aircraft carriers in the world at that time. She then sailed for Brazil, where she was recommissioned 6 December 1960. 
The Commanding Officers of  NAeL MINAS GERAIS - A 11
  • CMG Hélio Leôncio Martins, 1960 -  (First Capt.)
  • CMG Telmo Reifscheider, 1969 - 1971. 
  • CMG Aripena Feitosa, 1972 - 1973. 
  • CMG Raul Pereira Bittencourt.
  • CMG Antônio Alberto Marinho Nigro, Jan. 1998 - Jan. 2000. 
  • CMG Júlio César de Araújo Passos, Jan. 2000 - 2001 (Final Capt).

In 1960, Minas Gerais took up her roll as the Flagship for the Brazilian Navy, as their only Aircraft Carrier. Her first aircraft were two British built helicopters, Westland Whirlwind SRS.2, as well as three Grumman Avenger aircraft which had been donated by the US Navy for onboard training, catapult alignment, hanger checks etc. Prior to being incorporated into the Brazilian Navy, two of these aircraft had been in use by Dutch naval aviation and one in the French Fleet Air Arm. One of the Avengers fell into the sea during the trip to Brazil. 

On 24 February 1963, the Head of the General staff of the Armed, in Circular No. 007/63, directed the Minister of the Navy to create the Naval Air Force - Força Aérea Naval - (ForAeNav), consisting of NAeL Minas Gerais and 1st Carrier Air Group (1o. Grupo Aéreo Embarcado). This was subdivided into the 1st Anti-Submarine Squadron (1o. Esquadrão de Aviões Anti-Submarinos), 1st Squadron of Anti-submarine Helicopters (1o. Esquadrão de Helicópteros Anti-Submarinos) and 1st Reconnaissance Squadron (1o. Esquadrão de Aviação de Caça). 

SH-34J helicopter onboard Minas Gerais 1965 

The THIRD PHASE of Brazilian Naval Aviation commenced in 1965, with the creation of 1º Esquadrão de Aviões de Interceptação e Ataque (VF-1). The Navy flew the Sikorsky SH-34J helicopters of the 1º Esquadrão de Helicópteros Anti-Submarino (HS-l) da Aviação Naval from Minas Gerais. The Navy subsequently operated the Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King helicopter, one of most modern of the types at the time. 

At the same time, the Brazilian Air Force squadron 1º Esquadrão do 1º GAE was assigned to operate the P-16 Tracker onboard Minas Gerais. From January 1965, the P-16 were permitted to operate from the deck of Minas Gerais and on 22nd June 1965, Ten.-Av. Antonio Claret Jordão undertook the first landing on the " Minas Gerais ", piloting P-16 7021. 

Tracker landing onboard  Minas Gerais (source: Public Relationships Service of the Brazilian Navy)

The initial decision on which aircraft should operate from the NAel Minas Gerais caused strained relations between the Brazilian Navy, MB, and the Brazilian Air Force, FAB, who both wished to operate its aircraft from the carrier. The government of President Castello Branco broke the empasse, decreeing (No. 55.627 of 26 January 1965) that fixed wing aircraft would be operated by the FAB, while the MB would operate helicopters from the ship. 

Minas Gerais operated normally until 1976, when she was overhauled till 1980, during which on 13 December 1979, she participated in the commemoration to the Day of the Sailor, presided over by Exmo. President of the Republica João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo, and the Brazilian Navy Minister AE Maximiano Eduardo Da Silva Fonseca. In January 1980 she participated as flagship in Operation ASPIRANTEX, consisting of the FT commanded by the ComenCh - VA Pablo de Bonoso Duarte Pinto, leaving Rio De Janeiro on 7 January 1980 and returning at the end of the month. In November of 1981, she participated in Task Force 10, under the command of VA Arthur Ricart da Costa, in company with Frigates - F 40 , Constitution - 42 F and
Independence - F 44 , the torpedo-boat destroyers Maranhão - D 33, lagoas - 36 D and Great River of the North -   D 37 , tank-ship Marajó- G 27 and Tonelero class submarines - 21 S and Riachuelo - S 22. In December 1987 she participated in Operation DRAGON XXIII after which she was again laid up due to catapult problems.

During that whole period she had remained indispensable for amphibious operations carrying the  Super UH14 Cougar and the UH-12/13 Squirrel helicopter that were to take up the role of advanced troop landing of Marines in enemy territory in the eventuality of conflict. The Navy remained concerned that the Fleet did not possess attack or fighter aircraft to protect the Fleet away from the coast. Therefore, after the Falklands/Malvinas conflict, the MB decided to acquire A-4 Skyhawk fighter aircraft to equip the ship. The plans, however, were delayed by problems include the decree hindering the MB to operate fixed wing, budgetary situation etc. The ship was not to see these aircraft for another 20 years.

She subsequently serving as a helicopter carrier, though in poor condition, taking part in Operation TROPICALEX I in January 1988. She subsequently underwent a refit between October 1991 and 1993, when two new navigation radars and and Scanter-MIL landing radar were installed (Naval Tactical Data Control System - SICONTA Mk 1, developed in Brazil). Then in September 1994 three SADRALs acquired in France were installed using infrared Mistral missile guidance, to replace the Bofor defence systems. Minas Gerais was eventually recommissioned November 1993. At the same time the MB bought from the USA nine Sea King for the Anti-Submarine role (ASW). 

                     Minas Gerais after refit 1991-1993 
(source: Public Relationships Service of the Brazilian Navy)

The catapult was repaired in 1995-1996, using  the former catapult of the Argentine " 25 de Maio" (ex HMS Venerable)(sold as scrap iron) and reconditioning others.  In 1996, the 1º GAE of the FAB last used its Tracker aircraft on the ship. Tracker P-16  7034 was the last operational aircraft to serve with the aircraft carrier when it alone came back to fly and be catapulted for one last time on 9 October 1996 from " Minas Gerais ".  However, she was to again see service in 1997, when she was involved in maneouvres as an attack carrier with Argentina Naval  Aviation Super Etendards attack planes, ANA Sea Kings & ANA pilots as part of the widening collaboration between Argentina & Brazil. 

Minas Gerias after refit with a flypast of two new A-4 SkyHawks 
(source: Public Relationships Service of the Brazilian Navy)

In 1997-1998 she was again refitted, with an anticipation of expected remaining in service until the year 2005. This was part supported by the Decree Nº 2.538, of 8 April 1998 
whivch forms the FOUTH PHASE of Brazilian Naval Aviation, which made it possible for aviation use by the Navy, and aircraft upgrades that included the operation of newly purchased A-4 Skyhawks, in effect making her a powerful support vessel again, and the activation of the attack fighter squadron VF-1. 

On 13-24th January 2001, flight trials were made by three A-4 (A-1) Skyhawks on the deck of Minas Gerais. The operation, called CATRAPO I entered the history books of Brazilian naval aviation, as this was the first time that fixed-wing jet aircraft piloted by Brazilian naval aviators had made hooked landings and catapult assisted take-offs in the NAeL. Two aircraft were piloted by Brazilian naval aviators and another one for a aviator (former-US Navy) of the company Kay & Associates Inc. which provides equipment to the Brazilian Navy. On 18th Januray 2001 Capitão-Tenente Fernando Souza Vilela made the first deck landing, and on the same day Capitão-Tenente Marcos Antonio Souza de Araujo carried out catapult launches.

Take off and landings of A-4 Skyhawk A-4 January 2001
Serviço de Relações Públicas da Marinha do Brasil

Minas Gerais was downclassed to a Helicopter Support Ship in 2001 with the aim of eventual retirement due to being surplus to requirements, owing to the Brazilian Navy's purchase of the French Aircraft Carrier "Foch" from the French government for 80 million French francs (US$10.49 million)(ref:, Nov 2000). The Foch was decommissioned on 15 November 2001 and transferred to Brazil as NAe São Paulo A-12 on the same day.

The Naval Command and the Brazilian Ministry of Defence (Comando da Marinha e o Ministério da Defesa) were looking into the possible future uses of the Minas. On 16th February 2001, the NaeL Minas Gerais went on one of her last active sea duties as part of the Brazilian Navy. The veteran A-11, along with A-4 went to sea to form the reception for its successor NAe São Paulo arriving from Europe that day. 

A ceremony was held in honour of Minas Gerais (A-11) on 9th September 2001, in the AMRJ (Arsenal de Marinha of Rio De Janeiro). Hundreds of former members of the crew who had served on board the ship at different times attended the ceremony including the 87 year old Admiral Hélio Leôncio Martins, first commander of the aircraft carrier. Then on 16th October 2001,  Minas Gerais was finally de-commissioned by the Brazilian Navy and is currently at the Naval Dockyard at Rio de Janeiro where she is largely mothballed as "Care and maintenance" but with 350 men onboard the ship to keep the remaining systems operating. 

The future of the ship in uncertain.  The City hall of Rio de Janeiro (Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro) at one point started to negotiate an accord with the Navy to transform the aircraft carrier into a floating museum, in the Bay of Guanabara. However, during 2001 moves are afoot in the International "Save the Minas Gerais/Vengeance Appeal" including by the by the 'Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Ships' (BAMS) to purchase the "Minas Gerais" from the Brazilian Government and preserve her as a 'floating heritage museum' at her birthplace in the UK and dedicate her to her Brazilian, Australian and British heritage. The estimated time of arrival back in the UK, if all goes to plan, is mid 2002.

Select Online References:
AF1 Skyhawk e NAeL Minas Gerais VÍDEO
Asas da Marinha
Aviação Naval Brasileira
Brazilian Air Force 
Brazil Naval News (Poder Naval online)
- Jatos Skyhawk operam no NAeL Minas Gerais January 2001
- Porta-aviões francês chega dia 17 February 2001
- Senador sugere transformar A11 em feira flutuante March 2001
- Prefeitura do Rio planeja adquirir NAeL Minas Gerais June 2001
- Obrigado Minas Gerais October 2001
Decree Nº 2.538, of 8 April 1998 
History of Aviação Naval Brasileira
FAB Museu Aeroespacial
Forças Armadas Brasileiras
Grumman Tracker - History of the Brazilian Air Force
History of the Brazilian Air Force
HMS VENGEANCE aircraft carrier profile. Fleet Air Arm Archive
HMS Vengeance with 1850 and 812 Squadrons website
Marina do Brasil
Marina do Brasil Aviação Naval (Brazilian Naval Aviation)
Minas Gerais by
Navio Aeródromo Ligeiro Minas Gerais
Navio-Museu BAURU
OS NAVIOS NAeL MINAS GERAIS - A 11 (classe Colossus) shipbuilding Brazil
Os novos rumos da Aviação Naval brasileira 
Poder Naval org
Informar; Sítio não oficial da Marinha Brasileira. Registros. Boletim 2001 2

NOMAR - the News of the Navy , Rio De Janeiro, SRPM, n.º 439, p. 2,
jan. 1980; nº 462, p.2, ten 1981. 

Brazilian Maritime Magazine . Rio De Janeiro. Volume 120, n.º 10/12. Job
of Documentation of the Navy, out./dez 2000. 
Light Strike/ASW Aircraft Carrierli
19,890 tons. (Full Load). Standard 15,890 tons
Length(O/A)  693.1' (211m), Length(W/L) 630.0' (192m). Beam 80.4' (24.5m). Draft 23.5' (7.16m)
Flight Deck Length 690.0' (210m) Flight Deck Width 119.6' (36.5m)
Engines Two Parsons geared steam turbines, 4 Admiralty 3 drum type boilers (400 psi) (371-700 degree superheat), 2 shafts, 40,000 shp
Speed 24 Knots. 18-20 knts reported as current top speed
Range/Endurance 12,000 nm at 14 knots
 6,200 nm at 23 knots
Oil Fuel 3,196 tons
Catapult 1 MacTaggart Scott C-3 steam powered (Brazilian designed)
Armament Ten 40 mm Bofors AA. 3 Matra SIMBAD twin launchers for Mistral missiles (after refit)
Aircraft complement Thirty Five

6 Grumman P.16 Trackers
10-12 AF.1 (A-4KU) Skyhawk (after refit)
4 -6 Augusta ASH.3D/H Sea Kings (Squadron HS.1)  (after refit)
2 Aerospatiale UH.13 Esquillos (Squadron HU.1 & HU.3)  (after refit)
and/or 3 Aerospatiale UH.14 Super Puma (Squadron HU.2) (after refit)

Crew complement 1,300 (1,000 Navy, 300 Air Wing)

© 2001-2002 All rights reserved for all information created for or on behalf of the 
Save the Vengeance Appeal and Museum Project Team