Goodbye São Paulo

I did not expect to write two of these sorts of posts in a month. But it seems I must wave goodbye to another aircraft carrier. NAe São Paulo (A12) of the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil). I first heard the news at around 4AM this morning. I saw someone post a news article about it on a Facebook group I am a part of. Although the impact of São Paulo is not approaching that of USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the other carrier retired early this month, but she is still a Warrior of the Seas and thus I will once again say my goodbyes.

Photo by Rob Schleiffert (cropped)

São Paulo has had the distinction of serving in two navies. She was built and first commissioned as the French aircraft carrier Foch (R99). (Pronounced “fosh”, not “fock” or “fuck”.) She was the second Clemenceau-class fleet carrier. First commissioned in 1963, she was a CATOBAR-type carrier (basically means catapult-assisted take-offs for aircraft) and was named after French general, Marshal and military theorist Ferdinand Foch. Her size, displacement and capability is similar to that of a World War II-era Essex-class fleet carrier of the US Navy. She was decommissioned from French service in 2000 and transferred and commissioned into Brazilian service the same day.

In her years of service as São Paulo, the ship has suffered fires, serviceability issues and has never managed to operate more than three months at a time without the need for repairs and maintenance. Despite the attempts to refit and upgrade her, a recent study has shown that it would take around 10 years to upgrade the ship. By that time, its airwing of A-4 Skyhawk fighters will reach the end of their service periods themselves. Officially due to high costs, the Brazilian Navy will demobilise and decommission São Paulo. Apparently, the Navy plans to domestically construct two 50,000-tonne carriers to replace and supplement São Paulo‘s role in the future.

Admittedly, I am not completely informed about the history of Foch/São Paulo – both ship’s service lives have had much less media coverage here in the UK compared to our Royal Navy carriers or US Navy carriers. But it is always sad for me to see an aircraft carrier go. In the years that I have been alive, it has seemed like São Paulo has never managed to stay in the sea long enough to be an ocean warrior. But every aircraft carrier has a place in my heart, and São Paulo is no exception. She’s in dire need of repair, and thus I’d rather see her put to rest than rust away doing nothing. Or worse, being a moving hazard at sea.

I salute you, old Warrior of the Seas. Let history never forget you.


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