Brazilian Air Force infantry weapons

When one mentions an air force, what almost immediately probably comes to mind are images of sleek, fast-flying jet fighters, huge transport aircraft, and helicopters of all variations.  However, it should be remembered that a whole lot of equipment is involved in the general operation of a ‘flying’ armed service, infantry weapons included. From air base guard duties to a range of special operations (including C-SAR, Combat Search And Rescue, HR – Hostage Rescue, etc.), personnel of the ground elements must and do carry small (sometimes, not so) arms to accomplish their missions. The FAB – Força Aérea Brasileira (Brazilian Air Force) is no exception. So, here’s an illustrated report on some items likely to be found in their hands, most of the photos coming from official AF photographers, as shown by the embedded credits.

The Russian-made 9K38 Igla-S short-range (6km), shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile is the standard armament of three Air Force GDAAEs – Grupos de Defesa Antiaérea (Anti-Aircraft Air Defense Groups), whose responsibility is the close-in protection of air bases. When required, they deploy anywhere in the country, as in the recent case of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The Brazilian Air Force was probably the first foreign operator of the German-made 5.56x45mm Heckler & Koch HK33, both in the rifle (390mm barrel) and carbine (332mm) configurations, also in retractable- and solid stock-variations. The slim handguard of the background weapon indicates it is probably an early 1970s-supplied gun, while that in the foreground is of the wide variety, of more recent manufacture.

Both solid-stock (foreground) and retractable-stock models of the HK33 are widely used by the BINFAs (Air Force Infantry Battalions) in guard and police uses.

Another retractable-stock HK33 in Brazilian Air Force hands. A closer look at picture will show that the operator has two magazines taped together in an up-and-down arrangement.

From Switzerland comes the 5.56x45mm SIG SG550 added to the force’s inventory in the 1990s. Its use, however, in more concentrated in some specialized units, such as those employed in SpecOps. Note translucent magazine and expedient (tape-fixed) foregrip/tactical light unit.

Submachine guns are, of course, found in the Brazilian Air Force inventory, such as this Heckler & Koch MP5SD (cylindrical handguard missing) and, coming behind, an IMI/IWI Mini-Uzi, both in 9x19mm chambering. Note the early, straight magazine with indentations on the leading edge fitted to the suppressed weapon, these usually dating back to the 1970s.

A better view of Mini-Uzis during an anti-terror exercise.

Another weapon from the Heckler & Koch company in long-time use is the 7.62x51mm PSG-1 sniper rifle, here employing 5-round magazines. Scope appears to be the factory-supplied Hensoldt ZF 6×42.

Yessir, the Brazilian Air Force troops also pack the ever-present 5.56x45mm M4 carbine, though the author is not sure of its manufacture origin. For the record, early M16s were also in use sometime in the late 1960s.

The 9x19mm Taurus PT-92 semi-auto pistol has been the standard sidearm of the Air Force guys for many years.

Yes, sure. But the kneeling PA – Polícia da Aeronáutica (Air Force Police) soldier in photo is holding an M1911A1 pistol, possibly an IMBEL-made 9x19mm version.

These Air Force troops deployed to Haiti as part of a Brazilian tri-service force in United Nations peacekeeping mission are armed with 7.62x51mm IMBEL M964A1 rifles, the locally-made FALs. This is probably a measure to standardize with Army personnel so armed.

Old, decrepit, and non-firing Mauser rifles are habitually carried in training exercises by numbered trainees (see ID patches on fatigue and jungle hat) so that their hands are always holding a gun and the body is some pounds heavier. The pictured guys are temporary officers preparing for active duty.

The 9x19mm Taurus MT-12AD, a somewhat modified (longer grip safety, different fire selector lever, etc.) Beretta M12 submachine gun, remains in service, though mainly for guard duties.

When the going gets tough on the ground, call for rotary-wing support! Top photo, 7.62x51mm FN MAG on an H-36 Caracal (Helibras/Airbus H225M); bottom, 7.62x51mm M134 Minigun on a Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawk.

Getting tougher? Call for AH-2 Sabre (Mi-35M) fire support! Those twin nose-mounted 23mm GSh-23V cannon may be of some help…

Ronaldo Olive

Ronaldo is a long-time (starting in the 1960s) Brazilian writer on aviation, military, LE, and gun subjects, with articles published in local and international (UK, Switzerland, and U.S.) periodicals. His vast experience has made him a frequent guest lecturer and instructor in Brazil’s armed and police forces.


  • Phillip Cooper

    Here come the Taurus haters…

    • Madcap_Magician

      Nah, every time you think about that, you can remember… the Indians have it way worse.

  • Vhyrus

    Air force infantry…

    I know what these words mean separately….

    • Major Tom

      Think USAF Security Forces (SecFo).

      Mostly airbase defense.

      • idahoguy101

        Dumbest idea the USAF ever fully enacted. WTH does the USAF need it’s own army??? In the late 1990’s before I retired they were begging for NCOs to volunteer for the Security Forces. I’m glad I retired

        • some other joe

          Not USAF. Also consider that the ADA branch is a Air force function rather than Army in several militaries. The Luftwaffe, not Heer, air defense school is at Fort Bliss and WWII Fallschirmjaeger were also Luftwaffe rather than Heer troops..

        • Brett baker

          So $20 million jets don’t get destroyed on the ground by$3 worth of rifle ammo.

        • mosinman

          airbases have been attacked by enemy infantry despite being behind the frontlines. it’s happened in the past. would you want your air support taken out by paratroopers or insurgents?

        • jcitizen

          I knew a Chief Master Sergeant in the USAF in Vietnam, who traded his M16 with the ARVN for a Thompson w/ drum, so he could have half a hope of repulsing the sappers they were getting at his air base. He called them “human wave” attacks for the vastly numerically superior nature of their tactics.

      • zeprin

        In quite a few countries Air Born troops are part of the Air Force.
        The US is actually one of the rare exceptions to this

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    I always get a kick out of the robins egg blue UN helmets.
    Perfect camo if a war breaks out at an Easter egg hunt.

    • Vhyrus

      It’s a perfect camouflage for being dropped out of a plane head first.

    • USMC03Vet

      Bro I got stories about Brazil UN in Haiti. They are absolutely deplorable and not in the good way. From literally running away when contact is made to murdering civilians.

      • iksnilol

        That’s kinda SOP for the United Nothing.

  • Anonymoose

    Anyone know where you can still get slimline HK33 handguards like that? I’ve only seen the “tropical” ones for the HK33 and G3K.

  • SP mclaughlin

    Seems odd that they went with the HK33 over the MD-97.
    That MP5SD is also missing its handguard. Neat seeing it with the early magazine though.

    • If I remember correctly, they adopted the HK33 back in the late 1960s. They originally ordered M16 from Colt, but the US State Department dragged their feet in approving the export license.

    • iksnilol

      Missing = weight reduction

      It’s nit like it’s an important part.

  • James

    Thanks much, Ronaldo. You always post good articles.

  • idahoguy101

    Nice inventory. They should look into weapons standardization with the army.

    • Brett baker

      How else will people know you’re special if you don’t have your own weapons?

  • Jonathan Ferguson

    I presumed those “M4s” with fixed carry handles were actually M727s, but they have the chunky M4 handguards. Can’t be XM4s, surely?

  • Seth Hill

    As I scroll through the pictures I keep saying “I want one of those, one of those…..”