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.