A permanent operation was activated, mobilizing the FAB and its transport aviation to fight Coronavirus. Know the details.
By João Paulo Moralez
The transport aviation of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) is mobilized to support government actions in the fight against Coronavirus. The missions range from rescuing Brazilians abroad to transporting doctors, patients, supplies and equipment to hospitals.
From the C-98 Caravan single-engine aircraft to the Embraer C-390, including planes that are normally used to transport authorities, are taking part in the aerial activities of this major operation, which has no deadline to end.
To coordinate the activities of Operation Covid-19, on March 20 the Joint Operations Center (COC) was activated at the Ministry of Defense in Brasília (DF), in addition to ten Joint Commands, distributed throughout the country, and with the participation of the FAB Aerospace Operations Command (COMAE). More than 28,000 military personnel from the three Armed Forces are involved in the Operation.
As a way of serving missions more efficiently, the FAB created three operating hubs. The first in Wing 1, in Brasília, and the other two in Wing 11 in Galeão and Wing 12 in Santa Cruz, in Rio de Janeiro.
In addition to the airplanes that are already used by transport squadrons based in these locations, aircraft from other air units were moved to these hubs to reinforce readiness, with five C-95 Bandeirantes, five C-98 Grand Caravans and two C-105 Amazonas (Airbus C-295). In total, 26 planes are deployed in the operation.
The FAB Special Transport Group demonstrated its flexibility when using a VC-99C (ERJ-135), configured for VIP transport, to have the capacity to carry up to four tons of cargo.
The first FAB actions were triggered on February 5, 2020 when two VC-2 (E-190) flew to Wuhan, China, to bring 34 Brazilians who were at the epicenter of the origin of COVID-19. The planes took off with 11 crew members and seven doctors trained to carry out Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (DQBRN) missions. From Brasilia the aircraft made stops in Fortaleza, Las Palmas (Spain), Warsaw (Poland), Ürümqi (China) and Wuhan.
On March 24, two C-130 Hercules rescued 100 Brazilians who were in Cuzco, Peru, prevented from returning to the country.
More than 100 tons of cargo were transported, including gel alcohol, 95 respirators, masks and face shields, 3D printers, H1N1 vaccines, vehicles, ambulances, rapid sars-cov2 tests, oxygen cylinders, stretchers and ICU beds, medications, medical teams, patients and others. The flights take place 24 hours a day.
The novelty in this major operation is the involvement of the new Embraer KC-390 in transport missions.
As of September 2019, two aircraft were received by the 1st Troop Transport Group “Zeus Squadron”, at Wing 2 in Anápolis. Since then, Embraer has been providing training and education for the squadron’s crew and mechanics, who in March completed the basic phase that includes local flights. The next phase is training on medium and long distance routes, with crews loading and unloading cargo.
This training stage should be completed in June and, taking advantage of these instructional missions, the FAB decided to employ the KC-390s to transport equipment and materials under Operation COVID-19.