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Republic P-72C Superbolt - Esquadra No.10, Força Aérea Portuguesa, 1955

Following the formation of NATO in 1949 there was an immediate acknowlegement that most of the air forces of the member states needed an urgent transfusion of modern combat aircraft and the Portuguese Aeronáutica Militar was especially in need of replacing it's old Hurricanes and first-generation Spitfires. In November 1950 it was agreed that, under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, the United States would supply 50 P-72C Thunderbolt fighters to Portugal. The 50 P-72C's were all ex-USAF aircraft previously based at Bordeaux–Mérignac in France and were ferried to Portugal in small batches during the Spring and Summer of 1951. The aircraft were equally distributed among the newly created Esquadra 10 and Esquadra 11 and also a training flight at Ota Air Base. However, training proved to be a difficult time for the Portuguese pilots used to the lighter British fighters and there were also problems with the Portuguese air bases not having the appropriate radio equipment but these were soon addressed and both squadrons were fully operational by the time that the Portuguese Air Force was formed on July 1st, 1952 following the merger of the former Aeronáutica Militar and the Aviação Naval.

An important milestone was reached in September 1952 when four-ship flights from both P-72C squadrons were sent to Zwiebrucken in Germany to participate in 'Blue Alliance' a large NATO exercise where they acquitted themselves well in defending their temporary home against 'enemy' RAF Lincoln bombers. Back home in Portugal the P-72C force were soon hit by a serious shortage of spares leading to Esquadra 11 being disbanded and it's remaing aircraft were transferred to Esquadra 10 who moved across to Tancos Air Base in late 1954 where they operated the P-72C until disbanding in October 1956.






Skin Credit: Charles

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