The two Mirage fighters climbed above the clouds and increased their speed from Mach 0.98 to Mach 1.15, while both the leader and the wingman prepared their air-to-air missiles…
During the Falklands war, despite its vicinity to the theatre of war, Brazil never thought to be involved in the conflict.
But following the beginning of the hostilities on Apr. 2, 1982 between Argentina and U.K. over the possession of the islands, Brazil declared its support for Argentina and its bases were alerted.
At 20,00 on Apr. 9 a large aircraft coming from the north without authorisation was detected by the radars of the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian Air Force). The air defence operators who contacted the aircraft discovered that the plane was a Cubana Ilyushin Il-62 heading to Buenos Aires and transporting the Cuban ambassador to Argentina.
After that its pilot refused to follow the order to land at Brasilia, the two QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) Mirage IIIEBRs were scrambled, but due to a strong storm the pilots, Major Aviador Paulo César Pereira the leader of the section and 1° Tenente-Aviador Eduardo José Pastorelo de Miranda the wingman, were able to take off only at 21,00 but because of a problem with his navigation system, Pastorelo was forced to take off a few minutes later.
Pereira headed towards the airliner which was flying over the city of Porto Nacional. Flying at an altitude of about 31,000ft and followed by the wingman at 29,000 ft, he was unable to use its onboard radar to detect the intruder because of the thick cloud layer. So the Ground Control Intercept (GCI) guided the pilots to the target, which was detected while it was turning to the left.
The two fighters were able to made the visual contact and identified the Ilyushin. Then the ground controller ordered once again to the airliner to land at Brasilia, but the aircrew answered that they were going to Ezeiza International Airport in Argentina.
At this point was ordered to the Mirages to make them visible by the airliner and leader went to the left and the wingman to the right of the Ilyushin, until they were very close to the cockpit. As explained by Santiago Rivas and Juan Carlos Cicalesi in their book Latin American Mirages Mirage III/5/F.1/2000 in Service with South American Air Arms, from the ground they contacted one more time the Cuban airliner speaking in English: “Cubana 1225, you have been intercepted! There are two fighters alongside your aircraft. You are ordered to land in Brasilia immediately!” After several moments the Il-62 pilot answered: “Roger, Roger, Brasilia! Give me instructions!”. The Mirages followed closely the airliner over Brasilia, then since they were low on gas, the fighters returned to their base before the landing of the Il-62.
After having landed, the Il-62 was cleared for the take-off again five hours later. The reason of this unauthorised flight was later found in the attempt made by the Cuban ambassador to mediate in the war before the arrival of the U.S. ambassador in Argentina.
The FAB Mirages were keep on alert for the rest of the war, even if they were not scrambled again.
Photo credit: Força Aérea Brasileira