Cold War Era

The story of the Fiat G.91R fighter bombers operated by the Portuguese Air Force in Angola

None of the Fiat G.91R fighter bombers were deployed in Angola until the Carnation Revolution – a coup by leftist officers of the Portuguese military…

This is the short story of Fiat G.91R fighter bombers operated by the Força Aérea Portuguesa (FAP, Portuguese Air Force) in Angola [partially covered in War of Intervention in Angola Volume 1 published by Helion & Company].

For a long time, the story in question was causing quite some controversies – within specific intelligence services, but also within circles of military aviation journalists. It was only in 2007 that Portuguese researcher José Matos set the record straight in the article ‘Ginas über Afrika’, published in the German magazine Fliegerrevue Extra.

Fiat G.91Rs have seen lots of combat service in two of Portugal’s ‘overseas provinces’ of the 1960s and early 1970s: in Guiné (since 1975: Guinea Bissau) and in Mozambique. However, none were deployed in Angola until the Carnation Revolution – a coup by leftist officers of the Portuguese military – removed the junta from power in Lissabon, and the new government de-facto ended all the Portuguese colonial wars with one stroke, in April 1974.

At the time the Portuguese have had most of their military deployed in the three overseas provinces, and thus couldn’t just withdraw all of them on the single day. Furthermore, diverse of local nationalist forces needed time to take over.

Anyway, in September 1974, the G.91R-equipped Esquadra 702 was withdrawn from Mozambique to Angola. The unit brought all eight of its jets to Luanda International, including serials 5415, 5421, 5426, 5430, 5432, 5433, 5436, and 5438. Then it was disbanded and these were assigned to Esquadra 93, replacing worn-out B-26s and PV2s.

First flights by FAP Fiats in Angola were made in October 1974, and have served training and orientation purposes: by the time, the Portuguese ceased running offensive operations in that country.

Subsequently, small detachments were deployed to Nova Lisboa, Negage (AB.3), Benguela and Cabinda (AM.95). No combat sorties were flown, though, since the Portuguese ceased all offensive operations following the coup of 1974.

The sole exception was a brief deployment of 2-4 G.91Rs that flew some attacks on the insurgents of the FLEC in the Cabinda enclave (that ‘northern’ part of Angola, separated from the rest of the country by the DR Congo).

All eight G.91Rs were evacuated to Portugal in January 1975: 6 (dismantled) on board FAP’s Noratlasses, 2 (dismantled) on board of FAP’s B707s.

Nevertheless, their short presence at Luanda, the rapid take-over of the city by diverse insurgent movements (foremost the MPLA, but there was presence of the FNLA, and even some of the UNITA), a small number of Portuguese that either attempted or indeed managed to join the Angolan air force (officially established only in January 1976, though by the Cubans), and subsequent events have caused rumours that the Portuguese have left some of their Fiats behind. There were even stories that the Fiats in question were flown in combat against the (CIA/DGSE-supported) FNLA, in northern Angola, in early 1976. Indeed, as late as of 1986-1988 diverse of British aviation magazines were still citing the FAPA/DAA (Angolan air force) as equipped with four G.91Rs…

Actually, the aircraft in question were (Cuban-flown) MiG-17Fs.

Attached photo from Jose Matos’ collection is showing two of FAP G.91Rs overflying the ‘famous’ graveyard of the FAP B-26s and PV2 at Luanda International.

Check out Helion & Company website for books featuring interesting stories written by The Aviation Geek Club contributor Tom Cooper.

Photo credit: Mike Freer – Touchdown-aviation via Wikipedia

Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper is an Austrian aerial warfare analyst and historian. Following a career in the worldwide transportation business – during which he established a network of contacts in the Middle East and Africa – he moved into narrow-focus analysis and writing on small, little-known air forces and conflicts, about which he has collected extensive archives. This has resulted in specialisation in Middle Eastern, African and Asian air forces. As well as authoring and co-authoring 560 books and over 1,000 articles, he has co-authored the Arab MiGs book series – a six-volume, in-depth analysis of the Arab air forces at war with Israel, in the 1955–73 period. Cooper has been working as editor of the five @War series since 2017.

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