The B-26 sale to Portugal
The need for a replacement for the Portugese bomber and
close air support fleet in Africa during the Colonial War, composed of the PV-2 Harpoon and of the F-84G Thunderjet, led to
the procurement by the Portuguese Air Force of a new bomber in the mid-sixties. But it would prove difficult to acquire new
aircraft because of the United Nations arms embargo then in force against Portugal, so special methods had to be used. In
late 1964, with the decision made to acquire the B-26 Invader a contact was established with an arms broker in order to try
to obtain 20 B-26 Invader aircraft.
The arms dealer, Luber SA in Geneva, signed an agreement
with Aero Associates of Arizona to supply 20 aircraft that would be refurbished by Hamilton Aircraft. The first B-26 would
be delivered by 30 April 1965 and the last one by January 1966. Besides the aircraft, a lot of spare parts and accessories
would also be included in the purchase.
It is not clear how the export licenses were obtained, but
in May 1965 the first aircraft, piloted by John "Jeff" Hawke, was ferried from Tucson to Tancos, Portugal, through Rochester,
Torbay, Canada, and Santa Maria, Azores. By August 1965, seven aircraft had already been delivered.
In September the U.S. Customs arrested Hawke and other people
involved in the arms deal and prevented a C-46 transporting spare parts to Portugal from leaving the United States.
B-26 at OGMA after overhaul (see B-26 datasheet)
during test period at OGMA October 1971. Note Devil's badge and red "D" (Devil) on rudder.(L.Tavares)
The way it entered the FAP inventory was to say the least,
unorthodox, and its service was not only short but full of difficulties and incidents.
When in the mid-sixties the FAP
realized the need to replace the bomber fleet being used in Africa, represented by the faithful but tired PV-2 and in some
way by the F-84G Thunderjet, immediately arrived to the conclusion that the task would not be easy, mainly due to the United
Nations arms embargo then in force against Portugal.
So it soon became apparent that "special ways" would
have to be used to obtain the necessary aircraft. As the choice fell on the B-26 Invader, contact was established in late
1964 or early 65 with an arms broker in order to try to obtain 20 B-26. The succession of events that finally led to the arrival
in Portugal of 7 B-26 is well told in the books "The War Business" and "Foreign Invaders", so we will only resume the story
Incidentally, it is a rather amusing fact that the writer
(L.Tavares), although more or less aware of what was happening to the FAP in the sixties, only knew of the deal after reading
(in the American Library in Lisbon), the report published in "The Saturday Evening Post" in the sixties
Reverting to the facts, the search for aircraft started
by Luber SA in Geneva (the arms dealer) ended with an agreement with Aero Associates of Arizona to supply 20 aircraft that
would be refurbished by Hamilton Aircraft. The first aircraft should be delivered by April 30, 1965 and the last one by January
1966. A lot of spare parts and accessories would also be included.
Until today is not very well known the way that was used
to obtain export licenses but in May 1965 the first aircraft piloted by John Hawke ( who received 3,000 USD for each flight),
was ferried from Tucson to Tancos in Portugal through Rochester, Torbay (Canada), and Santa Maria (Açores). As soon as he
arrived in Tancos, the pilot was immediately transported to Lisbon Airport to take the first plane back to the USA.
John Hawke was a colorful type as he already had in his
logbook of RAF pilot, a chase of an U-2 that had over flown Cyprus when he was based there... In 1968 he participated in the
filming of the movie "The Battle of Britain" piloting the B-25 used as the camera ship, and finally some years later disappeared
without trace when flying over the Mediterranean.
Some sources say that when he was delivering the second
aircraft was forced to land in Washington, and almost arrested, but when mentioning the code name "Sparrow" was immediately
released. By August 1965, When the seventh aircraft had already been delivered, the US Customs finally went into action and
in September Hawke and other people involved were arrested in Florida.
At the same time a C-46 loaded with spares to be flown
to Portugal was also prevented to leave the USA.
So, in September 1965 the FAP was the proud owner of 7 complete B-26
with provisions for armament (at least the bombing and gun electrical circuits) but with few spares and without armament.
The serials 7101 to 7107 were issued to the B-26, repeating
at least in part the serials attributed in 1952 to the SA-16 Albatross.
Due to the lack of spares, until 1970 was very difficult
to put in service all the seven , but at least it was possible to begin the operational testing with three aircraft
: 7104 (with dual controls) was first flown after revision in September 26, 1967, 7106 in July 28, 1969 and 7107 in September
9, 1970. The spacing of the dates show very well the difficulties experienced in preparing the aircraft.
In 1970 these first aircraft were sent to Guinea-Bissau
as a detachment to be tested in a tropical climate (date from this testing the badge "O Diabos" shown in some aircraft).
On April 30 1971, aircraft 7107 had a small accident when landing at Sal Island in Cape Vert, fracturing the nose wheel leg
and damaging the propellers.
Meanwhile the Air Force was always trying by all means available,
to get spare parts and armament. Many contacts and visits (including at least one to Brazil that was also operating
B-26 by that time) were made. One of the first contacts for this effect had taken place in 1967, which resulted in a visit
to Chateaudun depot in France in September 1967 during which 13 ex- Armée de l'Air Invaders were offered for sale, including
some interesting examples like Z-007, and 7 aircraft radar equipped. All had between 3000 and 8000 total hours. The offer
was rejected probably due to the state of the aircraft.
Some expontaneous offers were also received,
one of the most interesting being the one that proposed in January 1971, to sell to FAP 6 ex Guatemalan Air Force B-26
(listed below) by 950,000 USD each FOB Miami !!
Ex - USAF
Total time (hours) in January 1971|
Accompanying the letter with the offer, were some photos
in which were shown 420, 424 and 428 all painted gray and with 6 gun noses. Mention was also to the possibility of obtaining
also ex- Nicaraguan B-26 and a photo showed 603 and 604 of
This offer was again not accepted, but finally a lot of
spares was obtained from France which allowed the complete refurbishment of the aircraft that started in the beginning of
1971 at OGMA.
The aircraft were completely stripped down, the wing-spars reinforced (like the USAF had done some years
earlier) and armament installed. Also during this work the rear windows were covered.
By November 1971 the aircraft had all been refurbished
except 7104 that was scrapped due to heavy corrosion found when the stripping started, and 7102 that was due to be completed
in January 1972. All had solid noses except 7102. The table below shows the first flight date in Portugal since delivery from
USA, and total time since delivery:
||Total time (hours)
||Ready / first flight
||Scrapped in 1971|
||Not flown yet|
||Not flown yet|
||To be finished in January 1972
After completion, many testing trips were made in 1972 to
Açores, Madeira and Canarias. The author will never forget the sleek bird that he saw many times in 1971 departing for test
flights, during his service as an young engineer at OGMA !
Finally in 1973 the remaining 6 aircraft were sent to Angola
to replace the F-84G of Esquadra 93 (perhaps the first time propeller combat aircraft replaced jets in an operational
They were used from until 1975, mainly for armed reconnaissance,
and it seems that the pilots liked the aircraft with its long range and good performance. Perhaps the only odd detail was
the way of entering the aircraft : over the wing, entering in the cockpit from above, feet first.
All the six were left in Angola in 1975. The magazine FlyPast
of July 1996 published a photo of one of them, seen together with other three 50 km to the south of Luanda. Our friend Leif
Hellstrom (one of the authors of the book "Foreign Invaders"), lent to us some photos in which could be seen the remains of
7102, 7103, 7106 and 7105.
If one was taken to Cuba after 1975, as some sources
say, could only have been 7101 or 7107.
List of aircraft received:
|Type as built
||Equipped with plexiglass nose|
||Scrapped by decision of March 1973. Some parts preserved for Museu do Ar|
For original article see http://www.oocities.org/tavaresl.geo
John "Jeff" Hawke
Jeff Hawke was very much into locating and flying film
One time President of American based company Euramericair,
amongst other things he flew one of the Mosquitos in 633 Squadron. He also operated the camera ship for Battle of Britain
'The Psychedelic Monster'.
At the time of his death, press reports said John Hawke
had hired a Piper Aztec some months previously and was later fished up out of the Adriatic.
The body on board carried a Miami driving licence in the
name of John Hawke.
The a/c was said to have had u/c and flaps down and showed
damage inconsistant with that expected in a ditching. In the period since the a/c was first hired it had been repainted in
"anti radar paint". There were several rumours going the rounds at the time.
This happened at the beginning of the troubles in Yugoslavia
The Aztec that John 'Jeff' Hawke apparently died in was
The aircraft was recovered on 28th December 1991 and could
well have been there for up to 2 months
As well as piloting the B25
camera ship in ‘The Battle of Britain’ and also worked on Empire of the Sun, Sky Bandits, White Nights, Sweet
Dreams, and Hanover Street. With the exception of Hanover Street, he was aerial co-ordinator or advisor on all of them.
In 1965, Gregory Board hired Hawke to try and
deliver those twenty B-26 Invaders to Portugal for use in its African colonial wars. This, despite a U.N. embargo against
arms sales to Portugal. Hawke actually did deliver seven Invaders before the U.S. shut the operation down, resulting in the
arrest of Hawke and the attempted arrest of Board, who fled the U.S. with, allegedly, most of the money from the deal. In
the subsequent trial of Hawke, he thinly claimed CIA involvement but was acquited anyway. Board is reportedly still alive
and kicking in Austrailia somewhere.
It is interesting to read accounts of these activities by Board and Hawke
buddy (and aviation author) Martin Caidin because his stories and the documented stories are usually quite different. Martin
Caidin based the main character in his book Anytime, Anywhere on a compilation of Board and Hawke. All three were "larger
than life" characters, at least in their own eyes. I doubt that there is much room for such aviation "characters" any more.
John "Jeff" Hawke, middle left
This pair of images below, B-26B s / n 7101 armed with four bombs,
photographed in BA9 in Luanda certainly reflect their use as military platforms.
Below, the same aircraft in a flat olive green, anti-missile
The photos below were taken between 1993 and
1994 at Luanda, the wrecks have since disappeared.
The two shots below were supplied by and are the
copyright property of John F Crompton
The six shots below were supplied by and are the
copyright property of Robert Wilsey