Douglas A/B-26 Invader

Illegal A/B-26 Invader sales

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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 here.

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 !!

Serial F.A.Guatemala
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:

Serial FAP Total time (hours) Ready / first flight Remarks
7104 205:17 26/9/67 Scrapped in 1971
7106 143:44 28/7/69
7107 95:34 9/9/70
7101 12:25 26/4/71
7105 -- September 1971 Not flown yet
7103 -- November 1971 Not flown yet
7102 -- 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 squadron)

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 Serial FAP C/n S/n USAF D/d Retired Remarks
B-26B-60/61-DL 7101 27814 44-34535 5/1965 1975 Solid nose
B-26B-55/65-DL 7102 44-34328 1965 1975 Equipped with plexiglass nose
B-26C-40-DT 7103 44-35631 1965 1975 Solid nose
B-26B-66-DL 7104 44-34726A 1965 1973 Scrapped by decision of March 1973. Some parts preserved for Museu do Ar
B-26B-20-DT 7105 43-22427 1965 1975
B-26B-40-DL 7106 41-39517AF 1965 1975
B-26C-35-DT 7107 44-35363 1965 1975


For original article see


John "Jeff" Hawke
Jeff Hawke was very much into locating and flying film aircraft.
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 G-OESX
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 paint scheme




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








The war in Biafra - See full article


For Biafra however, the situation was different.  Isolated both geographically and politically she was unable to obtain aircraft by conventional means and had to rely on the often shady world of the arms dealer and, as a result, came to operate a somewhat motley collection of aircraft.  Her two A-26 Invaders were perhaps the most interesting. The stories of how they were obtained almost make a  thriller novel!


The first example was an RB-26P which originally carried U.S. Serial no. 41-39531 and constructor's number 7244.


It had been operated for a number of years by the French Centre d'Essai en Vol (CEV) at Brétigny-sur-Orge where it was used for radar calibration. It was disposed of to La Service des Domaines (Government Property Agency) and on the 9th September 1965 was sold to a Mr. David C.C. Lau of Pan Eurasian Trading Co. in Luxembourg who purchased it "as an investment". Indications were that the aircraft was probably purchased purely for its engines. Pan Eurasian sold it for FF 9800 to one Ernest A. Koenig, a US aircraft engineer and aircraft broker, whose name was to appear frequently in connection with Biafra's aircraft procurement.


Koenig applied for US registration on the 22nd September 1966 and was issued with the marks N12756 on the 27th of October that same year. If, as it is believed, the Biafrans eventually paid him $320,000 for this aircraft, then his profit margin will surely go down in the annals of history!


Flown to Lisbon by Belgian pilot van Reiseghem, the aircraft took off for Nigeria on the 26th June 1967 and arrived in Enugu via a stopover at Port Harcourt on the 29th.  It has always been believed, as a result of what he had written in his book “On Wings of War”, that the delivery pilot from Lisbon onwards was a Polish ex-RAF Spitfire pilot called Jan Zumbach, and that he had been assisted by a French co-pilot.  In fact, the aircraft was commanded by a French pilot, ex-CEV at Brétigny, called Jacques Lestrade. This version seems rather more credible as information suggests that Lestrade was one of the few pilots in France at that time who was certificated to fly civilianised Invaders and the fact that the first Invader originated from CEV.  According to Zumbach's book, he learned to fly the aircraft after a quick study of the manual and a chat with the Belgian delivery pilot!   By no means  impossible, but perhaps less likely in the circumstances..  Zumbach's book states that he  was paid $4000 for the flight.  Lestrade's fee is not recorded although he was considerably annoyed to discover later that the two Americans who delivered Invader No. 2, were each paid considerably more than him! Whether Lestrade stayed in Biafra for any length of time is uncertain although, according to Tony Alaribe, a former Biafran crewmember, he flew some missions in the Invader. 


On the 15th July 1967, in answer to a query posed by the American Federal Aviation Authority, Koenig returned the certificate of registration stating that the aircraft had been sold to a "Moises Broder" of P.O. Box 240, Port Gentil, Gabon.  It is highly unlikely that Moises Broder ever existed.


The FAA continued to pursue Koenig and, on the 20th April 1970, they sent him a copy of their Annual Reporting Form by which they keep an ongoing record of US-registered aircraft.  He returned it endorsing the back of the document with the information that it had been sold to Gabon. The FAA gave up the struggle in 1974 and deleted it from the U.S. civil register.


This Invader was essentially a civilian machine and, to facilitate its export from Europe, it was described as a survey aircraft destined for an organisation in Gabon and  carried no offensive armament. As a result of its previous missions it had an unusually shaped "solid" nose.  It was ferried in its original bare metal colour scheme but was quickly camouflaged in Biafra with a two tone green/brown scheme on the upper surfaces and pale blue undersides with a distinctive sharkmouth and glaring eye, a scheme which found much favour with the enthusiastic Biafrans.  The rudder was painted in the three national colours, black, green and red with a Biafran rising sun insignia superimposed on the middle section.



Above is a shot of Jean Zumbach and to his left Jacques Lestrade


Above is another shot of Lestrade by the newly acquired B-26


The above photo shows the B-26 used in the Nigerian civil war, on arrival at Enugu in June 1967. On the left stands Jean Zumbach and to his right Jacques Lestrade.


The above shot shows Jacques Lestrade at Enugu on June 29th 1967 after the aircrafts arrival

El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969: The 100-Hour War
FAS purchased two Douglas B-26B Invaders from the USA. These two had been assigned serials 600 and 601, and painted in a version of the USAF SEA-camouflage. As the FAS lacked qualified pilots, two officers went through a crash-conversion course. Four additional Invaders - three in the USA and one in Guatemala - were acquired in 1970. Most of B-26s were in poor condition and needed major effort on the part of FAS technicians to be brought into anything like "mission capable" condition: in fact, the ex-Guatemalan B-26C was apparently never repaired, but rather used as source of spares, while the bomb-bays of all aircraft were never operational. Nevertheless, five Invaders entered service with the newly-established Escuadron de Bombardero, even if only three were operational on average.

The small Salvadoran Invader-fleet saw only a short service: already in 1972 the decision was taken for them to be sold back to the USA and new - this time jet - fighters to be acquired instead.
Honduras followed the suit, becoming the last Latin American air force to acquire the B-26. A single Invader - the venerable " bacardi bomber" (originally built as 44-35918) - was acquired under murky circumstances from Costa Rica. Under great technical difficulties, the aircraft - originally built as B-26B, but meanwhile re-built into a sub-variant of B-26C, and serialled FAH-510 - became operational by late 1970. Already on 16 March 1971, it made an emergency landing at San Pedro Sula airfield, and became a write off. After extensive reconstruction, it was brought back in service, to be retired only in the early 1980, when it was sold to the USA.





Serial #: 44-34206
Construction #: 27485
Civil Registration:
Name: None
Status: Unknown
Last info: 2012


History: Constructed as an A-26B-45-DL by Douglas at Long Beach, Califoria, USA.
Douglas A-26B-45-DL 27485

Taken on Strength/Charge with the United States Army Air Force with s/n 44-34206.

Redesignated as B-26B

Civil registration, N86479, cancelled.
Exported to Nicaragua.

Civilian market as N86479, Maco Sales Financial Corp, Palos Park, IL.

May 11 1962 siezed by Federal Agents at Midway airport for incorrect export licences.

To Nicaragua 1964, crashed March 1967