AFRICAN WARHORSE - Portuguese T-6 in Africa

The T-6 has arguably been the world’s most commonly employed pilot trainer, but its combat role with the Portuguese Air Force in Africa is seldom explored. Here, Filipe Silva relays parts of the wider story

This T-6 formates on an Alouette III helicopter in the skies over the Grande de Buba river, Guinea-Bissau, in 1968 after a ground-attack sortie.
PHOTOS PoAF ARCHIVES • JORNAL DE NOTICIAS DA BEIRA • TOMAZ C SILVA • MARQUES PEREIRA • BROCHADO MIRANDA • SEMEDO PRIVATE COLLECTION

The North American T-6 Texan/Harvard was, for an extensive period, the most widely used aircraft in the Portuguese Air Force (PoAF). A total of 257 examples of different versions were delivered between 1947-69 from various countries: 56 from the USA between 1947-51; 15 ex-Fleet Air Arm machines from the UK in 1956; another 56 from France’s Armée de l’Air in 1961-62; 70 via Germany between 1964-65 and the last 60 in 1969 from South Africa. These aircraft were given four-digit tail numbers beginning with ‘16’ and ‘17’ and then, somewhat strangely, ‘15’. The last T-6 ever built was flown by the PoAF with the tail number ‘1788’.

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