July 1, 2002 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The F-16 is featured on a Portuguese stamp, printed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the air force.
Aviation's potential as a weapon of war was recognised as soon as it began to be developed at the beginning of the 20th century.
The history of Portuguese Military Aviation began with the parallel growth of both Military and Naval Aviation units, until the Air Force itself was finally born as an independent branch of the armed services in 1952. This initial period saw the new medium take its first steps towards the construction of an organic structure of its own, while Portuguese aviators fought in France during the First World War and the Army Air Arm was created in 1924. This was the beginning of a time that was marked by a spirit of adventure, romanticism and patriotism and was characterised by great aerial journeys which essentially linked the various territories under Portuguese rule.
?s name was inscribed forever in the History of Aviation, thanks to the aeronautical prowess of Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral.
The creation of the Portuguese Air Force on the 1st of July 1952 - which virtually coincided with the country's entry into NATO
and the jet era boom that resulted from the exponential progress enjoyed by the aviation industry and the aeronautical technology which had developed during the Second World War - gave rise to a new phase in the life of military aviation in Portugal.
The first thing to note about this new period is the restructuring process that was intended to achieve greater decentralisation and enhanced flexibility in the use of the air arm. On top of this came the Air Force's participation and effort in the conflicts in the country's overseas territories, which involved both air operations themselves and the construction of a network of aeronautical infrastructures that went unrivalled until the Portuguese revolution in 1974. The latter led to a new phase of legislative and organisational restructuring which lasted until the beginning of the 1990's.
In an effort to accompany recent evolutions of both a strategic and a technological nature, the Air Force is currently undergoing a process of sustained re-equipment and change that are enabling it to fulfil both its missions in relation to the defence of the country and the international commitments undertaken by the Portuguese state. The latter have been added to by the new demands imposed by participation in the European and international effort to maintain peace around the world and other responsibilities in the public and humanitarian interest that have been entrusted to it. In doing so, it is serving the Nation.