Rapid Reaction Brigade (Portugal)

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Portuguese Army Rapid Reaction Brigade
Active 1993 – Present day
Country Portugal
Branch Army
Type Airborne Light Infantry
Special Forces
Size Eight Battalions
Part of Portuguese Army
Garrison/HQ Parachute Troops School, Tancos
Motto(s) "Se fizeram por armas tão svbidos"
Engagements Bosnia
Kosovo
East-Timor
Afghanistan
Commanders
Current
commander
MG Raul Luís de Morais Lima Ferreira da Cunha [1][2]
A soldier of Regimento de Cavalaria N.º 3.

The Brigada de Reacção Rápida (Rapid Reaction Brigade) is a unit of the Portuguese Army which was known as BAI - Brigada Aerotransportada Independente (Independent Airborne Brigade) until 2006. Its different units are highly trained Paratroopers, Commandos and Special Operations Troops capable of responding to threats in any part of continental Portugal or any other Portuguese overseas territory with quick deployment by air, sea or land (with the support of the Air Force and/or the Navy when required). This brigade is the most requested by the Portuguese Government to fulfill international assignments due to its experience and multi-role capability.

Economic crisis forced the Portuguese Government to make budget cuts in the Armed Forces, and in June 2012 it was announced that the Portuguese Army was no longer going to receive the 10 NH-90 transport helicopters that would incorporate the Unidade de Aviação Ligeira do Exército (Army Light Aviation Unit). Thus, the Rapid Reaction Brigade still maintains its dependency for aerial transportation purposes from the Air Force.

History

In 1993, the Corpo de Tropas Aerotransportadas (Airborne Troops Corps), which was part of the Portuguese Air Force was disbanded and the Portuguese airborne forces were transferred to the Army. A new brigade was then created, the Independent Airborne Brigade (BAI) which included all airborne-capable forces in it. The Army also transferred to this brigade some heavier weapons like howitzers, thus giving the unit increased firepower, as well as creating an operational command named Comando de Tropas Aerotransportadas (Airborne Troops Command). The Comandos Regiment was disbanded and the Comandos that had the Parachute Course were transferred to the new brigade. For more than 10 years the BAI kept serving the country in international missions, sending Paratroopers to several locations in Europe and East-Timor. In 2002 the Comandos were reactivated as an independent unit and were separated from the Paratroopers.

In 2006, a reorganization in the Portuguese Army occurred, renaming the brigade as Brigada de Reacção Rápida (Rapid Reaction Brigade) and adding special forces to it. These units were the Comandos and the Rangers, increasing the brigade size with two Comando companies and the Special Operations Forces but losing the 3rd Paratrooper Infantry Battalion (disbanded). Also this reformation had its costs since the 105mm howitzers were transferred to the Portuguese Intervention Brigade (thus losing its airborne capability) and the Airborne Troops Command was disbanded, putting the unit under the orders of the Comando Operacional de Forças Terrestres (Land Forces Operational Command) losing its autonomy from the rest of the Army.

Organization

The brigades operational units are listed below. Under the Portuguese system regiments and centres are responsible for the training, maintenance and sustainment of the operational units, but are not operational units themselves. I.e. the Army Light Aviation Unit trains, maintains and sustains the brigade's Staff Company, Signals Company and Helicopter Group, but itself is not an operational unit and not part of the brigade during wartime.

Paratroopers

The Paratroopers and elite infantry force and are the heaviest troops on the brigade acting as airborne light infantry, used for conventional conflicts, with emphasis on airborne assaults. Paratrooper battalions contain units with heavy weapons and light vehicles for quick assaults and raids. Paratroopers are instructed at the Parachute Troops School, in Tancos, central Portugal.

  • Paratrooper units: (the units are battalion sized, but retain the name regiment for historic reasons)
    • 10th Infantry Regiment (Regimento de Infantaria Nº10)
    • 15th Infantry Regiment (Regimento de Infantaria Nº15)

Special Operations Forces

The Special Operations Forces are generally the first to arrive and the last to leave the operational area. They are the most autonomous unit of the brigade, able to infiltrate deep behind enemy lines. Not as heavily armed as the Commandos nor the Paratroopers, its units rely on stealth to complete their objectives. Since it is airborne-qualified it can be deployed by air, sea or land.

Special Operators are instructed at the Special Operations Troops Centre in Lamego, northern Portugal.

  • Special Operations / CTOE - Special Operations Troops Center (Centro Tropas Operações Especiais)

Comandos

The Comandos are an elite light infantry unit capable of conducting several special operations missions, although they are mainly a rapid reaction force. They can be deployed by air, sea or land.

Commandos are instructed at the Commando Regiment, in Belas.

International assignments

Independent Airborne Brigade missions

As the ancestor of the Rapid Reaction Brigade, the Independent Airborne Brigade made several missions to several different countries mainly in peacekeeping operations. Paratrooper Battalions were sent to Bosnia, East-Timor and Kosovo.

Afghanistan

After the creation of the brigade, the unit was sent to Afghanistan. An entire Commando company was sent to the area (western provinces), suffering the first KIA of the Portuguese Armed Forces since the end of the Portuguese Colonial War, during a daytime patrol. The KIA Comando was 1st Sergeant Roma Pereira, mortally hit when an IED detonated his Humvee.

The Comandos were replaced by a company of Paratroopers who suffered no casualties while performing the mission. This company was yet again replaced by a second company of Comandos.

Bosnia

In the beginning of 2007, the Portuguese Defense Minister decided to end the mission in Bosnia due to the lack of need of a military presence in the area. All units from the Rapid Reaction Brigade and from the Portuguese Mechanized Brigade present in the region withdrew.

References

  1. ^ http://www.exercito.pt/sites/BrigRR/Paginas/Organizacao.aspx Official site of the Rapid Reaction Brigade
  2. ^ http://www.exercito.pt/sites/CTC/Paginas/Organizacao.aspx Official site of the Commando Regiment
  3. ^ http://www.exercito.pt/sites/CTOE/Paginas/Organizacao.aspx Official site of the Special Operations Troops Centre
  4. ^ http://www.exercito.pt/sites/UALE/Paginas/Organizacao.aspx Official site of the Army Light Aviation Unit
  5. ^ http://www.exercito.pt/sites/ETP/Paginas/Organizacao.aspx Official site of the Paratroopers Regiment
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