With Portugal’s image abroad under increasing scrutiny, tabloid Correio da Manhã is running with the claim that Air Force fighter planes “only have fuel till August”.
The inflammatory headline precedes the audience defence minister Azeredo Lopes is due to give MPs today.
Top of the agenda will be the embarrassing explosives heist from Tancos military base in Santarém, but also riding high is the issue of diminishing fuel supplies.
Says the paper, the “risk of imminent rupture” in the status quo comes from the defence ministry’s hold on €100 million worth of investment.
The money, earmarked for the “three branches of the Armed Forces” has been blocked since June, says the paper – adding that the Air Force has “confirmed the limitation of fuel”.
A source for the ministry of defence has nonetheless assured CM that €6 million has been made available since June for the purchase of fuel for Air Force planes.
It remains to be seen what comes out following today’s hearing in parliament.
This is not the first time the Air Force has had fuel shortages. As many as three years ago when Russian warplanes were making a habit of flying over NATO airspace, Portuguese F-16s scrambled to trail them over national territory were forced to turn back due to lack of fuel (click here).
Only months before Air Force Araújo Pinheiro had warned that his service was “at breaking point”, while pilots went public with the fact that the force was “running out of money to fly” (click here).