Country Listing

Uruguay Table of Contents


Development of the Navy

The Uruguayan Navy was formally established in 1860, and its forces saw action during the War of the Triple Alliance, principally in a transport capacity. The modern Uruguayan Navy, however, owes its professional development to the establishment in 1885 of the Military Academy, which offered training to naval and other officers. By 1910 navy strength was some 1,300 in all ranks, and vessels included gunboats (some armed with torpedoes), steamers, and various other small craft. The separate Naval Academy was established in 1916.

After World War I, many of the navy's aging vessels were withdrawn from service, and replacement was slow. The Naval Air Service was formed in 1925, but the first aircraft were not acquired until 1930. The only significant purchase of vessels between the wars was three patrol vessels and a training ship. Personnel declined to fewer than 1,000.

After the outbreak of World War II and the December 1939 Battle of the Río de la Plata, the government decided to strengthen the navy and the Naval Air Service (see Baldomir and the End of Dictatorship , ch. 1). During the 1940s and 1950s, the navy, and naval aviation in particular, benefited from United States military assistance. In 1959 Uruguay--along with the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela--participated in the first large multinational exercise involving Latin American navies. Although the air arm (renamed the Naval Aviation Service in 1951) accounted for 50 percent of naval personnel in 1952, by the late 1960s naval air assets had begun to be withdrawn from service, and few modern replacements were acquired. At the same time, the fleet underwent a modest expansion, and a battalion of marines was added. During the 1970s, the government acquired a small number of vessels to replace aging equipment. In 1981 three large patrol craft were purchased new from France. The sole addition in the late 1980s was a frigate purchased used from the French Navy and commissioned in late 1988. In early 1990, the Uruguayan Navy received two decommissioned United States Coast Guard cutters for coastal patrol and antinarcotics work under a United States Department of State antinarcotics program. Acquisitions were insufficient to offset the number of retired vessels, however, and a further reduction of the navy's assets seemed likely as more vessels had to be withdrawn from service.

Data as of December 1990