Venezuela Table of Contents
In 1990 the navy maintained a force level of approximately 10,000, a figure that included a marine infantry corps of some 5,000 personnel. The branch was headed by the Commander of Naval Operations, who exercised administrative and operational control over a number of subordinate commands, among them the main naval squadron at Puerto Cabello, the marine infantry crops, the naval aviation command at La Carlota Airport near Caracas, a River Forces (Fuerzas Fluviales) Command at Ciudad Bolívar on the Río Orinoco, and the Coast Guard at Puerto Cabello.
After years of subordination to the army, during which it struggled with antiquated equipment, the navy began to benefit from civilian democratic rule in 1960, when it purchased a submarine from the United States Navy. Concerted upgrading of naval matériel did not really begin, however, until 1972, when Venezuela purchased an American "Guppy II"-type submarine; another followed in 1973, along with two decommissioned American destroyers. From 1974 to 1975, the navy purchased six "Constitution"-class patrol fast attack craft from Britain. It also acquired two German-built Type 209 submarines from 1976 to 1977. Six Italian "Lupo" missile frigates ordered in 1975 were delivered and in service by the early 1980s (see table 14, Appendix).
Venezuelan naval aviation was not established as a distinct element until the late 1970s. With the exception of helicopters, all of its assets were stationed at La Carlota Airport near Caracas. Marine infantry personnel were deployed in four battalion-sized units, referred to as "tactical combat units," headquartered at Maiquetía, Puerto Cabello, Carúpano in Sucrey, and Punto Fijo. The River Forces Command was also subordinate to the Marine Infantry Command. The Coast Guard, established in 1982, maintained its headquarters at Puerto Cabello.
The Venezuelan Naval Academy (Escuela Naval de Venezuela) at La Guaira offered a five-year course of study culminating in a commission. Other naval schools at La Guaira included the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval Superior War College. The Naval Training Center for enlisted personnel was located at Puerto Cabello. In addition, there were a Naval Infantry Training Center, a Naval Armament Training Center, and a Naval Police School.
Data as of December 1990