Country Listing

Brazil Table of Contents



The navy traces its heritage to Admiral Cochrane's mercenary fleet and to the tiny Portuguese ships and crews that protected the earliest coastal colonies from seaborne marauders. The navy is the most aristocratic and conservative of the services and draws a larger share of its officers from the upper middle class and upper class. Although it is involved in "brown-water" (riverine and coastal) operations, the navy's primary goal has been to become an effective "blue-water" navy, able to project power on the high seas. Given its "blue-water" bias, the navy is even less inclined to become involved in counterdrug operations than the army or air force.

The total naval strength of 64,700 in 1997 included Naval Aviation (Aviação Naval) with 1,300 members, the Marines (Corpo de Fuzileiros Navais--CFN) with 14,600 members, and only 2,000 conscripts. Naval operations are directed from the Ministry of Navy in Brasília through the Navy General Staff (Estado-Maior da Armada--EMA), six naval districts (five oceanic and one riverine), and two naval commands--Brasília Naval Command (Comando Naval de Brasília--CNB) and Manaus Naval Command (Comando Naval de Manaus--CNM). The 1st Naval District is located at the country's main naval base in Rio de Janeiro; the 2d Naval District is in Salvador; the 3d, Natal; the 4th, Belém; and the 5th, Porto Alegre. The 6th Riverine District has its headquarters in Ladário, near Corumbá on the Rio Paraguai.

Until the 1980s, the flagship of the ocean-going navy was the aircraft carrier Minas Gerais (the ex-British H.M.S. Vengeance ), which has been in service since 1945. Purchased from Britain in 1956, the Minas Gerais was reconstructed in the Netherlands in 1960 and refitted extensively in Brazil in the late 1970s, and again in 1993. In 1994 Mário César Flores, a former minister of navy, declared in an interview that the navy would be hard-pressed to defend the Minas Gerais in a conflict. Nevertheless, the Minas Gerais is not likely to be replaced until the next century. The navy's priority reequipment plans for the 1990s include the receipt of new Inhaúma-class corvettes, the construction of Tupi-class submarines, the refurbishing of the Niterói-class frigates, the acquisition of nine new Super Lynx and up to six former United States Navy Sikorsky SH-3G/H Sea King helicopters, the construction of the conventional SNAC-1 submarine prototype, and the development of nuclear-propulsion technology. In addition, the navy contracted in late 1994 to acquire four Type 22 British Royal Navy frigates and three River-class minesweepers for delivery in the 1995-97 period (see table 30, Appendix).

After years of intense rivalry between the navy and the air force for the control of naval aviation, President Castelo Branco decreed in 1965 that only the air force would be allowed to operate fixed-wing aircraft and that the navy would be responsible for helicopters. According to many critics, such an unusual division of labor has caused serious command and control problems. The complement of aircraft carried by the Minas Gerais includes six Grumman S-2E antisubmarine planes, in addition to several SH-3D Sea King helicopters and Aérospatiale Super Puma and HB-350 Esquilo helicopters. In accordance with the Castelo Branco compromise, the S-2E aircraft are flown by air force pilots and the helicopters by navy pilots. A crew of the Minas Gerais with full air complement consists of 1,300 officers and enlisted personnel.

The navy's most ambitious program is the development of a nuclear-powered submarine. The program enjoys broad political support, including from the political left, in part because of the perceived technological benefits that may be derived from the project. As minister of navy, Flores gave the development of nuclear propulsion for Brazil's submarines the highest priority.

Data as of April 1997