Thursday, 12 June 2014

Brazil – the dominant navy of South America

Brazil already operates the biggest navy in South America. The Brazilian Navy belongs to the small club of countries that operate an aircraft carrier. It has a decent arsenal of frigates, although these ships date back from the end of the seventies and start of the eighties. Its blue water navy capabilities are further strengthened by 2 ocean going tankers.
Given the geography of Brazil with its many rivers, the Brazilian Navy also has to operate a large amount of riverine craft and river patrol boats. This places Brazil in the difficult situation of operating 2 fleets in its Navy. One is a brown water navy for operating on the many rivers in Brazil, the other is a blue water navy to patrol and protect Brazils large Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Brazil is also a member of what is called the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The BRICS countries are expected to be fast growing economic powers. With a growing economy, Brazil can afford to increase its naval capabilities in the next years by buying or building new warships.
Sao Paulo - Brazils only aircraft carrier

Status of Brazil’s blue water navy
Brazil is a country that has large resources of raw materials and energy supplies. Its large EEZ has vast amounts of off shore energy supplies. Brazil is also an upcoming economic power and it depends a lot on overseas trade. As such, Brazil needs the means to project its power at sea.
It is already the biggest navy but its growing economic might will guarantee its position as the most important regional player in South America. With the wealth generated by a bigger economy comes the possibility to expand its blue water navy capabilities.
Already, Brazil is capable of operating an aircraft carrier, the Sao Paulo. This ship is the former French carrier Foch, commissioned in 1963 and transferred to Brazil in 2000. She is a conventional powered aircraft carrier and uses the CATOBAR system to launch aircraft. Her fighter-bomber wing consists of A-4 Skyhawk aircraft.

In 2005 the Sao Paulo underwent a large modernization program that lasted until 2009. The carrier returned into service in 2010. Fire broke out 2 times on board of the carrier in 2005 and in 2012. The Sao Paulo is in a bad shape, a fact underlined by her age of 54 years. The Brazilian navy is already looking to build a new carrier that should enter service around 2025.
Brazil’s current blue water navy consists of 3 Type 22 frigates acquired from the Royal Navy and 6 Niteroi class frigates build by the British ship yards Vosper Thornycroft. The ships of both classes were built in the seventies and eighties and are starting to get in need of replacement.
Its 4 corvettes from the Inhauma class all date back from the start of the nineties and its Barroso class corvette was built in 2002. Further the Brazilian Navy operates 5 submarines of the German Type 209/1400 class, all of them commissioned between 1989 and 2005.
Brazil’s current blue water navy is a force to be reckoned with and as stated earlier, it is the biggest maritime force in South America. But behind the numbers one can see that its ships are getting old and are in need of being replaced by new ships. There are already plans for a new aircraft carrier to replace the Sao Paulo. No details have emerged so far on what this new carrier will look like and what technology it holds. There are rumors that the French shipbuilder DCNS has been showcasing its DEAC Aircraft Carrier project. According to DCNS, the DEAC is based on French Navy carrier Charles de Gaulle.
DCNS is also helping Brazil to build 5 new submarines. The first submarine is reported to be completed in 2017. One of these submarines will be a nuclear powered submarine. This means that Brazil will be the only country in South America to operate a nuclear submarine. It remains unclear if these new submarines will replace the old Type 209 class submarines. Given the age of the Type 209 submarines it seems likely that these will be replaced as the last of the new class of submarines is expected to be completed in 2025.
Brazil already stated that it needs an ocean going fleet to protect the many off shore installations as well as its overseas trade. Given the age of most of its ships, new building programs in the near future are needed. Brazil already eyes a new carrier and a new submarine force but remains silent when it comes to frigates although this might change as Brazil manages to find new funding for these programs.
Brazil’s green and brown water navy capabilities
Brazil also operates a large amount of small patrol boats to patrol the many rivers in the Brazilian heartland. Given the large crime rates in Brazil and the many criminal gangs operating in Brazil, patrolling the rivers against smuggling offers Brazilian law enforcement a valuable instrument to curb crime. It also allows the government to stay in touch with the many isolated towns and villages. As Brazil has a focus on an ocean going navy, it is best to make sure that it doesn’t neglect these green and brown water navies as they not only protect trade but offer a tool to combat crime in many remote places that can be easily accessed by boats.
Current economic outlook
Already labelled as an economic rising power, Brazil has the capability to increase its wealth. It already managed to find the funds to organize both the football world cup and the upcoming Olympic Games. But Brazil is also plagued by social unrest. Many of its people live in poor conditions and have an increasing demand for more social projects. Better housing, medical care and schooling are some of the things the people demand and their protest have caught the attention of global news services as the football world cup approaches.
In order to create a platform for increasing economic investments in the country, a stable society is in the best interest of Brazil. As protests are getting more attention it is harder for the Brazilian government to ignore these problems. Investments in social projects will be needed and these will draw a lot of funding. The impact of such projects on the defense budget and the amount of money allocated to the navy remains unclear.

As Brazil becomes a more powerful economic power it has the opportunity to modernize and expand its navy. Brazil already operates the biggest navy in South America but most of its ships are getting old and need replacement. Several projects are already underway with plans for a new aircraft carrier and 5 new submarines of which one would be a nuclear powered submarine. A blue water navy is needed to protect its seaborne trade and its offshore installations. It also gives Brazil the opportunity to project its power around South America.
Still, several challenges remain for the Brazilian government as the cry for more and better social projects in the field of housing, schooling and medical care are getting more attention fom the international press. These projects will demand a lot of money but will result in a more stable country.
At the same time Brazil needs to be careful not to neglect its green and brown water navy forces as these are paramount in combating crime in isolated regions that can only be easily reached by ship.

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