Portuguese Navy

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Portuguese Navy
Marinha Portuguesa
Portuguese Navy Heraldry.jpg
Portuguese Navy Heraldry
Founded 1180
Country Portugal Portugal
Branch Navy
Size 8,908 Personnel[1]
5 Frigates
7 Corvettes
2 Submarines
18 Patrol Boats
1 Landing Craft Utility
2 Support Ships
4 Survey vessels
3 Training Ships
5 Helicopters
Part of Portuguese Armed Forces
Garrison/HQ Lisbon Naval Base
Patron Henry the Navigator
Motto Honrai a Pátria que a Pátria vos contempla (Honor the Fatherland that the Fatherland beholds you)
Anniversaries 20 May (Discovery of the sea route to India by Vasco da Gama)
Luís Manuel Fourneaux Macieira Fragoso
Naval Ensign Flag of Portugal.svg
Naval pennant Portuguese pennant.svg
Naval Jack Naval Jack of Portugal.svg
Aircraft flown
Helicopter Westland Lynx

The Portuguese Navy (Portuguese: Marinha Portuguesa, also known as Marinha de Guerra Portuguesa or as Armada Portuguesa) is the naval branch of the Portuguese Armed Forces which, in cooperation and integrated with the other branches of the Portuguese military, is charged with the military defence of Portugal. The Portuguese Navy also participates in missions related with international commitments assumed by Portugal (mainly within NATO), as well as missions of civil interest.

Today, the Portuguese Navy assumes a dual role capacity: Naval combat missions to assure Portugal's sovereignty and international commitments, and coast guard operations in its territorial waters and areas of influence.

The Portuguese Navy, tracing back to the 12th century, is the oldest continuously serving navy in the world.


Creation of the Portuguese Navy[edit]

The first known battle of the Portuguese Navy was in 1180, during the reign of Portugal's first king, Afonso I of Portugal. The battle occurred when a Portuguese fleet commanded by the knight Fuas Roupinho defeated a Muslim fleet near Cape Espichel. He also made two incursions at Ceuta, in 1181 and 1182, and died during the last of these attempts to conquer Ceuta.

During the 13th century, in the Portuguese Reconquista, the Portuguese Navy helped in the conquest of several littoral moorish towns, like Alcácer do Sal, Silves and Faro. It was also used in the battles against Castile through incursions in Galicia and Andalucia, and also in joint actions with other Christian fleets against the Muslims.

In 1317 King Denis of Portugal decided to give, for the first time, a permanent organization to the Royal Navy, contracting Manuel Pessanha of Genoa to be the first Admiral of the Kingdom. In 1321 the navy successfully attacked Muslim ports in North Africa.

Maritime insurance began in 1323 in Portugal, and between 1336 and 1341 the first attempts at maritime expansion are made, with the expedition to Canary Islands, sponsored by King Afonso IV.

In the context of the 1383–85 Crisis, the Portuguese Navy took an active participation in the war against Castile. A Portuguese naval campaign conducted in Galicia let to the conquest of the costal towns of Baiona, A Coruña and Neda, as well as the destruction of the naval base of Ferrol and of several ships that were on the way to reinforce the Castilian forces that were besieging Lisbon. In July 1384, the Portuguese Navy was able to break the Castilian siege of Lisbon and to supply the city, defeating the Castilian Navy in the naval battle of the Tagus.

At the end of the 14th century, more Portuguese discoveries were made, with the Navy playing a main role in the exploration of the oceans and the defense of the Portuguese Empire. Portugal became the first oceanic naval power.

Conquests and Discoveries[edit]

In the beginning of the 15th century, the country entered a period of peace and stability. Europe was still involved in wars and feudal conflicts which allows Portugal to be the only capable country to methodically and successfully start the exploration of the Atlantic.

Portuguese expansion during the 15th century can be divided in:

  • Territorial expansion to North Africa
  • Hydrographic survey of the African coast and Canary Islands
  • Oceanographic and meteorologic survey of the Atlantic Ocean
  • Development of navigation techniques and methods

Territorial expansion began in Morocco with the conquest of Ceuta in 1415. Exploration in the west African coast started in 1412 and ended with the crossing of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488.

The 15th and 16th centuries[edit]

Replica of a 15th-century Portuguese caravel.

After his return from Ceuta, Henry the navigator founded a school of navigation in Sagres, which was a place to discuss the art of navigation. The vessel employed in the beginning of the Discoveries was the caravel, varying from 50 to 160 tons. The first results came soon and Gonçalves Zarco discovers the Porto Santo Island in 1419 and the Madeira Island in 1420, Diogo de Silves discovers the azorean island of Santa Maria in 1427.

In 1424, Gil Eanes crosses the Cape Bojador. Diogo Cão and Bartolomeu Dias arrived to the mouth of the Zaire River in 1482. In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias becomes the first European to sail around the southernmost tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope.

João Vaz Corte-Real arrives to Newfoundland in 1473. Part of the coast of Newfoundland would be charted by the Corte-Real brothers, sons of João Vaz Corte-Real, in a failed attempt to find the Northwest Passage in 1501. In 1499, João Fernandes Lavrador and Pêro de Barcelos arrive to Labrador (named after the previous one) and map its coast.

The greatest achievement of these exploration voyages was attained by Vasco da Gama, who in 1498 becomes the European discoverer of the sea route to India.

In 1500, when leading a second Portuguese Armada of 13 ships to India, Pedro Álvares Cabral discovers and explores Brazil, claiming it for Portugal. In the same year, Diogo Dias, as one of the Captains of the fleet to India of Pedro Álvares Cabral, is separated from the main fleet by a storm while crossing the Cape of Good Hope, and becomes the first European to reach Madagascar.

With the first established sea route to the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese started to use the carrack ship (nau in Portuguese). Nevertheless, the Portuguese penetration in the Indian Ocean was not peaceful due to the opposition of the Muslims. However, in 1509 Francisco de Almeida had a tremendous victory over the Muslims in the naval Battle of Diu, and the Portuguese presence in the area is definitely attained.

The carrack Santa Catarina do Monte Sinai and other Portuguese Navy' ships in the 16th century.

In Morocco the Portuguese conquests continue and they take over the cities of Safim, Azamor, Mazagão and Mogador.

In the east, Portuguese navigators continue their progress visiting the southeast of Asia, China in 1517 and Australia in 1522. In the same period they reach Taiwan and Japan where they become the first Europeans to arrive.

They enter the Red Sea in 1542 to destroy the Ottoman armada in Suez.

In the west the Portuguese visited the coast of New England in 1520, California in 1542 and Hudson Bay in 1588.

All these actions were only possible with the naval capability, the navigation knowledge of these navigators, an enormous courage and determination.

Habsburg Dynasty[edit]

Following the Portuguese succession crisis of 1580 and having defeated António, Prior of Crato in the War of the Portuguese Succession, the Habsburg Philip II of Spain became King of Portugal as Philip I. Under the Iberian Union, Portugal continued to be formally an independent kingdom with its own Navy, but its foreign and naval policies became increasingly subordinated and oriented through the Spanish interests.

The Portuguese galleon São Martinho, flagship of the Spanish Armada, in the battle of Gravelines.

The Portuguese Navy was soon ordered by King Philip to contribute to the Spanish Armada intended to invade England, this being an old Portuguese ally that started to be considered enemy by the alignment with the Spanish policies. Portugal provided some of the most powerful ships of the Armada, including its flagship, the galleon São Martinho. The Portuguese participation included a squadron of galleons and another of galleys, with a total of 16 ships and more than 5,800 men. This expedition culminated in the naval battle of Gravelines.

Linked to Spain by a dual monarchy, Portugal saw its large Empire being attacked by the English, the French and the Dutch, all enemies of Spain. The reduced Portuguese population (around one million) wasn't enough to resist to so many enemies, and the Empire started to fall apart.

The Portuguese Navy was still involved in several other conflicts and maintained an important role in the fight against pirates. António Saldanha commanding a fleet of 30 carracks defeated an Ottoman fleet in the Mediterranean and conquered Tunis.

Meanwhile, João Queirós accomplishes a double crossing of the Pacific Ocean leaving from California.

In 1618, the first naval infantry regiment is founded (Portuguese: Terço da Armada da Coroa de Portugal), origin of both of the modern marine corps of Portugal and of Brazil.

A major joint Portuguese-Spanish naval and military expedition was organized in 1625 to retake Salvador da Bahia in Brazil from the Dutch that had captured the city one year before. The Portuguese fleet was headed by Manuel de Menezes and composed by 22 ships and about 4,000 men, including the Terço da Armada da Coroa de Portugal.

Portuguese Restoration War[edit]

On the December 1st, 1640, the Portuguese revolted and restored the full independence of Portugal after 60 years of Spanish domination. To defend its independence, the Portuguese Restoration War had to be fought against Spain. Although, the threat of from the powerful Spanish Navy existed, no major naval engagements occurred, the War being fight mainly on land. At the same time Portugal made peace agreements with England, France and the Netherlands.

In the period of the Restoration War, the major engagements of the Portuguese Navy were not against the Spanish but against the Dutch, that took advantage from the difficult conditions caused by the war effort of Portugal in Europe, to capture some of its colonies in America, Africa and Asia. Despite some important initial setbacks, the Portuguese were finally able to react, repulsing the Dutch assaults on Mozambique, Goa and Macau and recapturing Northeast Brazil, Angola, São Tomé and Ano Bom, in several naval and military campaigns.

In 1660, the Portuguese naval captain David Melgueiro makes the first supposed crossing of the Northeast Passage, sailing from Japan to Portugal through the Arctic Ocean.

The 18th century[edit]

During the reign of King John V of Portugal the Navy suffers a large transformation, during which the warship starts to differentiate from the merchant ship.

In 1705, a squadron of eight ships of the line was sent to help England against the Franco-Spanish forces that were besieging Gibraltar, this expedition culminating in the naval battle of Cabrita Point.

At the request of the Republic of Venice and the Pope, in 1716, the Portuguese Navy sends a fleet to the deter the Ottoman advance in the Mediterranean. This expedition would culminate in the battle of Matapan on the July 19, 1717, in which the Portuguese fleet, supported by Venetian and Maltese ships, under the command of the Portuguese Admiral Count of Rio Grande, defeats the Ottoman Navy.

The Royal Academy of the Midshipmen (Academia Real dos Guardas-Marinhas) was created in 1792, as an university-level naval academy. This Academy is the origin of the present Naval schools of Portugal and of Brazil.

In 1792, the three naval regiments (two of infantry and one of artillery) are reorganized and merged as the Royal Brigade of the Navy (Portuguese: Brigada Real de Marinha). This Brigade was commanded by a flag officer and included divisions of naval artillery, naval infantry and naval artificers, with a total of more than 5000 men.

Napoleonic Wars[edit]

In the late 18th century, under the command of the Marquis of Nisa, the Portuguese Navy took part in the Mediterranean Campaign of 1798 against the French Republic in Egypt and in the Siege of Malta.

In November 1807, General Jean-Andoche Junot invaded Portugal in an attempt to expand Napoleon's continental empire.

With insufficient forces to deter the invasion, in order not to be captured and keep the independence of the Kingdom, the Prince Regent John of Portugal activates an ancient strategic plan that the foresee the transference of the head of the Portuguese Crown to Brazil. The Prince Regent called upon his Navy to execute this mission and, on the November 29, 1807, the Royal Family, the Government and 15,000 state and military officials and their families leave Lisbon and sail to Brazil, carried by a Portuguese fleet that included eight ships of the line, three frigates and five other smaller ships. The 84 gun ship Príncipe Real served as flagship, carrying on board the Prince Regent and his family. The fleet arrived at Bahia on the December 22 and, finally, at Rio de Janeiro on the March 8, 1808. The new Portuguese capital is established in Rio. Carried in the fleet, also arrives and is installed in Rio, the Royal Academy of Midshipmen, as well as a part of the Royal Brigade of the Navy.

In retaliation for the French invasion of Portugal, the Portuguese forces in Brazil conquer the French Guiana in January 1809. The amphibious invasion is done by a Portuguese naval squadron, a force of 550 marines of the Royal Brigade of the Navy and 700 Brazilian militias, supported by a British warship.

Political instability dominated Portugal during the 19th century after the Napoleonic invasions. The Navy entered a period of crisis which only ended on the turn to the 20th century, suffering a blow at the hands of the French navy at the Battle of the Tagus, and fighting a fratricide Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1833.

Late 19th century to World War I[edit]

From the end of the 19th century and until the beginning of World War I, the Portuguese Navy participated in a series of colonial pacification campaigns against uprisings in the Portuguese Guinea, in Angola, in Mozambique and in other overseas territories. In Africa, the Portuguese Navy organized several expeditionary naval infantry battalions and flotillas of river gunships, that operated in support of the Portuguese land forces.

In this period, the Navy also focused in the mission of the naval defense of Lisbon, complementing its land defense. This was part of the national strategy which considered that the defense of Portugal would be assured by the defense of its capital and most important city. As part of this mission, in 1876, the Portuguese Navy acquires the ironclad Vasco da Gama, its first armored vessel, intended to operate as a floating coastal defense battery. The plans for the naval defense of Lisbon would also include the use of torpedo boats and submarines, that are later also acquired.

In the last years of the Monarchy, the Portuguese Navy was modernized and received a series of new warships, including six cruisers, four torpedo boats, a torpedo gunboat, a submarine, two destroyers, 13 gunships and others.

World War I[edit]

Armoured cruiser Vasco da Gama, in the early 20th century.

During the first World War, the main role of the Portuguese Navy was to patrol Portuguese waters, search for submarines, escort merchant vessels and transport troops to France and Africa. The Portuguese Navy received additional submarines and destroyers and created a naval aviation. In addition, several merchant ships were adapted and transformed into warships.[citation needed]

The most important events were the Action of 14 October 1918 between the patrol boat NRP Augusto de Castilho (commanded by Carvalho Araújo) and the German submarine U-139, the sinking of the mine-sweeper NRP Roberto Ivens due to a collision with a sea mine, outside Lisbon harbour and the amphibious operations led by the cruiser NRP Adamastor in the border between Portuguese and German Eastern Africa.

After the war, Portugal built two new destroyers and two new gunships,[citation needed] and also acquired two cruisers from the United Kingdom and six torpedo-boats from Austria.[citation needed]

In 1922, the Portuguese naval officers Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho made the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic.

World War II[edit]

NRP Afonso de Albuquerque, one of the ships of the Portuguese Naval Program of the 1930s.

Before World War II, from 1933 to 1936, the Portuguese Navy underwent a profound reorganization, launching a vast naval program and acquiring a total of 22 new warships, including destroyers, submarines and avisos (colonial sloops).[citation needed] An aircraft carrier started to be built, but was later canceled.[citation needed]

During the second World War the Portuguese Navy defended at sea and air Portuguese neutrality. A particular concern was the defense of the strategic Atlantic islands of the Azores against a possible invasion. Due to the vast overseas empire, with territories in Africa, Asia and Oceania, the assets were not enough, but still it was possible to maintain the integrity of the different parcels of the Empire, with the exception of Portuguese Timor, which was occupied by Australia and Netherlands, followed by Imperial Japan from 1942 through to 1945.

After the cession of hostilities in 1945, the Portuguese Navy organized an expedition to Timor to perform the reoccupation of the territory and to fully restore Portuguese sovereignty. The naval component of the expedition included the avisos NRP Bartolomeu Dias, NRP Gonçalves Zarco and NRP Afonso de Albuquerque, plus two transport ships with about 2000 troops on board .

After World War II, Portugal was one of the founding nations of NATO contributing with a fleet of three submarines, seven frigates, four patrol boats, 16 mine-sweepers, four mine-hunters and three survey vessels.

The Overseas wars[edit]

After half a century, the Portuguese Navy was in combat again during the second half of the 20th century. These combats took place in the Indian Ocean against the Indian Union and in Africa against the independence movements of the Portuguese territories.

On the morning of December 17, 1961, the Indian Armed Forces launched a massive attack against Portuguese India, invading the territories of Goa, Daman and Diu with vast land, air and naval forces. The Indian naval forces attacking Goa included an aircraft carrier, two cruisers, eight frigates and five other ships. The Portuguese naval forces comprised only three small patrol boats, one each in Goa, Daman and Diu, and the old sloop NRP Afonso de Albuquerque, based in Goa. Besides its mission of facing the enemy naval units, the Afonso de Albuquerque was also tasked with serving as coastal battery for the defense of the Mormugao harbor, as well as providing vital radio communications with Lisbon after on-shore radio facilities had been destroyed in Indian air-strikes.

The Afonso de Albuquerque engaged in the last conventional battle fought by the Portuguese Navy to the present day, when, at the 12h00 of December 18, several Indian frigates entered Mormugao harbor and opened fire. In response, the Afonso lifted anchor, headed out towards the enemy and returned fire with its 120 mm guns. For about an hour, the Afonso was able to sustain a disadvantageous battle with the Indian ships, firing nearly 400 rounds and hitting two of the enemy vessels. Finally, after having suffered severe damage from the enemy fire, with five of the crew killed and 13 injured (including its captain), the ship was stranded and latter evacuated by the crew under heavy bombardment.[2]

The patrol boat NRP Vega - led by 2nd Lieutenant Oliveira e Carmo - also engaged in combat, first defying the attacking Indian cruiser Delhi and then opening fire with its 20 mm gun against the enemy aircraft that were striking Diu, hitting and forcing the landing of an Indian Toofani jet fighter-bomber. In retaliation, the enemy aircraft focused the attack on the Vega, which was finally destroyed and sunk, with two members of the crew (including its captain) killed and other three injured.[3]

NRP António Enes (F471), a Portuguese-designed Overseas War era João Coutinho class corvette.

During the Overseas wars fought in Africa (1961–1975), the Portuguese Navy played a fundamental role in combat, patrol and amphibious missions in the ocean and inland waters of Angola, Portuguese Guinea and Mozambique. In amphibious missions the action of the Portuguese Marines was fundamental. Two types of Marine units were created, the Special Marines (fuzileiros especiais) specialized in offensive operations and the Marines (fuzileiros) for the defense of naval assets. The Portuguese Navy had to equip itself with a large fleet of small units including corvettes, patrol boats and landing craft, many of them designed and built in Portugal.

In the Angolan theater, the main focus of the Portuguese Navy effort was the protection of the Zaire River, to avoid the infiltration of UPA/FNLA and MPLA guerrillas from the bordering Republic of Zaire. This mission was done by the patrol and landing crafts of the Zaire Flotilla, occasionally supported by frigates, and by units of Marines using rubber boats. In the late 1960s, the Navy also started to focus in the Eastern Angola, a vast remote and almost desert region located at more than 1000 km from the coast, establishing naval and Marine units that operated in the Zambezi, Cuando, Cuanza and other local rivers, against the MPLA and UNITA guerrillas operating in the area. In the end of 1968, the Command of the Navy Forces in the East was established in a base located in a region known as the Terras do Fim do Mundo (the Lands of the End of the World), that gave origin to a small town named Vila Nova da Armada (New Town of the Navy).

From 1970, the Portuguese naval presence in Angola stabilized, including one frigate in rotation, four patrol ships, 11 patrol motor launches, 15 landing crafts, two Special Marine detachments, four Marine companies and five detachments of the Navy Forces in the East.

The landing craft NRP Alfange (LDG101) supplying the garrison of Babadinca, Portuguese Guinea, in the early 1970s.

Due to geographical and hydrological characteristics of the Portuguese Guinea, it was in this theater of operations that the Navy could give a proportionately higher contribution to the Portuguese war effort. Guinea is crossed by a multitude of water streams, many of them navigable rivers, and a large part of its territory is marshy and flooded. This conditions allowed the Portuguese Navy to intervene in virtually all the territory, including in the interior regions. By the other side, in this theater, the Portuguese forces faced the PAIGC, probably the best organized, trained and equipped of the independence movements, that from a certain point, managed to obtain a combat potential often equivalent or even superior to that of the Portuguese, which led to the conflict take on many characteristics of a conventional and no longer a mere guerrilla warfare. The PAIGC was even able to create its own Navy, equipped with some Eastern Bloc and Chinese naval assets, including modern P 6-class torpedo boats that constituted an additional threat to be faced by the Portuguese naval forces. Besides this, the PAIGC benefited from the support of the neighbors countries of Senegal and specially, of the Republic of Guinea, which, given the relatively small land area of the Portuguese Guinea, allowed its forces to be able to launch direct attacks against the Portuguese garrisons from their bases in those countries. In this theater, the Portuguese Navy played the most varied missions, including most of the logistical support to the Portuguese military units scattered throughout the territory, fire support to the land forces, amphibious assaults with Marine units and the interdiction of the water supply lines used by the PAIGC.

The Portuguese naval presence in Guinea, from 1964, included a frigate, seven patrol boats, 15 landing craft, four Special Marine detachments and two Marine companies. Latter, additional landing craft and a Sapper Divers unit would be added, this latter to face the use of naval mines by the PAIGC forces. In 1971, in the scope of the "Africanization" policy of General Spínola, two African Special Marines detachments were created, staffed with personnel recruited locally in the Portuguese Guinea.

To expel the PAIGC forces that were occupying the Como and other near islands in the southern region of the Portuguese Guinea, in January 1964, the Portuguese Armed Forces launch the Operation Trident (Operação Tridente), a major conventional type joint operation, on which, for the first time ship based helicopters were used and large scale amphibious assaults were made. The assaults against the several islands were supported by naval bombardments and air strikes. For the Operation, the Navy employed the NRP Nuno Tristão frigate, that served as the command post for the Operation, 10 patrol boats and landing craft and three detachments of Special Marines, that together with a reinforced Army battalion formed the landing forces.

In 1970, the Naval Forces in the Portuguese Guinea perform the secret Operation Green Sea (Operação Mar Verde), a major amphibious raid on Conakry, the capital of the neighbor Republic of Guinea, an openly supporter and a sanctuary for the PAIGC. The Operation was led by Lieutenant-Commander Alpoim Calvão, heading a task force of four patrol boats and two landing craft, carrying a landing force that included 250 Portuguese Commandos and Special Marines and 150 political opponents of the Guinean dictatorship. During the night of 21–22 November, the Portuguese forces were able to invade the city, neutralizing the Guinean Army and the locally based PAIGC forces, destroying several naval and military assets of the PAIGC and rescuing 26 Portuguese POWs that were being held in a local prison.

In the theatre of Mozambique, the main operational focus of the Portuguese Navy was the Lake Nyasa, in an effort to deter FRELIMO forces infiltrations from their bases in Tanzania and to cooperate with the Military of Malawi. This mission was done by the Nyasa Flotilla, operating mainly from the Metangula naval base, and by units of marines. The establishment of the Nyasa Flotilla was possible by the organization of complex logistical operations to transport a total of 12 patrol and landing craft from the coastal port of Nacala to the Lake Nyassa, in a route of about 750 km by land. In the scope of the cooperation with the neighbor Malawi, the Portuguese Navy was deeply involved in the organization of its naval forces, transferring to them some of the Nyassa Flotilla boats. The Navy also focused in the resupply of the Portuguese Forces operating in Northern Mozambique, connecting them, by sea, with the main logistical centers in Lourenço Marques and Beira. With the beginning of the construction of the Cahora Bassa Dam and the spread of the FRELIMO guerrillas to the Tete region, in the early 1970s, the Navy oriented part of its effort to the Zambezi River.

In addition to its commitment in the Mozambican theatre of operations against the independence forces, from 1966, the Portuguese Navy had to maintain an oceanic task force in the Mozambique Channel, composed of frigates on rotation, to deter any possible hostile action from the British naval forces that kept stationed off the port of Beira to try to force the embargo of oil to Rhodesia, following its unilateral declaration of independence.

From 1971, the Portuguese naval presence in Mozambique included three frigates or corvettes, one logistical support ship, three patrol boats and one landing craft in the Indian Ocean, five patrol boats and seven landing craft in the Lake Nyassa, three Special Marines detachments and three Marine companies.

Besides the engagements in the Overseas wars, during this period the Portuguese Navy was able to continue to guarantee the Portuguese naval contribution to NATO missions in the North Atlantic and to provide long-range and coastal logistics to the Portuguese Armed Forces stationed in the several overseas territories of Portugal in the Atlantic (Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Portuguese Guinea and Angola), the Indian Ocean (Mozambique) and the Pacific (Portuguese Timor and Macau).

Activity Since 1975[edit]

NRP Magalhães Correia (F474), a Cold War era Portuguese-built Pereira da Silva class anti-submarine frigate.

The Portuguese Navy participated in various long-range missions where it has effectively conducted Portugal's foreign policy, using its units solely or integrated in vaster campaigns articulated with the Portuguese Army and the Portuguese Air Force. The Portuguese Navy has been especially active in peace-enforcement campaigns using combat ships, helicopter missions and special force marine detachments in amphibious and air evacuation of Portuguese nationals and other foreign civilians from dangerous war zones in Sub-Saharan Africa. The most notable missions performed were in Bolama (Guinea-Bissau, 1990), Luanda (Angola, 1992), and Bissau (Guinea-Bissau, 1998 and again in 1999). In these theatres the Portuguese Armed Forces set up secure zones amidst the combat areas, and evacuation units, sometimes operated by Portuguese Army special forces or Portuguese Marines Special Actions Detachment (DAE) to retrieve civilians from hot-spots and evacuate them onto frigates stationed off-shore or onto Portuguese Air Force C-130 Hercules transports, as in Angola in 1992. [1].

The Portuguese Navy has also actively participated in several international peace-keeping and peace-enforcing efforts in conjunction with other NATO, United Nations or European Union forces in numerous theatres, distant from Portuguese territory.

During the liberation of Kuwait in 1990–91, the Portuguese Navy logistics ship NRP São Gabriel supported allied forces in the Persian Gulf. In the various Balkan wars which resulted from the dismembering of Yugoslavia, the Portuguese Navy was an active player in Portugal's UN and NATO commitment, maintaining a frigate with DAE special forces in the Adriatic Sea continuously between 1991 and 2000, and commanding the NATO Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea in December 2001 and January 2002. Closer to home, the Portuguese Navy has consistently contributed patrol boats and corvettes to joint-nation EU exercises designed to aid Spain in dealing with its problem of illegal immigration and drug-trafficking off its the Southern coast and the Canary Islands. During the Prestige oil-spill incident, off the coast of Northern Spain, Portugal dispatched various frigates and surveillance aircraft to the area, which were fundamental in providing independent information regarding the events.

Portuguese Navy Marine contingents have also participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions in Kinshasa (Zaire, 1997) and Congo (1998), East Timor (1999–2004), the European Union Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, and the NATO fleet off the coast of Somalia, where Portugal's Navy has played a prominent role. During the flooding of the Save River, in Mozambique (2000) a detachment of Portuguese Marines conducted flood rescue operations as part of the humanitarian relief effort. [2]

During the onset of East Timor's independence from Indonesia in 1999, Portugal sent two frigates and various troops to aid its former colony in the Pacific Ocean. The NRP Vasco da Gama and the NRP Hermenegildo Capelo remained in the area until mid-2001 [3]. A company of 155 Marines was also sent to the territory as part of Portugal's UN peacekeeping role while the situation was volatile. Since 2004 a smaller detachment of Portuguese Marines is integrated in the Timor Military Liaison Group [4] closely coordinated with the Portuguese National Republican Guard (GNR) contingent stationed in the capital, Dili, and the Armed Forces of Timor.

The Vasco da Gama class frigates NRP Álvares Cabral and NRP Corte Real have regularly contributed to long-range NATO exercises in the Indian Ocean, and both have served as NATO task-force flagships in the mission against Piracy in Somalia. During 2009 and January 2010, the NATO fleet in the Gulf of Aden was commanded by the Portuguese Navy [5], who received the award of "exceptional bravery at sea" from the International Maritime Organization for its successful attacks on pirate activity, conducted by the Corte Real frigate during the peak of pirate activity. [6] [7].


Distinctive flag of the Chief of Staff of the Portuguese Navy.

The Portuguese Navy is under the command of the Chief of Staff of the Navy (CEMA, Chefe do Estado-Maior da Armada). He is the only full Admiral in active service in the Navy and is proposed by the Government and vested by the President of Portugal.

Besides the CEMA and under his command the Portuguese Navy includes:

  • the Naval Staff (EMA, Estado-Maior da Armada);
  • Central bodies of administration: services of Personnel, Material, Financial, Hydrographic and Data Analisys and Management;
  • Advising bodies: councils of the Admiralty, of Discipline, of Health and of Culture;
  • Territorial bodies: Naval School, Naval Technology School, Communications and Cipher Center, cultural bodies and service execution bodies;
  • Bodies of the Maritime Authority System: Directory-General of Maritime Authority and Maritime Police;
  • the Naval Command, including:

Ships and aircraft[edit]


Class and type Image Units Built Displacement Length Speed Range Complement
Ocean escorts
Bartolomeu Dias-class frigate NRP Bartolomeu Dias (F-333) @ Phoenix Express 2010 (PE 10) 02.jpg 2 1994 3320 t 122,5 m 29 kn 5000 NM 176
Vasco da Gama-class frigate NRP Corte Real 2.jpg 3 1992 3200 t 115.90 m 32 kn 4000 NM 180
Baptista de Andrade-class corvette NRP Afonso Cerqueira (F488).jpg 3 1974 1401 t 81 m 24 kn 5000 NM 113
João Coutinho-class corvette 2010-08-06 F-471 Antonio Enes 04.jpg 3 1970 1401 t 81 m 24 kn 5000 NM 93
Tridente-class submarine Chegada do submarino NRP Tridente à Base Naval do Alfeite.jpg 2 2010 2020 t 68 m 20 kn 12 000 NM 33
Patrol vessels
Viana do Castelo-class offshore patrol vessel Npop360.jpg 2 2010 1750 t 83,1 m 23 kn 4859 NM 35
Centauro-class patrol boat NRP Centauro P1155.JPG 4 2000 94 t 27 m 24 kn 1350 NM 8
Argos-class patrol boat NRP Escorpiao P1152 20090731.JPG 5 1991 97 t 27 m 24 kn 1350 NM 8
Rio Minho-class river patrol boat NRP Rio Minho.jpg 1 1991 70 t 22,5 m 9,5 kn 800 NM 8
Albatroz-class patrol boat FDTL Albatroz Class Patrol Boats.jpg 2 1975 45 t 18,4 m 20 kn 2500 NM 8
Cacine-class patrol ship NRP Zaire P1146 20090731.JPG 3 1969 292 t 44 m 20 kn 4500 NM 33
SF300-class patrol vessel Danish HDMS Viben (P562) cropped.jpg 4 1992 320 t 54 m 30 kn 3860 NM 19
Landing craft
Bombarda-class landing craft 1 1985 650 t 56,2 m 9,5 kn 2600 NM 26
Auxiliary ships
Bérrio-class fleet tanker NRP Berrio 20071106.jpg 1 1991 11 522 t 140,6 m 19 kn 15 000 NM 71[4]
Schultz Xavier-class buoy tender NRP Schultz Xavier.jpg 1 1972 900 t 56 m 14,5 kn 3000 NM 39
Dom Carlos I-class research vessel Nrp almirante gago coutinho no porto de pipas (1).JPG 2 1985 2300 t 68,7 m 10,5 kn 6400 NM 49
Andrómeda-class survey vessel NRP Andromeda A5203.JPG 2 1988 245 t 31,4 m 12 kn 1980 NM 19
Sagres-class training ship N.R.P. Sagres, navio-escola. Forças Armadas Marinha Portuguesa..jpg 1 1937 1940 t 70,4 m 10,5 kn 5450 NM 139
Creoula-class training vessel UAM Creoula 20071106.jpg 1 1937 1300 t 67,4 m - - 38
Polar-class sail training vessel 1 1977 70 t 22,9 m - - 5


Aircraft Image Type Versions In service
Westland Lynx Westland Lynx Mk.95, Portugal - Navy JP6237627.jpg Shipborne helicopter Super Lynx Mk.95 5

Ranks and insignia[edit]


NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student Officer
Insignia POR-Navy-OF10.svg
4 gold stars on shoulder)
4 silver stars on shoulder)
3 silver stars on shoulder)
2 silver stars on shoulder)
1 silver star on shoulder)
(Sleeve and shoulder)
(Sleeve and shoulder)
(Sleeve and shoulder)
(Sleeve and shoulder)
(Sleeve and shoulder)
(Sleeve and shoulder)
(Naval School)
(Sleeve and shoulder)
Rank Almirante da Armada Almirante Vice-almirante Contra-almirante Comodoro Capitão de mar e guerra Capitão de fragata Capitão-tenente Primeiro-tenente Segundo-tenente Guarda-marinha or Subtenente Aspirante Cadete


NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Insignia POR-Navy-OR9.svg POR-Navy-OR8.svg POR-Navy-OR7.svg 8 - Primeiro-sargento (Marinha).svg 7 - Segundo-sargento (Marinha).svg 6 - Primerio-subsargento.svg 5 - Segundo-subsargento.svg 4 - Cabo.svg 3 - Primeiro-marinheiro.svg 2 - Segundo-marinheiro.svg No rank insignia
Rank Sargento-mor Sargento-chefe Sargento-ajudante Primeiro sargento Segundo sargento Primeiro subsargento Segundo subsargento Cabo Primeiro marinheiro Segundo marinheiro Grumete

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.emgfa.pt/pt/organizacao
  2. ^ http://www.areamilitar.net/DIRECTORIO/NAV.aspx?NN=128
  3. ^ "The fall of the Portuguese India" by Carlos Alexandre de Morais, ISBN 972-33-1134-8
  4. ^ "O "BÉRRIO", UM NAVIO SINGULAR (II- Conclusão)" (in Portuguese). Operacional. 19 de Março de 2012. Retrieved 9 de Dezembro de 2013.  Unknown parameter |autorlink= ignored (help); Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)