The launching of Brazil’s submarine Riachuelo on December 14 marked a new phase in the country’s Navy Submarine Development Program (PROSUB). The event took place at the Naval Complex of Itaguaí, on the Southern coast of Rio da Janeiro state. It was attended by President Michel Temer and President-elect Jair Bolsonaro. The Commander of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Eduardo Bacellar Leal Ferreira, led the ceremony. The Director General of Nuclear and Technological Development, Admiral Bento Albuquerque, was also present. On January 1, 2019, Albuquerque will take the helm of the Ministry of Mines and Energy in the Bolsonaro cabinet.

Both Leal Ferreira and Albuquerque were guests of the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute in 2018. On September 25, the Navy commander offered a comprehensive view of the evolving role of the force in Brazil and highlighted the growing presence of women in its officers.

In April, Admiral Bento Albuquerque spoke to a selected audience of nuclear energy experts from the US Defense, State and Energy departments on the “The Brazilian Navy Nuclear and Submarine Program: Origins, Current Focus, and Perspectives”. A few weeks later, responding to an invitation extended by Admiral Albuquerque, a delegation from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration visited the Brazilian Navy Technological Center, including its isotopic enrichment laboratory located at the University of São Paulo. It was the first official American delegation to visit the installation. 

A diesel-electric propulsion submarine, the Riachuelo is named after the largest naval battle in Brazil’s history during the Paraguayan War in the mid-nineteenth century. Based on French technology transferred to Brazil and partially adapted by local engineers to the Navy’s requirements, the Riachuelo, or S-40,  is the first of four conventional submarines of the Scorpéne class slated to be completed and delivered for testing by 2022. A fifth submarine, also based on French technology adapted to the specifications of the Brazilian Navy, is expected to be the first powered by nuclear propulsion. 

In his April presentation at the Wilson Center, Admiral Albuquerque underlined that the Brazilian Navy nuclear propulsion project and its programs are being developed under full international safeguards. “Our programs are transparent, intended for peaceful purposes and strive for safety! That should be understood here as for actual defense, energy security and technological sovereignty,” said Albuquerque, who will retire from active service to take the ministry of Mines and Energy post. “Our goal is development! We are looking to make Brazil better for future generations as well as contributing to world peace, as part of our responsibility to the international community.”  

O presidente Michel Temer e o presidente eleito Jair Bolsonaro participam da Cerimônia de Lançamento do Submarino Riachuelo.

Images by Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil