RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil launched on Friday the first of five navy attack submarines to be built in the South American country under a military cooperation agreement with France.
The submarine, which was assembled at the Itaguai Naval Complex near Rio de Janeiro, is the first ever to be built in the South American country.
But a senior navy officer said the country has ambitious plans to build many more vessels at that facility.
“This complex was initially set up to build five submarines required by the Brazilian navy, but just six years after construction began we see that this naval complex can attend other projects, both Brazilian and those of other countries,” said the navy’s nuclear and technological development director, Adm. Bento Costa Lima Leite.
President Michel Temer and President-elect Jair Bolsonaro both took part in Friday’s christening and launch ceremony for the Riachuelo, which is 72 meters (236 feet) in length, is able to accommodate 35 crew members for 70 days at a depth of some 300 meters and can reach a speed of 20 knots (roughly 37 kilometers per hour).
The Riachuelo and three other conventional diesel-powered submarines ordered by the Brazilian navy, which currently has an aging fleet of five German-made subs – are modeled after France’s Scorpene-class of attack subs.
But a fifth vessel, which is to be 100 m in length, weigh 6,000 metric tons and travel at a speed of 19 miles (30 km) per hour, will be nuclear-powered and thus able to descend to lower depths and remain submerged for longer periods of time.
Only six countries worldwide – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and India – have nuclear-propelled submarines.
The five vessels are being built under a multi-billion-dollar 2008 technology-transfer deal with France at the Itaguai Naval Complex, which was installed at a port near Rio de Janeiro for that purpose.