Military Wiki
Portuguese Navy
Marinha Portuguesa
Marinha de Portugal (Command).svg
Standard of the Major Chief of the Armada
Founded 1180
Country Portugal Portugal
Branch Navy
Size 5 Frigates
7 Corvettes
2 Submarines
17 Patrol Boats
1 Landing Craft Utility
6 Auxiliary vessels
4 Survey vessels
5 Helicopters
Part of Portuguese Armed Forces
Garrison/HQ Lisbon Naval Base
Patron Henry the Navigator
Motto(s) Talant de bien faire (Desire to do well) (motto of Henry the Navigator)
Anniversaries 20 May (Discovery of the sea route to India by Vasco da Gama)
José Carlos Torrado Saldanha Lopes
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 language: 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 compromises assumed by Portugal (mainly with 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

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.

Replica of a 15th-century Portuguese caravel.

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.

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 navy power.

Conquests and Discoveries

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 century

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.

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.

The 16th century

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

Though King Philip of Spain became the King of Portugal in 1580, the Portuguese navy was still involved in several 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.

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.

In 1618 the first naval infantry regiment is founded (Terço da Armada Real da Coroa de Portugal, in Portuguese), origin of the modern Portuguese Marine Corps (Corpo de Fuzileiros).

Portuguese Restoration War

In 1640, Portugal regained independence from neighbouring Spain, being forced to fight against its powerful navy in difficult conditions. This led to the loss of several regions of the empire and to peace agreements with England, France and the Netherlands.

In 1641, the Portuguese Navy was able to defend the national interests in the European continent and reconquer Angola and the Northeast of Brazil from the Dutch during the Dutch-Portuguese War.

The 18th century

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 went to Gibraltar to help England against Spain and France.

In 1717, the Portuguese Navy fought the Ottoman Navy in the Battle of Matapan.

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

19th century to World War I

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

In November 1807, General Jean-Andoche Junot invaded Portugal in an attempt to expand Napoleon's continental empire. Prince Regent John, with his country in disarray, called upon Portugal's Navy to save the crown. On November 29, the Prince Regent sailed for Brazil with some 15,000 members of the government and their families. The Portuguese fleet succeeded in preserving the Government until it could return later. The fleet that sailed for Brazil had one 84 gun ship of the line, the Príncipe Real. In addition there were three 74 gun ships, the Rainha de Portugal, Príncipe do Brasil and the Conde D. Henrique and four ships of 64 guns each along with four British warships.

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.

From the end of the 19th century and until the beginning of World War I, the Portuguese Navy was modernized and received a series of new warships, including six cruisers, four torpedo boats, a submarine, three destroyers, 13 gunships and others.

World War I

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 naval officers Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho made the first South Atlantic aerial cross.

World War II

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 organizes an expedition to Timor to perform the reoccupation of the territory and to fully restore Portuguese sovereignty. The naval component of the expedition includes 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 in Asia and Africa

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

Landing boat in Portuguese Timor (1970)

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 India and in the African colonies during the Colonial War.

During the Portuguese-Indian War on December 18, 1961, when India invaded Goa with over 45,000 troops and a fleet of 8 combat ships, an aircraft carrier and various combat aircraft, the Portuguese navy was involved in hostilities. The Portuguese naval defence comprised the sloop the NRP Afonso de Albuquerque which, besides engaging Indian naval units, was also tasked with providing a coastal artillery battery for the defence of the harbour and adjoining beaches, as well as providing vital radio communications with Lisbon after on-shore radio facilities had been destroyed in Indian air-strikes.

At 1200 hours on December 18, the Indian frigate INS Betwa, accompanied by the INS Beas entered Mormugao harbour and opened fire on the NRP Afonso with their 4.5-inch guns. In response, the NRP Afonso lifted anchor, headed out towards the enemy and returned fire with its 120 mm guns.[1] Eventually at 1250 hours, after having fired nearly 400 rounds at the Indians, hitting two of the Indian vessels, and having taken severe damage, the order was given to initiate the abandonment of the ship. Under heavy fire, directed both at the ship as well as at the coast, non-essential crew including weapons staff left the ship and made their way to the shore. They were followed at 1310 hours by the rest of the crew, who along with their injured commander, disembarked directly onto the beach after setting fire to the ship. Following this, the commander was transferred by car to the hospital at Panjim.

In all, the NRP Afonso lost 5 dead and 13 wounded in the battle.[1]

At the enclave of Diu, a 6-man fibre-glass patrol boat NRP Vega, armed with one 20mm Oerlikon gun fired at attacking Indian Air Force aircraft conducting bombing sorties over Diu. In retaliation the Indian aircraft attacked the Vega twice, killing the captain and the gunner and forcing the rest of the crew to abandon the boat and swim ashore, where they were taken prisoners of war.[2]

During the Colonial wars fought in Africa (1961–1975), Portugal's Navy played a fundamental role in combat, patrol and amphibious missions in the ocean and inland waters of Portuguese Angola, Portuguese Guinea and Portuguese Mozambique as well as providing long-range and coastal logistics to the Portuguese Armed forces in its overseas territories in the Atlantic (Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea, Angola), Indian (Mozambique) and Pacific Oceans (Portuguese Timor and Macau). In amphibious missions the action of the Portuguese Marines (fuzileiros) was fundamental. For the Colonial wars, the Portuguese Navy had to equip itself with a large fleet of small units including corvettes, patrol boats and landing craft, most of them designed and many built in Portugal.

Activity Since 1975

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.

NRP Corte Real (F332), a modern Vasco da Gama class multi-purpose frigate.

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].

Ships and weapon systems



Future Developments

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. "The fall of the Portuguese India" by Carlos Alexandre de Morais, ISBN 972-33-1134-8

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