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The Portuguese Navy ( , 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 Portugalmarker.The Portuguese Navy also participates in missions related with international compromises assumed by Portugalmarker (mainly with NATOmarker), as well missions of civil interest.Today, the Portuguese Navy assumes a dual role capacity: the military defence of the country and the missions which in other countries are normally assigned to coast guards.


Creation of the Portuguese Navy

The Portuguese Republic Naval Jack
Naval Ensign of the Portuguese Republic
Portuguese naval history is closely connected to the history of Portugal, and one can say that the Naval history is Portuguese History seen from the sea. 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 Espichelmarker. He also made two incursions at Ceutamarker, in 1181 and 1182, and died during the last of these attempts to conquer Ceuta.

During the 13th century, the Portuguese Navy helped in the conquest of several littoral towns, like Alcácer do Salmarker, Silves and Faro, in the battles against Castile through incursions in Galiciamarker and Andaluciamarker, and also in joint actions with Christian fleets against the Muslims.

In 1312 the naval fleet was created with the goal of defending the country against the Muslim pirates. 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 Islandsmarker, 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 Portugalmarker to be the only capable country to methodically and successfully start the exploration of the Atlanticmarker.

Portuguese expansion during the 15th century can be divided in:
  • Territorial expansion to North Africa
  • Hydrographic survey of the African coast and Canary Islandsmarker
  • Oceanographic and meteorologic survey of the Atlantic Oceanmarker
  • Development of navigation techniques and methods

Territorial expansion began in Moroccomarker with the conquest of Ceutamarker in 1415. Exploration in the west African coast started in 1412 and ended with the crossing of the Cape of Good Hopemarker in 1487.

The school of navigation in Sagres

After his return from Ceutamarker, 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 Porto Santo Islandmarker in 1419 and Madeira Islandmarker in 1420, Diogo de Silves discovers the azorean island of Santa Mariamarker in 1427. In 1424 Gil Eanes crosses the Cape Bojadormarker. Diogo Cão and Bartolomeu Dias arrived to the mouth of Zaire Rivermarker in 1482 and the second crosses the Cape of Good Hopemarker in 1487.The greatest achievement of these exploration voyages was attained by Vasco da Gama, whom between 1497 and 1499 discovers the sea route to Indiamarker.

The 16th century

With the first established sea route to the Indian Oceanmarker, 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 Diumarker, and the Portuguese presence in the area is definitely attained.

In Moroccomarker the Portuguese conquests continue and they take over the cities of Safim, Azamormarker, Mazagãomarker and Mogadormarker.

In the east, Portuguese navigators continue their progress visiting the southeast of Asia, Chinamarker in 1517 and Australia in 1522. They reach to Taiwanmarker and Japanmarker in the same period.

They enter the Red Seamarker in 1542 to destroy the Turkish armada in Suezmarker.

In the west the Portuguese visited the coast of New Englandmarker in 1520, Californiamarker in 1542 and Hudson Baymarker in 1588.

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

Iberian Union

In 1580 King Philip of Spainmarker becomes also King of Portugalmarker, but the Portuguese navy was still involved in several conflicts, and especially it maintained an important role in the fight against pirates. António Saldanha commanding a fleet of 30 carracks defeated a Turkish fleet in the Mediterranean and conquered Tunismarker. Meanwhile, João Queirós accomplishes a double crossing of the Pacific Oceanmarker leaving from Californiamarker.

Linked to Spainmarker by a dual monarchy, Portugalmarker saw its large empire being attacked by the English, the French and the Dutch, all enemies of Spainmarker. 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).

Restoration of Independence

In 1640 Portugalmarker regained independence from neighbouring Spainmarker, 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 Englandmarker, Francemarker and The Netherlandsmarker.

In 1641 the Portuguese navy was able to defend the national interests in the European continent and reconquer Angolamarker and Brazilmarker from the Dutch.

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 8 carracks went to Gibraltarmarker to help Englandmarker against Spainmarker.

In November 1807 General Jean-Andoche Junot invaded Portugal in attempt to expand Napoleon's continental empire. Prince Regent João VI, his country in disarray, called upon Portugal's Navy to save the crown. On November 29th João VI 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.

19th century to World War I

Political instability dominated Portugalmarker 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.

In the beginning of World War I the Portuguese navy was modernized and received a submarine and 3 frigates, amongst other warships.

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 Francemarker and Africa.The most important events were the combat between the mine-hunter Augusto de Castilho with the German submarine U-139 and the sinking of the mine-sweeper Roberto Ivens due to a collision with a sea mine, outside Lisbon harbour.After the war Portugalmarker acquired two ships from the United Kingdommarker and 6 torpedo-boats from Austriamarker.In 1922 the naval officers Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho do the first South Atlanticmarker aerial cross.From 1933 to 1936 the navy acquired a total of 22 ships and underwent a profound reorganization.

World War II

During the second World War the Portuguese navy defended at sea and air the Portuguese neutrality. Due to the vast empire 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 Timormarker, which was invaded and occupied by Imperial Japanmarker from 1942 through to 1945.

After the war Portugalmarker joined NATOmarker and acquired 3 submarines, 7 frigates, 4 patrol boats, 16 mine-sweepers, 4 mine-hunters and 3 survey vessels.

Modern times

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 Oceanmarker against Indiamarker and in the African colonies during the Colonial War.

The Portuguese-Indian War of 1961, was an outbreak of hostilities between India and Portugal, after Portugalmarker refused to relinquish it's colonies in India despite numerous attempts at negotiations. Four Portuguese frigates - the NRP Afonso de Albuquerque, the NRP Bartolomeu Dias, the NRP João de Lisboa and the NRP Gonçalves Zarco - were deployed to patrol the waters off Goamarker, Daman and Diumarker, along with several patrol boats (Lancha de Fiscalização). Eventually only the Afonso de Albuquerque saw action against Indian Navy ships, the other ships having retreated before commencement of hostilities. The NRP Afonso de Albuquerque was destroyed by Indian frigates, INS Betwa and INS Beas. Parts of the ship were recovered and are on display at the Naval Museum in Mumbaimarker.

A Portuguese Navy vessel (the NRP Álvares Cabral of the Vasco da Gama class) has served as a flotilla flagship for the NATO mission against Piracy in Somalia in 2009.

Ships and weapon systems

The main ship classes of the Portuguese Navy are:

Surface Vessels

NRP Schultz Xavier



Future Developments

See also

External links

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