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The Role Of The Brazilian Navy In The Amazon Region
CSC 1984
SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues
                 IN THE AMAZON REGION
                 The Writing Program
              Command and Staff College
             Carlos R. O. Candido Pereira
                     April 2, 1984
                  THE AMAZON REGION
The Amazon Region
     The Amazon Region comprises an area of seven million
square kilometers, covering the territory of several South
America countries:  Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana,
Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil.  About 4.8 million
square kilometers are in Brazil's territory, comprising
about 56% of the total area of the country.  This is the
largest fluvial basin of the world.  About four million
square kilometers are covered by tropical jungle.
     The Amazon river is more than 6,400 kilometers long
with some 4,080 kilometers within Brazilian territory.
There are at least 200 important tributaries, 17 of these
are over 1,600 kilometers long (Tocantins, Tapajoz, Xingu,
Purus, Madeira, Trombetas, Negro, Japura, etc.).  All of
these are navigable.  The Madeira flows a distance of 4,800
kilometers, collecting 90 tributaries of its own before
joining the Amazon.  The average width of this big river is
16 kilometers although at its mouth it is 400 kilometers.
The Amazon discharges 3,400,000,000 gallons of water per
minute at its mouth.  This discharge is five times that of
the Mississippi river.
     Alongside the "sea river", as the Brazilians call the
Amazon, there are some important cities.  These are advanced
outposts of civilization on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
     Belem, with 1,500,000 inhabitants, is a prosperous
metropolis where a growing and new industrial complex is a
     Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazon, is some
2,400 kilometers from the ocean and a very important city in
the region.  With more than 800,000 inhabitants it is today
undergoing a new era of progress and plenty.  There is a
free zone with all of its advantages including the prospects
of fiscal incentives.
     Besides these two important cities, there are hundreds
of small cities, towns and villages which are close to the
main river on the edge of the jungle.
     However, the fact that 4% of the national population is
in the region is a statistical phenomenon.  There are
hundreds of miles without any inhabitants at all and the
concentration in large cities makes the density as stated.
It is in reality a desert with a few small groups of people
scattered through the entire region.  Among them are some
indian tribes that are already being given incentives to
integrate themselves into the urban life.
     The Amazon Basin is an area of great natural wealth
even though the climate, the jungle and the dangers of
disease have prevented Brazilians or outsiders from
developing the resources of the Amazon systematically.
Products gathered from the jungle are shipped from the river
settlements down the Amazon to the Atlantic port city of
Belem.   Cabinet woods,  such as mahogany,  ebony,  and
rosewood, Brazil and palm nuts, and waxes are among the
jungle products of the Amazon Basin.
     Rubber, collected from wild rubber trees by the local
people, used to be an important export from this region.
     The Amazon Basin, because of its developed resources,
may be the land of the future for Brazil.  If proper methods
are used, many parts of the area could probably be trans-
formed into rich farm lands to feed Brazil's population.
     Transportation is being improved.  The highway system
that may solve the Amazon problems is well planned; however,
there is still much to do.  The actual economic situation of
the country reduced the investment in this area.  Only part
of the entire system is constructed.  After its completion,
this road network will integrate the entire country giving
the capability to make a secondary and in some cases primary
means of commerce between the northern region and the well
developed south and east.
     The Amazonian flora and fauna are luxuriants.  In the
forest the plants struggle for space.  The boughs of a tree
encircle the older tree, stifle it, and grow a tracery of
branches around the void left by the earlier tree trunk,
dead and rotted away.  The fauna contains crocodiles, fierce
panthers and monkeys of every sort.  It is particularly rich
in birds such as parakeets, egrets, flamingoes and pink
ibises that become white in captivity.
The Presence of the Navy in the Amazon Region
     The country has an administrative division of Naval
Districts that are supposed to support the Naval Forces
operating within various areas.  There are seven Naval
     The district areas do not follow the various state
boundaries regularly, not only because of the proximity of
sea, rivers, and lakes, but also because of the relative
importance of various regions themselves.  The 4th Naval
District is located in the Amazon Region.  It covers the
states of Para, Amazonas, Acre and Rondonia and the terri-
tories of Amapa and Roroima.
     In 1850 when the Amazon Region became a Province and
the Amazon River became opened to the navigation of the
international ships, through an Imperial Decree of September
7, 1867, the necessity of the creation of a Naval Force in
this region became imperative.  Then, on June 2, 1868, an
Imperial announcement established the Amazon Flotilla with
the headquarters in Manaus.  For many reasons the location
of the headquarters constantly changed from Manaus to Belem.
At the beginnings of the century the 4th Naval District was
created as noted before.  The Commandant is a Navy Rear
Admiral and has under his command three operational forces:
The Naval Detachment of the North, the Marine Barracks, both
located in Belem, and the Amazon Flotilla located in Manaus.
Beyond the three forces, there is the Naval Base of Belem to
support the Naval Detachment  of the North.  The Navy has in
the Amazon Region, one hospital and one radio station, both
located in Belem.  It also has two Ports Capitanay, one in
Belem and the other in Macapa,  and several Capitanay
agencies spread out over the region.
     To know what role the Navy is playing in the region,
examples of its missions must be shown.  The missions are:
     1.   Aid to river navigation.
     2.   Hydrographic operations.
     3.   Good neighborhood with friendly countries
     4.   Support to civilian population (medical, sanita-
tion, etc.).
     5.   Transport of military material as well as general
cargo for civilian agencies.
     6.   Scientific research.
     7.   Meteorological information.
     Since it was mandatory that there be an augmentation of
the tasks assigned to the 4th Naval District last year,
there was one idea to create another battalion size Marine
Barracks in Manaus.  It is to play a security role through-
out the area.
     The Marines in the area, as part of the 4th Naval
District assumed several missions.  The principals are:
     1.   To provide combat forces for employment in
riverine operations for the defense of Naval Base and
     2.   To develop in cooperation with other Naval forces
and agencies, as well as with other armed forces, the
tactics, techniques, and methods employed by forces in the
conduct of riverine operations.
     3.  To provide detachment for security and protection
of Naval installations and agencies.
     The Marine Barracks in Belem is one Battalion (-) which
is composed of two companies.
     The Naval Detachment of the North, another operative
force under the 4th Naval District, is primarily designed to
accomplish sea patrol mission up to a distance of 200 miles
from the coast.  It is also used in rescue operations.  The
ships assigned to this force are Corvettes and Patrol Ships.
     The Amazon Flotilla is composed of two river patrol
ships which are 63.56 meters long, "Pedro Teixeira" and
Raposo Tavares" and three other smaller boats which are 45
meters long.
     In order to provide better and more support to the
region the Navy created a Naval Aerial Detachment in 1979
located in Manaus.  This new equipment gave to the ship a
great flexibility.  Ship navigation is dangerous in the
region so the helicopter has helped them.   Another
contribution of the helicopter is in medical, odontological,
sanitary and social assistance to the riverine population.
     It is not only the Navy that has its presence in the
Amazon Region.  There are thousands of military people
working daily in the region including the Army and Air
     1.   The Army has:
          - Headquarters Military Command, 8th Military
          - One Infantry Battalion specialized in jungle
          - 6th, 7th, and 8th Frontier Company
          - 8th Engineer Battalion
          - Jungle Operations Training Center
     2.   The Air Force has:
          - Headquarters 1st Air Zone
          - 1st and 2nd Transport Group
          - Flight Protection Nucleous
          - Airfields
          - The International Airport of Manaus
New Ships
     Faced with the imperious necessity of attending to its
intense and growing foreign trade, Brazil has within the
last three decades developed a vast naval constructions
program, achieving such expressive results that it has
assumed a prominent position among the principal ship-
building countries of the world.  It is a noted fact that
Brazilian shipyards have supplied the national merchant
fleet considerably and provided orders that originated from
some of the most renown international shipowners.
	At the same time Brazil achieved significant progress
in naval military construction reaching such a level of
development that today Brazil has the ability to design and
build modern war ships.  
	The Rio de Janeiro Navy Shipyard was founded on
December 29, 1763  and is one of the country's most
sohisticated Naval building and repair facilities.
	During the last decade, consolidating two centuries of
accumulated experience, the Navy Shipyard carried out a
comprehensive updating and modernization program on the
aircraft carrier "Minas Gerais", river patrol boats and
coastal patrol craft.  Technologically advanced Frigates
were also built.  
	In this work we will talk about the new ships 
especially built to operate in the Amazon Region.
     1.   River Patrol Ships
     Among the kinds of ships that sail in fluvial net,
especially in shallow waters, none have the outstanding
performance of river patrol ships  because these ships were a
especially designed for this purpose.  They are light weight
and versatile and have great maneuverability to moor at
rivers borders.  They are used to patrol, to transport
troops and materials, and to render medical and dental
assistance to the river based population.
     The larger version has four MANV6 V16/18 TLS Diesel
engines for propulsion and-the following main character-
     Length -- 63.65 meters;  maximum beam -- 9.71 meters;
displacement -- 690 tons; draught -- +- 1.70 meters;  main
engines -- 3,840 horsepower;  speed -- 16 knots;  range --
6,800 miles; guns -- one 40 mm, two 81 mm mortars, and six
12.7 mm machine guns.  It is equipped with facilities to
operate with one helicopter along with the two landing craft
equipped with  7.62 mm machine guns.  Its complement is of
approximately 60 men.
     The smaller version has two MANV6 V16/18 TL Diesel
engines and the following characteristics:
     Length -- 46.3 meters;   maximum beam -- 8.45 meters;
displacement -- 340 tons; maximum craught -- 1.37 meters;
maximum speed -- 14 knots; main engines -- 1,824 horsepower;
range -- 6,000 miles; guns -- one 140 mm, two 81 mm mortar
and six 12.7 mm machine guns.  It also has two landing
crafts equipped with 7.62 mm machine guns.    Its complement
is approximately 40 men.                   
     Both ships have physician and dental consultation rooms
and a sickbay which provides the best assistance to the
river based population.
     2.   Hospital Ship
     This ship was designed specifically to perform missions
of medical assistance on rivers with shallow waters.  This
ship contains excellent hospital facilities and has the
capacity to transport and accommodate personnel.  It can
receive a helicopter and carries two launchers which enables
it to reach points inaccessible to other vessels.  The
medical and dental facilities are composed of two sickbays,
which includes a total of six berths; a surgery room; up to
three dental offices; a laboratory; two clinics and a
compartment for X-rays.  The main characteristics are:
     Length -- 47.18 meters;  beam -- 8.45 meters;  depth --
2.90 meters; maximum draught -- 1.75 meters; full load
displacement -- 500 tons; cruising speed -- 9 knots; range
4,000 miles;   personnel -- 4 officers,  6 doctors and
dentist, 15 technical health personnel, and 21 enlisted men.
    3.   Buoy Tender
     Although this ship is not built to operate exclusively
in the Amazon Region, it is able to provide navigational
aids to the rivers of this region.  This kind of vessel
offers exceptional conditions for the execution of tasks
related to the maintenance of navigational aids, especially
for transport, placement, retrieval and minor repair of
buoys, chains and anchoring weights.  This vessel may also
be used efficiently to mark the position of obstacles and
     Its cargo handling equipment consists of a ten ton
hydraulically powered davit on the stern, a four ton cargo
derrick operated with electric winches, as well as the cargo
     Besides the complete interior communications system,
the vessel is equipped with modern electronic equipment
which permits communication by radio on several frequencies
from ship-to-shore or from ship-to-ship.
Helicopter Operations
     By Decree of the Ministry of the Navy, the Aerial
Detachment of the Amazon Flotilla was created on December
18, 1979, and was headquartered in Manaus.  The Aerial
Detachment provides direct support to the ships of the
Amazon Flotilla.  It is composed of four helicopters (Bell
Jet Ranger - 206).  The Commander of the Aerial Detachment
is a Lieutenant  (S.G.) who directs,  coordinates,  and
controls the execution of the tasks provided by the
Commander of the Amazon Flotilla.  He has four officers and
20 enlisted men under his command.  The Detachment consists
          - Administrative Section
          - Maintenance Section
          - Operation Section
          - Aviation Safety Officer
     A new dimension was added when the helicopter became a
vital element of the Navy's weapons and support system.  A
score suit of new capability provided by the helicopter gave
to each ship a greater degree of flexibility.   The
helicopter has also been used for Civic Action Programs such
as medical and social assistance for the riverine
populations which have proven to be extremely important.
     There are many helicopters flying in the Amazon Region
and most of them belong to commercial companies.  These
companies have rendered their services to the PETROBRAS
(petroleum works) and they have bases spread out all over
the region.  The helicopters of the Aerial Detachment use
these bases in their missions.
     Navigation through the rivers of the region is very
difficult because they change their routes, and islands can
appear and disappear in hours caused by many factors.  The
helicopter has helped the ships in the tasks of navigational
     It is not easy to fly over the biggest jungle of the
world and this job becomes more difficult when there is only
one place to land in case of emergency -- the river.  To fly
in this area it is necessary to have perfect knowledge of
the meteorological conditions, topography and peculiarities
of the area to increase the security of the operations.
When the Aerial Detachment first began operating, there was
a necessity to familiarize the pilots with the phenomenons
of the area, such as:
     1.   IGAPO -- This is low ground, like sand, that is
flooded periodically.  The pilot that flies over the Amazon
jungle has to recognize the IGAPO because many times it
seems dry and hard but it is not.  To ensure it is safe
before he can land, the pilot has to check the consistency
of the ground.
     2.   BANZEIROS -- These are small waves caused by big
ships.  These phenomenons are dangerous to the riverine
populations and can sink small ships,  hydroplanes or
helicopters that have landed on the river.
     3.    TANARA -- This is trash,  such as trunks and
branches of trees that go down the river.
     4.   REPIQUETE -- This is the rapid rise of the water
caused by the thawing of the ice from the Andes Mountains or
intense rain that normally takes place in this region.
     5.   MARE -- The Amazon river and its tributraries are
affected by the sea tide from its mouth to a hundred miles
in its interior.  This phenomenon is dangerous to both
fluvial and helicopter navigation because it changes the
banks of the river.
     The climate in the Amazon Region is equatorial.  There
is a predominance of cumulus and cumulus nimbus clouds in
the afternoon and in the morning at about 1000 hours there
is fog.  The flight of the helicopter is limited to the
first hours of the day and when the weather permits.  In the
afternoon the air immediately over the top of the trees
becomes warmer than the air over the ground.  This fact
causes less density and low flight becomes dangerous due to
loss of lift capability.  The evaporation in the jungle is
intensive and this produces the formation of another type of
cloud -- stratus.
     The following aspects have to be considered when flying
in the Amazon Region:
          - It is necessary to have communication between
the helicopter and the ship or the base during the entire
          - It is mandatory to fly with flotation equipment.
          - If it is necessary to make a river landing, the
pilot must land in an area that does not have a strong
current, which is on the edge of the river, closest to the
          - The pilot and the passengers have to use life
preservers because the rivers of the region are deep.
          - Using RADAM charts is recommended to help
navigation in addition to the Aerial chart.
          - When the aircraft is parked under the sun, it is
necessary to take special care of the electronic equipment.
The exposure of the helicopter to the sun for a long period
of time with high temperatures can put this equipment out of
          - The altitude-density effect happens in this area
due to the humidity and the hot temperatures reducing the
performance of the engines.
     Although the Brazilian Navy doesn't have any doctrine
of employment of helicopters, during these four years of
operations in the Amazon Region, the Aerial Detachment took
part in many military operations, such as: Ribeirex (one
each year),  support missions to the Jungle Operations
Training Center, and exercises with the 5th Construction
Engineer Battalion.  In these missions we learned that:
          - The helicopter has several advantages in landing
operations such as:  surprise, quick movement, capacity in
detecting the enemy, fire support, and psycological effects
due to low flight.   One of the best missions of the
helicopter in this area is reconnaissance.
          - The helicopter restricts the movement of the
enemy in the jungle.
     In addition to those I have pointed out before, the
helicopters of the Aerial Detachment carry out the following
missions in the Amazon Region:  aerial reconnaissance,
logistic support, aeromedic evacuation, aerial patrol, para-
trooper launches, communication aids, SAR, and aerial sup-
port in general.
     In the Amazon Region safety is paramount.  Each flight
is a new experience and the crew is always submitted to
constant stress when flying over the green sea of the
forest.  However, I believe that the enthusiasm, dedication
and high level of professionalism of the Brazilian Navy
Aviation, on duty in the Amazon Region, sharing with the
Army and Air Force this hard and anonymous job of helping
the population in this area, will integrate the Amazon
Region to the rest of the country.
     Brazil has a very large problem to solve in a short
period of time.  The Brazilian problem is economic, social
and political and is going to need a Brazilian solution.
This is a nation wide Amazon problem.  The civilians as well
as the military are aware of it; it is neither new or
unknown.  It simply is a gigantic problem which must be
solved by every Brazilian in this generation or the
generation to come.  The real problems are:
     1.   To get the region integrated into the Brazilian
social and economic life.
     2.   To populate the area on a reasonable basis and
have the territory explored and developed up to an adequate
     3.   To give the local people the same opportunity as
their fellow Brazilians from the northeast, the east, the
center and the south.
     I believe that any external help is welcomed in terms
of government agreements.  This help must be integrated into
the plans and programs that the country already has for the
future.  However, it must be said that there is no need for
any kind of external overall planning or programming far
exotic solutions that could mean little to our national
policy or national objectives.  Such solutions are useless
and in some cases attack the country's sovereignity as well
as it's social and economic life.
     For many years the militatry people have done their
best to get the proper answer to this challenge.  The Navy,
as well as the Marine Corps, is looking inland and getting
things organized and enough support to have a place in the
     This old and gigantic problem is not to be solved in a
short period of time.  The actual Brazilian youth is aware
of the problem by living and working in the region.  They
are the future leaders of a nation that has more than 50% of
its population under 22 years old and they are motivated.
     Of course the government and the Brazilian people are
confident of the future.  The problem is well stated and
some of the recommended actions are being accomplished.
Some of them depend on the continuation of the actual
situation and special support and programs for the Amazon
Region.  A firm settlement is expected not only from the
Navy but also from other civilian agencies in the entire
     There is a need of settlement in the interior that must
be accomplished at the lowest possible cost.  Despite the
enormous  quantity of money involved, it is believed that
investiments on highways systems for the region is the
cheapest answer to the problem.
     The discovery of new mineral resources in Serra Pelada,
where the gold is found on the surface, and the fertility of
the soil can be used to help  support the entire country.
     As a Brazilian, I am confident in our people and in the
future of my country.
Brazilian Embassy.  Ministry of External Relations.
     Administrative Department, 1966
Brazilian Embassy.  The Amazon Region.  Washington, D.C.,
     November 1968
Brazilian Navy.  The Brazilian Navy in the Amazon.  Navy
     Ministry, 1968
Duckworth, Gerald and Co. Ltd.  Brazil in Pictures.
     London, 1964
Durand Jr., Israel, Roemer.  World Geography Today.
     New York, 1971
Price, Williard.  The Amazin  Amazon.  New York, 1952

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