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Angola Navy

A former chief of the Angolan navy noted: "The politicians always talk about the cost of having a navy; they never consider the cost of not having a navy." To all intents and purposes, Angola has no navy as such, and the "former" Navy chief seems to have lost the argument. The Angolan Navy (AN) (Marinha Di Guerra) currently has a small force of patrol boats and craft that were built in the early 1990s. However, these vessels are largely non-operational due to funding shortages over the past decade. Although the AN was a much larger and more powerful navy up through the 1980s, it will more than likely remain a patrol force for the indefinite future.

The immediate priority for the AN would be to return the force to an operational status in order to monitor its coastline and territorial seas. The longer-term priority would be to replace the existing fleet with new patrol vessels sometime in the next decade (2011-2020). After 2011, AMI expected that the AN would begin a new patrol boat (over 100 tons) and patrol craft (under 100 ton) programs in order to replace the Mandume and Patrulheiro classes that are currently in service. The AN could choose two avenues for the replacement programs, either new construction or used vessels from the international market. New construction programs would require an extremely beneficial financial package as well as improvements in training of fleet personnel and a support structure to maintain the new vessels.

There is currently no known acquisition plan for a new patrol boat for the AN. However, with the effective service life of the Mandume class ending around 2016, the sea service could begin conceptualizing a new vessel by 2013. A construction contract could be in place by 2014 allowing for the first two units to enter service in 2016 and the last two in 2017. The four new patrol boats will replace the Mandume class on a one-for-one basis.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the sea service consisted of several classes of fast attack craft (FAC), patrol vessels, mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) and amphibious vessels; all of which were decommissioned in the 1990s. The People's Navy of Angola (Marinha de Guerra Popular de Angola -- MGPA) remained a relatively unimportant branch of the armed forces because of the exigencies of the ground and air wars in the interior. The navy's fortified headquarters and home port, as well as major ship repair facilities, were at Luanda. Although there were several good harbors along Angola's coastline, the only other ports used regularly were Lobito and Namibe, and these were used only to support temporary southern deployments. The latter two ports were located near railheads and airfields. Lobito had minor repair facilities as well.

The navy's mission was to defend the 1,600-kilometer coastline and territorial waters against South African sabotage, attacks, and resupply operations to UNITA; to protect against unlicensed fishing in Angolan waters; and to interdict smugglers. In early 1985, President dos Santos transferred responsibility for protecting the rich offshore fisheries from the coast guard to the MGPA to provide more effective enforcement of fishing regulations. After Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Augusto Alfredo, vice minister of defense and MGPA commander, was killed in a road accident in June 1985, he was succeeded by Rear Admiral Antonio Jose Condessa de Carvalho (nom de guerre Toka), who had spent the previous four years in the Soviet Union studying military science.

The MGPA officially dates from July 10, 1976, when President Agostinho Neto visited the naval facilities at Luanda. Its senior officers had actually begun training in 1970, during the war of liberation, when the MPLA sent the first cadre of twentyfour naval trainees abroad for a three-year training program. However, there was no navy awaiting their return. The MPLA inherited a small number of Portuguese ships at independence, which were subsequently augmented by various Soviet warships and support craft. In 1988 the MGPA was reported to have 1,500 personnel (thought to be volunteers) and a fleet of about fifty vessels that included guided-missile fast patrol boats, torpedo boats, inlandwater and coastal patrol vessels, mine warfare craft, and amphibious landing craft. The independent merchant marine fleet had about 100 vessels that could be impressed into service.

By the late 1980s Soviet naval units one or two frigates, a transport vessel and a varying number of submarines, at a minimum were permanently assigned to the naval base in Luanda, which serves as the center for the support and control of these activities. Some of the numerous Soviet fishing vessels operating near Angola also had surveillance assignments. Soviet fleet and Cuban warships, particularly off the coast of Cabinda, Soyo, Luanda, Lobito and Namibe (the main ports of the country, extensively used for military purposes) intensified the patrolling of the coast and the waters near the Angolan ports at a time when Soviet and Cuban vessels had been arriving in Angola constantly carrying cargos of a military nature. In addition to the advantages that it had in the naval base on the Island of Luanda, and Angolan ports in general, for its surface and submarine units, the USSR also had a floating dock at the entry to the Bay of Luanda.

In view of the naval resources of the USSR and Cuba assigned to carry out surveillance and patrol missions in Angolan waters, the role which fell to the Angolan Navy (MGPA) in this sector was rather insignificant. On the other hand, the crews of all of the Angolan naval vessels included Soviet advisers, in command posts, among others. By 1987 the Angolan Navy had six high-speed vessels equipped with OSA-11 missiles, four Sttershen- and two Pohechan-class torpedo boats and a longrange patrol vessel of the Zhuk type. In 1985 the USSR also sold Angola eight landing craft, three of them equipped to transport amphibious armored vehicles.

Antonio Jose de Carvalho ("Toca"), commander of the Angolan People's Navy (MGPA), said in July 1987 that the situation on the Angolan coast was relatively calm, and thus warranted particular attention because of the possibility of a sneak attack by the enemy. Rear Admiral Antonio Jose de Carvalho, who was being interviewed by the Angolan news agency ANGOP, stressed that his observation was based on the intent of the racists to destroy the socioeconomic infrastructures located on the coast, such as commercial ports and petroleum drilling platforms. Analyzing the progress of the MGPA, he recalled that in 1976, when it was founded, there were only small ground units, in a state of deterioration, and now there is a defense system that protects the coast against enemy attack. Regarding the pirate ships that ply the coast, primarily in the area of Lucira (northern Namibe), the officer said the conditions are already there to catch them, as had occurred in Zaire Province.

Most of the navy's maintenance, repair, and training were provided by Soviet and Cuban technicians and advisers; Portugal and Nigeria also provided training assistance. Despite extensive foreign support, in late 1988 the serviceability of many of the vessels and equipment was in question. Moreover, naval recruitment and the proficiency of MGPA personnel remained problematic; indeed, the MPLA and Ministry of Defense leadership repeatedly appealed to youth (the JMPLA in particular) to join the navy.

USS Kauffman (FFG 59) completed a four-day port visit 24 February 2007 as part of an ongoing effort to enhance relations throughout West and Central Africa. As the second U.S. Navy ship to conduct a port call to Luanda in the past 33 years, Kauffman's engagement built upon the successful April 2006 visit by USS Emory S. Land (AS 39). A U.S. Navy task force comprised of Kauffman, USCGC Legare (WMEC 912) and elements of Destroyer Squadron 60 based in Italy were deployed to the Gulf of Guinea to strengthen regional maritime partnerships.

Kauffman Sailors did their part to build friendships by assisting in rebuilding areas recently damaged by major flooding. The embarked Naval Forces Europe-Africa band also played at local schools and other venues. But the most important activities centered on joint training with the Angolan Navy. With a goal to increase Angolan Navy core competencies, Kauffman Sailors "trained the trainers," by instructing nine hand-picked Angolan senior enlisted in multiple disciplines. Over three days, they practiced weapons employment and search methods for visit, board, search and seizure operations; basic wounds and medical triage; and navigation organization and equipment.

Vice Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. 6th Fleet, arrived in Luanda, Angola, July 9, 2011, to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Angolan Navy during a five-day visit to Africa. The ceremony commemorated the Angolan Navy's 35 years of service and was followed by an anti-terrorism demonstration that displayed the Navy's prowess at protecting its borders from the air, land, and sea. "During the [civil] war years [1976-2003], the focus was on the land and in the air," said Vice Admiral Mendes Caravalho, Angolan Minister of Defense foreign liaison officer. "Now the focus is on security at sea."

With the new focus on securing the increasingly important maritime environment, Harris explained the importance of strengthening the bonds between the two maritime countries. "We are concerned about the security in the Gulf of Guinea and the South Atlantic, and we are working with the Angolan Navy to strengthen that security in this vital region of the world," Harris said. "We have many shared interests with the Angolan Navy and hope to strengthen our partnership in the near future."

The Angolan Navy is also looking to strengthen ties and increase opportunities with the U.S. Navy. "We are transforming our navy from a wartime to a peaceful navy," explained Rear Admiral Caetano Neto, director for maintenance and logistics for the Angolan Navy. "Now we are focusing on the emerging challenges of piracy and security in the maritime environment."

Harris commented on the willingness of the U.S. Navy and more directly, U.S. 6th Fleet to see this partnership grow. "I look forward to helping build this important relationship with the Angolan Navy," Harris said after the ceremony. "As a strategic partner with the U.S., there are many areas were we can work together in the future."

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Page last modified: 23-08-2013 19:27:21 ZULU