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Revolutionary Navy

The Cuban Marina de Guerra Revolucionaria (MGR) is a coastal defense force. The Navy has no capability to sustain operations beyond its territorial waters and focuses on defense of the Cuban coast. Cuba no longer has any functioning submarines in its inventory. Perhaps a little over a dozen of its remaining surface vessels are combat capable. The Navy retains a weak antisurface warfare capability using fast attack boats that carry STYX surface-to-surface anti-ship missiles. The Navy also retains an extremely weak antisubmarine warfare capability. The Cuban Navy can pose a more substantial threat to undefended civilian vessels.

By 2006 the navy had a modest and increasingly obsolescent inventory of equipment, which included about seven coastal patrol craft, four missile craft, six mine countermeasures craft, and one hydrographic survey vessel. Coastal defense equipment included the truck-mounted SS–N–2B Styx and various artillery pieces. Naval spare parts were in critical shortage. By 2006 the nearly nonoperational navy, which is divided into the Western Naval District and the Eastern Naval District, has naval bases in Cabañas, Nicaro, Cienfuegos, Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Banes.

In the opening months of 2003, there were numerous attempts to hijack aircraft and ocean-going vessels by Cubans seeking to depart from Cuba. In several cases, these attempts involved the use of weapons by the hijackers. Cuban authorities attempted to resolve these incidents peacefully, but they were not able to do so successfully in all cases. U.S. citizens, although not necessarily targets, may be caught up in any violence during an attempted hijacking. Accordingly, U.S. citizens may wish to avoid travel by public transportation within Cuba.

Drug smuggling and illegal emigration are currently Cuba’s principal maritime threats. Although Cuban policy is to prevent, intercept, and destroy drug contraband, the country’s geographical position and limited coastal enforcement have not discouraged drug traffickers from transiting Cuban territorial water and airspace. Cuba aggressively pursues an internal narcotics enforcement, investigation, and prevention program and attempts to cooperate with the United States in narcotics enforcement areas. Nevertheless, Cuba is already an important trafficking transshipment point for drugs from Latin America and is unable to control its waters and airspace effectively.

The Revolutionary Navy (Marina de Guerra Revolucionaria-MGR), which had always been the smallest and least prestigious of the FAR's three armed services since its establishment in August 1963, is the service that has been most severely affected by the economic crisis. As of late 2000, it barely managed as an independent force. The MGR's formal mission had traditionally been to provide for shore-based coastal defense as well as to conduct offshore naval operations. By the end of the 1990s, however, the MGR had no major ships that were still seaworthy and no longer was considered to be a blue-water navy. It remained capable only of patrolling Cuba's territorial waters, and even that responsibility was shared with the Ministry of Interior's Border Guard Troops (Tropas Guardafronteras - TGF).

In 1999 the IISS estimated that the MGR was composed of 5,000 personnel, which represented just over 7.5 percent of total regular military manpower. Of these 5,000 personnel, an estimated 3,000 were conscripts. Another 550 were members of the Naval Infantry, a battalion-size force that was created in the late 1970s. This force, which was assigned to coastal defense, gave the MGR a limited ground combat capability. Although the MGR has no reserve force, it would presumably be supplemented by members of the Cuban Merchant Marine in the event of a crisis. Naval aviation is a function of the DAAFAR.

The MGR's headquarters is located in Havana. Its operational commands are divided in accordance with the three territorial armies, each of which holds ultimate authority over the MGR's forces within its geographic boundaries. The MGR's western headquarters is believed to be at Cabanas, located approximately 48.4 kilometers west of Ciudad de La Habana Province on the coast in Pinar del Rio Province; and its eastern headquarters, at Holguin, an inland city in the province of the same name. The location of the central headquarters-or even if the headquarters is still maintained, given the cutbacks-is unclear.

During the 1990s, the MGR's principal installations were said to include facilities at the Bahia de Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos; the Bahia de Cabanas, Pinar del Rio; the Bahia de Mariel, Havana; the Bahia de La Habana, Ciudad de La Habana; the Bahia de Matanzas, Matanzas; the Bahia de Nuevitas, Camaguey; and the Bahia de Nipe, Holguin. With the exception of that at the Bahia de Cienfuegos, all of these bases were located along the northern coast. Some of the installations may have been closed as a result of the continuing cutbacks that were carried out during the course of the 1990s. The naval academy was one of the installations closed. Located just west of Ciudad de La Habana Province on the northern coast at Punta Santa Ana, the MGR's principal training school was converted into a hospital in the 1990s.

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Page last modified: 05-04-2013 18:26:17 ZULU