Fact Sheet

Brazil Submarine Capabilities

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Brazil Submarine Capabilities

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The Brazilian Navy currently operates a flotilla of seven submarines, including four Tupi-class (modified German Type 209) submarines, which are based at Almirante Castro e Silva, Mocangue Island, near Rio de Janeiro. The first of this class was constructed at Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), while the remainder were built at Arsenal de Marinha do Rio de Janeiro (AMRJ). AMRJ launched a fifth boat, the improved Tupi class Tikuna, on 9 March 2005. The Brazilian Navy launched two out of the four Riachuelo-class diesel submarines, the Riachuelo in 2018 and the Humaitá in 2020. This new attack class of submarines are intended as a further step in the eventual creation of a fleet of nuclear-powered attack boats, which will use a hull modified from the diesel boats.1 According to Brazilian reports in late May 2004, a special budget of approximately $7.8 million was to be released immediately for the completion of the land-based nuclear reactor prototype RENAP-11 (Reactor Naval de Potência (PWR) de 11 Megawatts).2 A 48 Megawatt version of the RENAP-11 will then be developed for use in the SNAC-2 nuclear-powered submarine program.3 Subsequently, in 2012, the Brazilian government signed an agreement with Blue Amazon Defense Technologies for the development of PWR reactors for nuclear submarines using LEU fuel.4

Brazil’s Submarine Tables

Overall, the country plans on building 15 diesel-electric submarines and 6 nuclear powered vessels in an attempt to modernize its navy.5 As a follow-up to a 2008 defense cooperation agreement, the Brazilian Navy signed detailed contracts in late 2009 with the French naval manufacturer DCNS. These contracts included technology transfers and construction assistance for four Scorpene-class diesel-electric attack submarines, as well as one nuclear powered vessel. With the exception of the first boat, all submarines will be built entirely in Brazil at the newly constructed Itaguai shipyard.6 On December 14, 2018, Brazil launched the first of its Riachuelo-class Scorpène-type vessels, the Riachuelo (S40).7 The Humaitá (S41), the second of this class, launched on December 11, 2020.8 The remaining two SSKs are scheduled for completion in 2022.9 The construction of the first SSN is planned to end in 2023 with entry into service slated for 2025.10

The Brazilian Navy is responsible for the protection of some 7,400 km of coastline, and Brazil’s submarines are a critical part of this effort. In addition to attacking the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) of the enemy, they can be employed for power projection through the disembarkation of Special Forces, for intelligence collection and for laying mines.11 Brazilian policymakers and military officials believe that operating a nuclear submarine will aid their country’s long-term goal of securing a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.12 Furthermore, the recent discovery of significant oil reserves, underneath the ocean floor in Brazil’s territorial waters (an estimated 33 billion barrels), gives further momentum to its pursuit of a nuclear-powered submarine as an asset for protecting the country’s natural resources.13

The Brazilian Navy’s overall strategic goal is to gain an increased sea-denial capability, and it views submarines as a way to achieve that goal. Brazil’s USD 8.3BN Submarine Development Program (known as PROSUB) has set a goal of producing 15 diesel-electric submarines and 6 nuclear-powered submarines by 2034. These boats are slated to replace the older Tupi and Tikuna-class submarines.14

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Diesel-electric submarine
Diesel-electric submarine: A submarine with a diesel-electric transmission. Diesel-electric transmissions require access to oxygen for the diesel generator to charge the submarine’s batteries or drive the motor. This type of submarine is thus louder and must surface more frequently than a nuclear-powered submarine. A diesel-electric submarine can fire conventional cruise missiles against land targets, and in theory, can also carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. Diesel-electric submarines are significantly cheaper to build and purchase than nuclear-powered vessels, which makes them the vessel of choice for smaller navies.
Nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor: A vessel in which nuclear fission may be sustained and controlled in a chain nuclear reaction. The varieties are many, but all incorporate certain features, including: fissionable or fissile fuel; a moderating material (unless the reactor is operated on fast neutrons); a reflector to conserve escaping neutrons; provisions of removal of heat; measuring and controlling instruments; and protective devices.
United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council: Under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The Council consists of fifteen members, five of which—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—are permanent members. The other ten members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. The five permanent members possess veto powers. For additional information, see the UNSC.


  1. “The Brazilian Navy - A Naval Force in Evolution,” Military Technology, Vol. 29, No. 4 (April 2005), pp. 75-77; in ProQuest Information and Learning Company, https://proquest.umi.com.
  2. “Brazil Accelerates Reactor Work for Nuclear Submarine Program,” Sea Power, Vol. 47, No. 7 (July 2004), p. 44; in ProQuest Information and Learning Company, https://proquest.umi.com.
  3. “Brazil Accelerates Reactor Work For Nuclear Submarine Program,” Sea Power, Vol. 47, No. 7 (July 2004), p. 44; in ProQuest Information and Learning Company, https://proquest.umi.com; “Programa de Submarinos e Submarinos Nucleares de Ataque(SNA) da Marinha do Brasil,” www.infomarmb.hpg.ig.com.br.
  4. “Nuclear Power in Brazil,” World Nuclear Association, May 2015, www.worldnuclearassociation.org.
  5. Janet Tappin Coelho, “Brazil plans to expand submarine fleet,” Janes, 16 December 2014, www.janes.com.
  6. Janet Tappin Coelho, “Brazil plans to expand submarine fleet,” Janes, 16 December 2014, www.janes.com.
  7. Nathan Gain, “Brazilian Navy’s Riachuelo Submarine Starts Sea Trials,” Naval News, 26 September 2019, www.navalnews.com.
  8. Xavier Vavasseur, “Second Scorpene Type Submarine Humaitá Launched in Brazil,” Naval News, 14 December 2020, www.navalnews.com.
  9. “Construction Begins in Brazil on First DCNS Designed Scorpene Class Submarine at Ceremony Attended by Brazil President, Dilma Rousseff,” DCNS Press Release, 18 July 2011, https://en.dcnsgroup.com; “Brazilian Submarine Construction Progress Detailed,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 17 October 2011, www.lexisnexis.com; Janet Tappin Coelho, “Brazil plans to expand submarine fleet,” Janes, 16 December 2014, www.janes.com.
  10. Janet Tappin Coelho, “Brazil plans to expand submarine fleet,” Janes, 16 December 2014, www.janes.com.
  11. Hartmut Manseck, “Submarine Class 209,” Naval Forces, Vol. 24, No. 4 (2003), p. 75; in ProQuest Information and Learning Company, https://proquest.umi.com.
  12. “Xando Pereira, “Precisamos de um Sivam Que Funcione no Mar [We Need a Sivam (Amazonia Vigilance System) That Works at the Sea],” A Tarde, 4 September 2008, www.atarde.com.br.
  13. “Brazil to use nuclear subs to protect undersea oil fields - defence minister,” BBC Monitoring Latin America, 4 June 2008; “Brazil,” Jane’s World Navies, IHS Inc., 2013, Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  14. “Brazil,” Jane’s World Navies, IHS Inc., 2013, Retrieved 14 June 2013.


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