Brazilian Navy Approves Preliminary Design of Future Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarine (SSN)

On November 26, the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil) took a significant step in the process of obtaining the first conventional nuclear-powered submarine (SN-BR), the main object of the Submarine Program (PROSUB), by signing the Approval of the Bases of the Preliminary Project. The event took place at the Steel Structures Manufacturing Unit at the Itaguaí Naval Complex. To contextualize the importance of this act, it should be mentioned that the Navy Commander, through Ordinance No. 332, of November 16, 2020, created the charge of Naval Authority for Nuclear Safety and Quality (ANSNQ), designating the Director-General of Nuclear and Technological Development of the Brazilian Navy, Squadron Admiral Marcos Sampaio Olsen, to exercise it, concurrently with the other tasks under his responsibility.

The Brazilian Navy modernization program plans the development and construction of six nuclear attack submarines, as part of the national defense strategy that says that any effort to build or acquire nuclear submarines will be to develop strategic deterrence capability against “any hostile force” to the national land or sea territory. Brazil says that its future nuclear powered submarines capacity will serve as a “peaceful deterrent” and not “a weapon of war”. The Brazilian submarine Álvaro Alberto is a nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) under construction for the Brazilian Navy, by the Itaguaí Construções Navais (ICN). The construction is part of the strategic partnership signed between France and Brazil in 2008, which also included the total transfer of technology and support for the construction of four enlarged conventionally-powered Scorpène-class submarines.

Brazilian Navy Approves Preliminary Design of Future Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarine (SSN)
Brazilian Navy Approves Preliminary Design of Future Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarine (SSN)

Álvaro Alberto has many similarities to his conventional successor of the Scorpène class. The first Brazilian nuclear submarine will have a beam of 9.8 m (32 ft) to accommodate the pressurized water nuclear reactor (PWR). Its 100 m (330 ft) length and 6,000-ton displacement will be propelled by a 48 MW (64,000 hp) turbo-charged propulsion system.[26] The submarine will be able to carry torpedoes, anti-ship and cruise missiles, and naval mines in six torpedo tubes. The namesake of the submarine will be a tribute to the Brazilian Navy vice admiral and scientist Álvaro Alberto da Mota e Silva, who is primarily responsible for the implementation of the Brazilian Nuclear Program. He was also Brazil’s representative on the UN Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC) and President of Brazilian Academy of Sciences for two terms, from 1935–1937 and 1949–1951.

Brazil is the seventh country in the world, and the first in Latin America and the Southern Hemisphere, to acquire the technology for the construction of nuclear submarines. The country adopts the policy of “no first use”, also understands that with its future fleet, at least some of its weapons will be able to survive the first strike (nuclear or non-nuclear) of an enemy and prevent further attempts at aggression. Another main reason is the defense of the so-called Blue Amazon (Portuguese: A Amazônia Azul), a resource-rich area covering about 4,500,000 km2 (1,700,000 sq mi) off the Brazilian coast. This area is the country’s exclusive economic zone, home to a huge diversity of marine species, valuable metallic minerals and other mineral resources, petroleum, and the world’s second largest rare-earth reserve.

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