Brazil Navy chief says personnel ready despite Covid-19, submarines face technical setback

BRASILIA (REUTERS) – The readiness of the Brazilian Navy has not been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, despite 8 per cent of personnel catching the virus and 549 people dying of Covid-19, its commander said on Tuesday (Oct 27).

Admiral Ilques Barbosa played down the impact of the virus on the Navy’s 80,000 men and women, adding that those who caught it were never all out at the same time.

Most of those who died were veterans over the age of 70, he said.

“The rate of infection was very low. It was almost irrelevant,” the Admiral told foreign reporters in a remote briefing. “Our readiness was never compromised.”

Adm Barbosa himself had Covid-19 without symptoms and worked from home.

Separately, Adm Barbosa said the programme that aims to deliver a nuclear-powered attack submarine to the Brazilian military by 2029 has been set back by budget and technical issues.

Brazil is building five Scorpene-class submarines in a joint venture with France’s Naval Group defence company, formerly known as DCNS SA, in a 6.7 billion euro (S$10.73 billion) programme.

The final submarine, still scheduled for 2029, according to Adm Barbosa, will be nuclear-powered, putting Brazil in the club of nations with some form of nuclear-powered strategic submarines: the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and India.

The programme was hampered in 2016 by a corruption investigation.

More recently, defence budget cuts and technical problems have delayed work, the admiral said. He gave no further details.

The first submarine, the S-40 Riachuelo launched in December 2018, was due to be commissioned by the Navy in September, but that will only happen in June next year, the admiral said, adding that it was still undergoing “complex” tests.

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The second submarine, the S-42 Tonelero, was due to be delivered next year, but will only be launched to sea in December 2021 and the third vessel a year later, Adm Barbosa said.

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