The Brazilian Navy commissioned the Humaitá, its second diesel-electric submarine in the Riachuelo-class, on 12 January 2024.

Notably, the unique aspect about this milestone is that this vessel was produced entirely in Brazil by Itaguaí Naval Constructions (INC), a state-owned shipbuilder and naval nuclear engineering company.

In the form of a considerable technology transfer agreement, the French maritime systems supplier, Naval Group, has transformed the Brazilian defence industrial base, which now boasts enough capacity to produce such a sophisticated platform as a French Scorpène submarine.

Brazil’s path to the Scorpène design

In 2009, within the framework of the French-Brazilian strategic defence co-operation agreement, the Brazilian Navy chose Naval Group for its Programa de desenvolvimento de Submarinos, or “ProSub” programme.

This scheme set the scene to begin building four conventional attack submarines (SSKs) in July 2011 that were based on the Scorpène design. This model was jointly developed by Naval Group, a French state-owned naval manufacturer, and Navantia, a Spanish shipbuilder.

Brazil’s boats are designated Riachuelo (S40), Humaitá (S41), Tonelero (S42), and Ango Stura (S43). The lead submarine, the S40, was launched in December 2018 and commissioned in 2022.

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Franco-Brazilian tech transfer

Naval Group contributed to this programme by transferring technology: supplying the submarine design file, the equipment that makes up the submarines and technical assistance.

Teams from the INC have also been trained in submarine construction techniques in France, as part of a vast training programme for Brazilian welders, formers, pipe fitters and electricians.

“This training, along with technical assistance, enables [INC] to master the entire production process, from sheet metal forming to commissioning and testing of onboard systems,” the French supplier stated in its press release.

However, the French supplier did not stop there: it is also supporting the country’s naval nuclear power base. Specifically, the company is helping to develop Brazil’s first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine (SSN), the future Álvaro Alberto (SN10).

A step toward a sovereign defence market

After Naval Group’s support, the leading intelligence consultancy GlobalData projected 200% project growth in the Brazilian market last year. Although, Naval Group is not the first foreign investor in Brazil’s swelling defence industry.

The Emirati conglomerate, EDGE Group, has already tapped into the market in the past year with a growing list of acquisition of key defence organisations in sectors such as smart weapons as well as its government and armed service contracts.