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Relevance of Riverine Capability for Today's Portuguese Navy

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Master's thesis

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Although Portugal is presently facing a different set of circumstances than those of the colonial period, its commitment to NATO, the European Union EU, the United Nations UN, and the Portuguese communities in the world suggest that a riverine capability and the means to project it is as relevant for todays Portuguese Navy as it was in the past. Discussion Portuguese riverine forces during the colonial wars in Africa and the US riverine fleet in Vietnam are good examples of how amphibious forces operating in inland waters can playa decisive role in a counterinsurgency environment. The two countries developed their riverine forces in light of the French experience in Indochina. Each force was built in accordance with the economic, technological, and military realities of each country. While the US was able to use resources and technology that were not available to the Portuguese and the French, the US and Portuguese experiences both suggest that the establishment of a credible riverine force is a painful and slow process. In the end, both forces so hardly established were dissolved as national interests shifted. In the case of Portugal, the fleet was largely worn out and was abandoned to the former colonies as it turned towards NATO. In the case of the United States, the fleet was abandoned to the Vietnamese navy, as it turned towards fighting the Cold War. Portuguese National and Naval strategies suggest that Portugal is strongly committed to its alliances and to the Portuguese communities in the world. However, the three post-colonial war interventions in Africa suggest that the Portuguese Navy has a deficit both in riverine capabilities and in the means to project them. This shortage, combined with the determination to achieve the strategic objectives, forced men and equipment to take additional risks while accomplishing the assigned tasks.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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