The Brazilian Ministry of Defense has announced its purchase of the former Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean (L12) at a reported cost of £84m.
Transfer of the warship had long been rumoured, and the transfer agreement was signed yesterday, February 19, in Plymouth, by Director General of Marine Material, Admiral Luiz Henrique Caroli, representing the Brazilian Navy, and officials from the UK Ministry of Defense.
With a loaded displacement of 21,500 tons, HMS Ocean was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1998, and served as a helicopter carrier and assault ship embarking Royal Marines. It was the service’s flagship and also took part in humanitarian missions, most recently last September, when it assisted Caribbean populations in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
According to a Brazilian Navy statement, HMS Ocean “will be employed in helicopter air operations, amphibious operations with Marine troops and maritime area control missions to protect maritime lines of supply. It will also carry out logistical support activities for humanitarian assistance, assistance to natural disaster areas and support for peacekeeping operations.”
The commissioning of HMS Ocean into Brazilian Navy service will take place on June 29, and the ship transfer process is expected to be completed by the end of July, the vessel arriving in Brazil in August. Until then, the Brazilian crew will follow intensive training courses with the Royal Navy, and with industry, including Babcock and BAE Systems. The ship will also carry out maintenance and dockage services in a British shipyard prior to handover.
The Brazilian Navy says the ship is able to simultaneously operate up to seven aircraft on its flight deck, including all types of helicopters currently in its service: SH-16 Seahawk, UH-15A/B Cougar, AH-11B Lynx, UH-12/13 Squirrel, IH-6B JetRanger III and UH-14 Super Puma.
Announcing the sale of HMS Ocean, Clive Walker, head of the UK Defence Equipment Sales Authority which managed the deal, said: “We have a proven track record of supplying surplus defence equipment on a government-to-government basis.”
Successor to São Paulo?
The Brazilian Navy announced plans to decommission its sole fixed-wing aircraft carrier, NAe São Paulo (A12), in February last year.
NAe São Paulo, which originally served the French Navy as Foch, is now considered a low priority for the Brazilian Navy, which says it will no longer go to sea.
According to a statement from the Directorate of Communications and Information Technology of the Navy: “After several attempts to recover the operational capacity of the São Paulo, the Admiralty concluded that a modernisation programme would require high financial investment, contain technical uncertainties and would require a long completion period.”
“A programme to obtain a new aircraft and aircraft carrier package will occupy the navy’s third acquisition priority,” the statement continued. Instead, priority turns to the nuclear submarine programme and the Tamandaré corvette construction effort.
São Paulo was incorporated into the Brazilian Navy in 2000, replacing the former Minas Gerais light aircraft carrier.
Although it already had 37 years of active service at the time of acquisition, the vessel fulfilled its mission in its first years of activity with the Brazilian fleet, enabling the navy to qualify pilots in operating high-performance carrier aircraft. Once the carrier is withdrawn, the Brazilian Navy has said it plans to continue to train for fixed-wing aviation naval warfare, training pilots both locally and abroad. However, HMS Ocean will only be suitable for rotary-wing operations.
A full account of Brazilian Naval Aviation appears in the January issue of AFM, available here.