Friday, March 11, 2005
The Brazilian navy launched the biggest and most advanced submarine ever built in Brazil Wednesday, an achievement that President Luiz Inacio da Silva said "makes Brazil and our navy proud." The conventionally-powered submarine, named "Tikuna" after an Amazon Indian tribe, is the fourth submarine constructed in Brazil. It took nearly 10 years to build. The submarine was christened by Angela Maria de Sousa Carvalho, the wife of navy chief Adm. Roberto de Guimaraes Carvalho. She gave a short speech and pressed a button that sent a bottle of champagne sliding down a rope to burst on the ship's black hull. "This launch makes Brazil and our navy proud," Silva said in a statement read by a navy official. "Our shipbuilders have reached a level of technical capacity that is a credit to the Brazilian navy." Silva attended the ceremony with Vice President and Defense Minister Jose Alencar but did not address the audience. After the inauguration, Silva shook hands and spoke briefly with the men who built the submarine, which was begun in 1996. Then he took a brief tour of the vessel, which measures 200 feet long and 20 feet wide. The Tikuna will be able to dive 660 feet or more. But the navy said it could not divulge how much deeper the submarine could dive because the information is classified. The navy is expected to test the submarine until December, when it will officially join the Brazilian fleet. According to the navy, only 15 countries are capable of building submarines, and Brazil is the only country in the Southern Hemisphere besides Australia with the technological know-how to build one. The Tikuna is adapted from the German IKL-209 submarine but includes various innovations conceived by Brazilian engineers, the navy said. Brazil has long hoped to produce a nuclear-powered submarine. The country's nuclear plans have been scaled down, but President Silva said in 2002 he would revive the submarine program.