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Uruguay: Development of the Navy
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Origin and Development of the Armed Forces > Development of the Navy


The Uruguayan Navy was formally established in 1860, and its forces saw action during the War of the Triple Alliance, principally in a transport capacity. The modern Uruguayan Navy, however, owes its professional development to the establishment in 1885 of the Military Academy, which offered training to naval and other officers. By 1910 navy strength was some 1,300 in all ranks, and vessels included gunboats (some armed with torpedoes), steamers, and various other small craft. The separate Naval Academy was established in 1916.

After World War I, many of the navy's aging vessels were withdrawn from service, and replacement was slow. The Naval Air Service was formed in 1925, but the first aircraft were not acquired until 1930. The only significant purchase of vessels between the wars was three patrol vessels and a training ship. Personnel declined to fewer than 1,000.

After the outbreak of World War II and the December 1939 Battle of the Río de la Plata, the government decided to strengthen the navy and the Naval Air Service accounted for 50 percent of naval personnel in 1952, by the late 1960s naval air assets had begun to be withdrawn from service, and few modern replacements were acquired. At the same time, the fleet underwent a modest expansion, and abattalion of marines was added. During the 1970s, the government acquired a small number of vessels to replace aging equipment. In 1981 three large patrol craft were purchased new from France. The sole addition in the late 1980s was a frigate purchased used from the French Navy and commissioned in late 1988. In early 1990, the Uruguayan Navy received two decommissioned United States Coast Guard cutters for coastal patrol and antinarcotics work under a United States Department of State antinarcotics program. Acquisitions were insufficient to offset the number of retired vessels, however, and a further reduction of the navy's assets seemed likely as more vessels had to be withdrawn from service.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Uruguay was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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