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Colombia: The Navy
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Organization of the Armed Forces > The Air Force


In 2008 the National Navy (Armada Nacional) had a total of 30,729 personnel, plus about 14,000 marines and 146 naval aviation personnel. The navy operates in three naval forces and four commands. The naval forces are the Caribbean Naval Force, the Pacific Naval Force, and the Southern Naval Force. The latter consists of the Southern River Fleet, which controls and guards the Caquetá and Putumayo rivers. The first of the four commands is the Marine Infantry Command, which operates on land along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, on the island territories, and on the country’s rivers, where its amphibious capabilities can support the naval forces as needed. The second command is the Coast Guard Corps Command, which operates two task forces, one along the Caribbean coast and one along the Pacific coast. The third is the Naval Aviation Command, which is equipped with some small airplanes and helicopters. The fourth is the Specific Command (Comando Específico) of San Andrés and Providencia; it consists of the General Headquarters of the Specific Command, Naval Base No. 4, and a unit attached to the Caribbean Naval Force.

Although the navy has maintained its traditional mission of defending the nation’s maritime waters, the evolution of the internal conflict during the 1990s also led to the development of new objectives. The navy not only participates in antinarcotics activities through the detection and interception of boats suspected of drug trafficking, but its Marine Infantry Command also became directly involved in the counterinsurgent effort through a buildup on the nation’s coastal and internal waterways. The navy also has two Gaula units.

The commander of the navy is assisted by a chief of naval operations and an inspector general. The Marine Infantry Command and seven headquarters (jefaturas) report directly to the navy’s deputy commander. Naval Education oversees the Enap, the Naval School for Noncommissioned Officers (ENSB), and the Marine Infantry School (EFIM). Logistics Operations is responsible for the four largest naval bases, in Cartagena, San Andrés, Málaga, and Puerto Leguízamo on the Río Putumayo. Naval Operations commands the Caribbean Naval Force, the Pacific Naval Force, the Southern Naval Force, the Coast Guard Corps Command, and the Naval Aviation Command. Other jefaturas include Plan Orion, naval intelligence, naval matériel, and human development.

The commander of the navy’s Marine Infantry Command is advised by the marines’ chief of staff. The Marine Infantry Command has three brigades and one Riverine Task Group that patrol a total of 16,000 kilometers of rivers and coastline and are under the operational authority of the chief of naval staff; two are coastal and riverine brigades, and one is a counternarcotics brigade. The 1st Marine Infantry Brigade has three marine infantry rifle battalions, two counterguerrilla battalions, and one command and support battalion that conduct operations in 46 municipalities in Córdoba, Sucre, and Bolívar. Based in Buenaventura, the 1st Marine Infantry Riverine Brigade consists of five battalions that cover the coastal regions in the departments of Nariño, Cauca, Valle, and Chocó. The 2d Marine Infantry Riverine Brigade is based in Bogotá and has battalions stationed throughout the country on the Atrato, Magdalena, Arauca, Meta, Guaviare, Caquetá, and Putumayo rivers. All six Nodriza PAF–III riverine patrol craft are assigned to this brigade, including one on the border with Ecuador. Each of these heavy, Colombian-built, counterinsurgency ships is equipped with a small hospital, four M–60 machineguns, and a helicopter and can accommodate up to 200 soldiers. The Riverine Task Group operates out of Puerto Leguízamo in Putumayo and is responsible for the border waterways with Ecuador on the Putumayo and with Peru on the Amazon, as well as the Caquetá, Orteguaza, and Caguán. The Marine Infantry Command also has its own training center and a Logistics Support Command. The marines have their own BTR–80A armored personnel carriers.

The two task forces of the Coast Guard Corps Command operate on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The Caribbean task force, under the command of the Caribbean Naval Force, maintains five stations based in La Guajira, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Coveñas, and Turbo. The Pacific task force is under the operational authority of the Pacific Naval Force and maintains stations in Buenaventura and Tumaco. An eighth Coast Guard station is located in Leticia on the Amazon. The Naval Aviation Command conducts logistical support missions for the navy.

The navy’s General Maritime Directorate is responsible for Colombia’s maritime policies and programs, the Merchant Marine, and maritime signals. It also manages port authority for ship registration and titles and the development of research and maritime cartography. The Corporation for Science and Technology for the Development of the Naval, Maritime, and Riverine Industry is in charge of the shipyards in Mamonal and Boca Grande, near Cartagena. This entity is responsible for the design and construction of the Coast Guard’s fast patrol craft and riverine supply vessels (see table 6, Appendix).

Last Updated: January 2010

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Colombia was first published in 1988. 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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