And Then There Was One

On 14 February 2017, the Brazilian Navy announced the São Paulo, the country’s only aircraft carrier, was to be decommissioned. In 2014, the Navy announced plans to modernize the carrier, but those plans proved impractical and too costly. The São Paulo’s decommissioning means the United States is now the only naval power in the Americas capable of fielding an aircraft carrier.

Originally commissioned in 1963, the São Paulo began life as the Foch, a French aircraft carrier. Brazil purchased the São Paulo in 2000 to replace the Minas Gerais, a former 1940s-era carrier acquired from Britain in 1960.

Brazil’s mothballing of her only carrier doesn’t change the balance of power in the Americas. The United States currently operates 19 carriers, all more modern than the São Paulo. Since Brazil isn’t threatened by any regional naval powers, there isn’t an urgent need to project naval air power.

Despite no current pressing needs, the Brazilian Navy is looking to acquire two new carriers within the next ten years. However, the navy’s primary focus is creating a nuclear submarine program, and the expanded construction of Tamandaré corvettes. Both programs combined, cost less than it would to again update the fifty-seven year old São Paulo.

So until then, the United States will have the coolest toy boats in the Western Hemisphere.

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