Historia y Arqueologia Marítima


Indice Armada Paraguaya  Indice Armadas Sudamericanas


Por el Ing. Harmut Ehlers     


          This section provides more comprehensive insight into the history and structure of certain important commands of the Paraguayan Navy.

4.1 Prefectura General Naval

          The command came into being as “Capitanería General de Puertos” on 4 August 1871, with Domingo Antonio Ortiz, a hero of the just-ended War of the Triple Alliance, assigned as chief.  By 1911 the command was known as “Prefectura General de Puertos” (P.G.P.).  By ministerial resolution No. 2 of 7 April 1914, its personnel were given a military status within the Navy.

           By ministerial decree No. 424 of 24 February 1936, a naval infantry battalion (Batallón del Cuerpo de Defensa Fluvial, B.C.D.F.) was established as an additional infantry component. The battalion figured as the prefecture sub-command “River Defense Corps” (Cuerpo de Defensa Fluvial).  Many naval recruits, not assigned aboard a ship, were placed instead in this unit where they received elementary infantry training.  The battalion consisted of three infantry companies and a staff company, with a total effective strength of 493 men.  (For the further history of this unit see Para 4.4.)

           At the beginning of the Chaco War, the Prefectura General Naval was responsible for putting into action the mobilization plans and for general administrative work in transportation duties in co-operation with the naval transport command.  In addition to the posts already mentioned in the prefecture listing of 1915, new posts were created after the Chaco War:  Confluencia del Río Apa, Isla Margarita, Fuerte Olimpo, Bahía Negra, and Presidente Franco on the northern Paraguay River in April 1936 and General Delgado, General Bruguez, Frera, Galíleo, and Tobatí-Tuyá on the Pilcomayo River in May 1936.

           Today the Prefectura has its headquarters in Asunción and comprises the previously-listed river patrol craft with "LP" pennants.  It also has the so-called Prefecturas de Zona (local operational sites) at Alberdi, Ayolas, Concepción, Fuerte Olimpo, and Pilar, and Sub-Prefecturas  at Isla Margarita, Itá Enramada, and Villeta. Posts (Destacamentos de Prefectura) are at Angostura, Apua, Chaco-Í, Corate-Í, Guyratí, Humaita[i], Mariscal López, Molino, Panchito López, Piquete Cué, Puerto Botanico, Puerto Ortiz, Puerto Pabla, Remanso Castillo, Rosario, San Antonio, Vallemí, Varadero, Vertedero Central, Villa Oliva, Yuquyty, Zanja-Ihú.

 The functions of the Prefectura General Naval are manifold.  First, it undertakes police tasks of public order and security as well as national security enforcement for navigation and commercial traffic on the waterways and on the banks of waterways within a zone running 55-m inland on each river bank.  Second, it controls shipping movements and oversees the technical security of vessels, including the validity of classification certificates, overloading of cargo, qualification of crews, and condition of propulsion plants and auxiliary systems.  There also is the task of monitoring pollution control regulations.  To this end, a dedicated Maritime Traffic Control Office [Oficina de Control de Tráfico Marítimo, OCONTRAM] was created by decree No. 9.996 of 12 September 1979.

 4.2 Comando de la Aviación Naval

          The Naval Aviation arm came into being in 1929 when, with the creation of the "Estación Aéronaval" by Decree No. 34.300 of 17 August, a Naval Air Service was established.  The Naval Air Station was built at Puerto Sajonia, Asunción, adjacent to the Naval Arsenal.  It had a slip for flying boats and two hangars.  The first aircraft were acquired from Italy:

Macchi M18.A.R., R-5, en el hangar en Asunción

El único Savoia S.59 bis fue usado como transporte y reconocimento no armado. Aqui esta en una foto de Abril de 1929

                ·   1 Savoia-Marchetti S.59bis flying-boat with a 500 hp Isotta-Fraschini ASSO engine; the aircraft arrived at Asunción on 23 March 1929 (sic) and was grounded in 1932.

Macchi M.18A.R, R-5 amarrado en la orilla de la Base Naval de Bahia Negra

·   1 CANT 10ter flying-boat with a Lorraine-Dietrich engine, acquired July 1929 and retired during 1933.ex taxi aéreo en Argentina

·   1 SALM S.1 training landplane with a 100 hp Colombo engine, acquired  25 Sept. 1929.

           In 1933, the Savoia flying-boat re-entered service as a bomber and reconnaissance aircraft after a thorough refit.  It received the matricula  (serial number, s/n) R.1 and the name “Chaco.” In the same year, two Macchi M.18 A.R. type flying-boats with 250 hp ASSO engines entered service as R.3 and R.5.  During the Chaco War, these three aircraft logged a total of 1,039 flying hours and 145 sorties, performing scouting, observation, photo reconnaissance, and bombing missions during daytime and nighttime operationsThe R.1, however, was mainly employed as high-speed transport for ordnance, wounded personnel, and other urgent loads.  At their Bahía Negra station, R.3 and R.5 normally were hidden under trees in a creek near a place called Oleria at the outskirts of the town.

           The R.3 and R.5 performed the first night bombardments in the history of South America.  The first attack was on Fortín Vitriones, a Bolivian airfield, and was carried out by the R.3 on 25 December 1933.  The R.5 made another night bombardment on 10 May 1934 when it attacked Fortín Vitriones and Mbutum.  The R.5 made the last night attacks, in two successive missions, on Vitriones and Quijarro on 22 Dec 1934 (the “anniversary” of the Bolivian attack on Bahía Negra in 1932) and again on 1 January 1935, each time with loads of ten home-made 11-kg bombs.[ii]  The R.5 had to make a forced landing on Brazilian territory on one occasion but was rescued by the vessel Capitán Figari (q.v., Para 5).  The R.3 was lost by accident in May 1935. 

           The “Estación Aéronaval” was renamed the “Aviación Naval” by General Order No. 97 of the Naval Command, dated 30 July 1936.  A floatplane trainer was delivered from Italy in 1939. It was a Breda Ba.25 Idro[iii], receiving s/n E.1.  It had a short career since there were no spares available from Italy in WW II, and was in 1943 replaced by two Naval Aircraft Factory N3N-3 floatplane trainers that were delivered from the U.S. under Lend-Lease. 

          Due to the weak position of the Navy, which was always dominated politically by the army, the naval air arm continuously was under threat of being absorbed into the Paraguayan Army Air Force (Fuerzas Aéreas de Ejército Nacional Paraguayo), which until 1946 was a branch of the Paraguayan Army under the Ministry of War and Navy (Ministerio de la Guerra y Marina).  The Army Air Force was of the opinion that there was no justification for maintaining two separate air arms, but the Naval Air Service still existed independently through 1945.[iv]  

           In the immediate years before 1946, the Naval Air Service had the following aircraft:  The two N3N-3 trainers, the Savoia flying-boat R.1, and the surviving Macchi, R.5. Only the two N3N-3 trainers were in flying condition in 1945, while the R.1 and R.5 were in storage. The engine of R.5 is today preserved in the Sajonia Naval Air Station (the helicopter base).

           An independent Paraguayan Air Force [Fuerza Aérea Paraguaya] was established in 1946 with a new Army Air Branch [Arma Aérea del Ejército Paraguayo] and a new Naval Air Service [Servicio Aéronaval de la Armada] being reorganized in parallel.  During the revolution of 1947, both N3N-3 trainers--then the only naval aircraft--were operated by the rebel forces.  In the event, they fled to Argentina, and apparently only one aircraft was returned, serving until 1986!  It was sold in the same year to a Miami-based museum.

           In November 1947, the Naval Air Service acquired three Republic RC-3 Seabee amphibian aircraft from an Uruguayan aircraft dealer[v] , and in 1958 three Grumman JRF-5A Goose amphibians from the U.S.A. which were delivered in 1959.  Of these, only two arrived at Asunción, the third having crashed in transit.  In 1962, the Argentine Naval Aviation (A.N.A.) donated three Vultee BT-13A/SNV-1 Valiant trainers[vi], and in 1964 a Piper PA-12 twin-engine light transport was purchased locally for basic training. It was not until 1966 that naval flying became fully established, however.  In that year, by COMAR order No. 150, the service became an independent command within the Navy as "Comando de la Aviación Naval.”

           Subsequent acquisitions and disposals were as follows:

            ·         1966:  Two Cessna U206A light aircraft were bought in the U.S.A. during August, and one Grumman JRF-6B Goose was donated by the Argentine Naval Aviation service.

·         1968:  The last three Grumman Goose were sold to U.S. buyers, while two Cessna U206C are bought in exchange

·         1970: The A.N.A. donated two "Texan" aircraft, an AT-6A and an SNJ-3A, which served until 1979[vii]

·         1973; The first helicopters were delivered under the MAP, four Bell OH-13H (serials H-51 through H-54)[viii]

·         1974: Acquisition of one Cessna 210M light transport, serial 136

·         1976: Purchase of two Cessna 150M (Commuter) light aircraft for basic training

·         1979: In November, the A.N.A. donated a Douglas C-47A-25-DK Skytrain, serial T-26[ix]

·         1981: Donation by the Chilean Air Force of two Hiller UH-12E helicopters (serials H-55, H-56)

·         1984: Local purchase of one Cessna 401B[x]

·         1985: Two Helibras HB-350B/UH-50 Esquilo helicopters taken over from Brazil at Asunción on 12 July (serials H-501, H-502)

·         1988: Local purchase of one Cessna 310K[xi], serial 142

·         1989: Local purchase of one Cessna 310H[xii], serial 401, later serial 144

·         1996: Purchase of one Cessna 401A[xiii], serial 146

·         1997: Local purchase of one Cessna 210N[xiv], serial 134

          As of 2003, the strength of the Naval Aviation was (serial numbers in parentheses): two Helibras HB-350B/UH-50 Esquilo (H-501, H-502)[xv]; one Hiller UH-12E (H-56, not airworthy)[xvi]; two Cessna 150M (122, 124); one Cessna 210N Centurion II (134); two Cessna 310 (142, 144); and one Cessna 401A (146, not airworthy). 

           The original Naval Air Station for the flying-boats at Puerto Sajonia was given up in 1945, and its area was added to the naval arsenal.  The two hangars still exist today as a part of the arsenal’s infrastructure. As a replacement, a new airstrip with an 800-meter runway was created on Banco Montaner island opposite Puerto Sajonia.  It was the base for all naval aircraft.  This airstrip was frequently flooded, however, with particularly heavy damage to the infrastructure in 1982, and it was finally abandoned in 1990.

 After 1982, fixed-wing naval aircraft increasingly were parked on the Air Force premises until a dedicated naval hangar for them was inaugurated on 22 Dec 1990.  The new facility was designated GAPROGEN-GAEN and was located within the area of the international airport.  The helicopters are based at the "new" Sajonia Naval Air Station (Base Aéronaval de Sajonia,  unit designation GAPROGEN-GAHE), which is directly adjacent to the Naval Arsenal, i.e. a few meters from the birthplace of the naval air arm.  It has one large new hangar and one small old hangar, administrative buildings, and three helicopter pads.  Other helicopter facilities exist at Bahía Negra and Itá Pirú.  The naval air station at Pozo Hondo on the upper Pilcomayo River (BANPH, the Base Aéronaval de Pozo Hondo), which had a runway and had been acquired after the Chaco War, was transferred into Air Force custody in 1998.

 4.3 Comando de Transportes Navales

          Early in the Chaco War, a naval transport service (Servicio de Transporte) was formed by the aforementioned decree No. 44.416 of 26 July 1932.  All launches, barges, tugs, and minor watercraft that the Navy hitherto had used for the transport of troops, provisions, and general cargo were united under the new command.  The new command also had to administer all ships and craft taken up from trade, and it had to control the flow of men and cargo to and from the war theater.  After the war, it had the task to de-mobilize all ships and watercraft.  In later years, the naval transport service not only had designated naval cargo vessels such as Mariscal Estigarribia at its disposal but at times also some patrol vessels (avisos) that could function as tugs or transports.  The former gunboat Tacuarí was also placed under its control in 1945 after that vessel’s conversion (q.v., Para. 4.1).

           Under law No. 2.496 of 16 January 1951, authorization was given for the naval transport vessels to conduct civilian passenger and cargo carrying voyages, with the revenue earned be kept by the command in contri­bution to general upkeep, maintenance, and acquisitions.  In February 1953, the command was re-designated the Dirección del Servicio de Transporte de la Armada and was put under direct control of COMAR, the Naval Command.  The unit again was renamed in November 1981, becoming the Dirección de Tranportes Navales, and in May 1989 it became the Comando de Transportes Navales (COMTRANAV).  Further, in February 1992, and in the wake of decree No. 12.497 regulating the organization of the Paraguayan armed forces, it was subordinated to the Comando de Apoyo de Combate (COAPCOM).  The unit’s duties include general seamanship and cargo handling training, training in convoy handling, disaster relief, and of course transport of both military and commercial cargoes. It also operated the ocean-going general cargo ship Guaraní in overseas training and commercial revenue-earning voyages until her insurance classification certificate expired.  A special task of the unit is the instruction and training of naval river pilots and helmsmen.

 4.4 Comando de la Infantería de Marina

          The first Paraguayan naval landing operations were conducted during the War of the Triple Alliance on 27 December 1864 against the Brazilian fortress of Coimbra.  The first true naval infantry formation was created in January 1869 under Capitán de Fragata Nuñez.  The current Marine Corps, however, has its origins in the River Defense Corps battalion of the Prefecture General of Ports (q.v.) founded in 1936.[xvii]  This first naval infantry battalion was transformed into Naval Infantry Regiment No. 2 “Teniente Fariña by decree No. 57.274 of 28 March 1939.  The acquisition of a building to serve as the River Defense Corps headquarters in Rosario was authorized in January 1945.  That building still houses the COMIM headquarters today.  The corps was re-organized into a battalion structure in 1946 upon the advice of the Argentine Naval Mission.  Finally, the unit most recently was designated the “Comando de Infantería de Marinaby general COMAR order No. 9 of 16 June 1989.

           The 600-man Marine Corps is organized as follows: Headquarters in Rosario; the Bahía Negra Naval Area, with Sub-areas Bahá Negra and Vallemí; the Central Naval Area, with Sub-areas Rosario, Asunción; and the Pozo Hondo Paraná Naval Are, with Sub-areas Canindeyú (Salto del Guairá), Este (Ciudad del Este), Itapuá (Encarnación) and Confluencia (Itá Corá); plus three battalions (Batallón de Infantería de Marina, BIM) at Rosario (No. 1), Vallemí (No. 2), and Asunción (No. 3). Small Marine detachments are assigned to all naval bases. A larger Marine base with a depot exists at Vallemí.[xviii] It is there where the two LCVP-type landing craft were initially based.

 4.5 Dirección del Material Naval

          The idea for the construction of a new arsenal and naval shipyard had arisen already in 1917, but an order to create a new arsenal, called the “Arsenales de Guerra y Marina”, was given only when decree No. 20.433 of 15 March 1925 was issued.  The old arsenal--the so-called Army and Navy Arsenal Workshops (Talleres de los Arsenales de Guerra y Marina)--was situated on the bay in downtown Asunción near the government palace and did not have its own slipway.  The decree No. 20.438 of 25 March 1925 directed that the new arsenal be situated on a new site at Puerto Sajonia; that the complete workshop equipment of the old arsenal should be transferred to the new site; and that a slipway (varadero) be constructed there to allow for vessel hull repairs.

           The old arsenal referred to here must not be confused with the very first one founded in 1854.  The buildings of that original establishment were situated in downtown Asunción as well.  This location is today occupied by the buildings of the naval hospital, the “Dirección de Comunicación Social de la Armada”, and the naval intendancy.  The shipyard, part of the first arsenal, was 200 m away on the beach called “Playa Escobero” where the commercial port is located today.  The first complex largely was dismantled by the Brazilian occupation forces between 1871 and 1874, and the workshop equipment taken to Ladário on the upper Paraguay River where the Brazilian Navy still operates a naval arsenal.

           The new site incorporated the premises of the former shipyard of Andrés Scala that had been erected in 1883 (and that had launched the aforementioned 600-tonne steamer General Caballero in 1885) and the 1890-built slipway of the Isidro Mayor SY (instead of a new slipway as originally ordered).  The place had been chosen by J.A. Bozzano.  The construction works had top priority since the naval command wanted to have the gunboat Adolfo Riquelme, the avisos Triunfo, Pirabebé, Capitán Bado, Tte. Herreros, and Itápirú repaired in its own yard as soon as possible along with watercraft of the dredging train (tren de dragado) and a naval pile driver (grúa hincadora de pilotes).  The arsenal was inaugurated in January 1927, but construction activity continued until 1931. 

          During the Chaco War, the new arsenal produced 2,308 truck bodies, 6,000 hospital beds, 19,000 gas masks, 400 trailers, 600 water tanks, 2,000 11-kg A.G.M. (Arsenal de G. y M.) No. 12 aircraft bombs, 25,000 mortar shells, 300,000 hand grenades, and 9,000 sets of riding-equipage besides naval work.  This work not only included refit and repair both of naval vessels and vessels taken up from trade that often were in a deplorable state but also included some new construction.  New construction units included the aforementioned ten “Tipo Fortín” launches designed by J.A. Bozzano and the associated 25-tonne wooden cargo barges, as well as 30 pontoons of 30 metric ton capacity and some 3 metric ton capacity barges as well.  Raw material was at times in such a short supply that arsenal workers were, for example, sent in 1934 to the old 1864-70 battlefields of Lomas Valentinas, Itá-Ybaté, Abay, and Ytororó to collect iron cannon balls and indeed retrieved 13 tonnes of metal in that fashion. 

          The new arsenal was placed under the command of the “Dirección del Arsenal de Guerra y Marina”, later named the “Dirección del Material y Arsenales”, and directly subordinated to the Ministry of War and Navy.  After the military revolt of 1947, the arsenal was allocated to the newly created “Dirección de Industrias Paraguayas” by law No. 53 of 26 November 1948.  The arsenal’s shipyard sector was segre­gated from this institution in 1952.  By the law No. 70 of 31 March 1955, the “Dirección del Material Naval y Astilleros” was created and subordinated directly to COMAR. In 1989, the establishment was known as the “Dirección del Material Naval - Arsenal de Marina,” and by COMAR Special Order No. 03 of 3 March 1994, the arsenal was given the name “Capitán de Navío Ingeniero Naval José Bozzano Baglieto.” 

          The most important arsenal assets are as follows:  

·         The slipway of 90-m length and 30-m width, accepting ships to 45-m length (this is the slipway built in 1890)

·         The graving dock “Armada Nacional,” inaugurated 2 February 1973, with the dimensions 106 x 18 x12 m  and with a 3.25m sill draught

·         The floating dry-dock Dique Flotante (DF-1) with a 1,000-t lifting capacity and 61-m total length (refer to Para 6.2 for details)

·         A second floating dry-dock, somewhat larger than DF-1 and painted green, acquired in the 1990s.

·         A crane of 16 metric ton capacity at 16-m reach and 4 tons capacity at 24-m reach serves both the slipway and graving dock. 

The arsenal covers an area of about 9 hectares.  Besides the usual shipyard installations such as plate shops, carpentry, mechanical workshops, and foundry, the arsenal also incorporates a basic technical school (Escuela Técnica Básica, E.T.B.) for apprentices that was founded on 2 December 1976. The arsenal can build push-boat tugs up to 50-m length and normal cargo ships and tugs up to 40-m length, as well as patrol boats and minor watercraft.  The arsenal operates two workboats, the A 1 and A 2, plus a wooden launch, the A 3. 

The arsenal repaired the following numbers of vessels between 1966 and December 1991: 

                                                                          Work Location

                Ship Owner                 Graving Dock      DF-1        Slipway        Total

          Paraguayan Navy                      46                  137               63               246

          State Merchant Fleet                 68                  176                  -               244

             Private owners                           49                  223               88               368

                   Total                               163                  544             151               858


38  The author had the opportunity to visit the post in Humaitá on 9 May 2000. It has 10 men assigned, i.e. the figure of 1915. The post stands at the very spot on the bend of the Paraguay River where the river barrier of 1867/68 had been. A prominent landmark are the ruins of the church destroyed by Brazilian gunfire in the Triple Alliance War. Also the building still exists that was once used by López as an headquarters. It houses a small war museum administered by the prefecture.

39Six of the 10 bombs were carried underneath the wings while 2 bombs each were fastened to the legs of pilot and observer. The Boletin Naval, Enero de 1946, cites the Presidential decree No. 14.799 in which by General Order No. 59 of 25 Sep, 1942, the order of merit Cruz del Chaco is given to the gunboats Paraguay and Humaitá, to the aviso Cnel. Martínez, and to the naval hydroplane [Hidravión de la Aviación Naval] matricula R.5 “Macchi” M-18 for outstanding service in the war with Bolivia. The aircraft was cited as “the first warplane that in South America has performed effective night bombardments in an international conflict”.

40  Construction number (c/n) 50490.  Delivered together with three Breda Ba.25 landplane trainers for the Air Force, s/n E-1, E-3, and E-5 ( c/n 50487, 50488, and 50489 respectively).

                   41  In the U.S. Naval Attaché report R28-45, dated 23 July, 1945, the attaché mentions the two airworthy trainers and continues to say that "the Paraguayan Navy Air Arm serves no practical purpose at present due to the lack of aircraft and equipment .  .  .”

42  One had an accident on 12 January 1949, another one had an accident on 9 February 1949 while the last one became a constructive total loss on 3 July 1957 after an accidental landing on Lake Ypacaraí; one man aboard was killed and two others survived with injuries. There was only one Seabee on strength on 1 July 1949.

43One of these crashed on 12 Nov 1962, killing its pilot. Another one was lost in 1965, with the pilot surviving.

44  The ”Texans“ were sold in 1986 to the already mentioned Miami-based museum along with the N3N-3.  Two Argentine-made engines for the aircraft still existed in April 2003 at the Sajonia helo base.

45  Serial H-51 crashed on 8 Dec 1983 at Caacupé, killing the two pilots.  Serials H-52 and H-53 were sold by the U.S. Embassy in a public action in 1996.  Serial H-54, ex 57-1830, c/n 2068, was sold in the same auction to a Paraguayan businessmen but as of April 2003 still rested in one of the hangars of the helicopter base. It was in August 2007 moved to the San Bernardino airfield.

46  T-26 ceased flying only in 1997 after a slight landing accident and is stored on the Air Force premises at the Asunción International Airport.

47Ex ZP-PGF, c/n 0217, to become s/n 401 but never did, retaining the civilian registration as a navy plane.  Crashed in 1986.

48  Ex ZP-PJN, c/n 0169


50Ex LV-JOW, ex LV-PNG, c/n 0132

51Ex ZP-TOI, c/n 63005

                   52  The Esquilos constitute the "Grupo de Helicópteros de Ataque No. 1" (G.H.A. 1). They have served with U.N. missions and can be armed with 7.62mm-MG pods and pods for SBAT 70 rockets.

53As of April 2003, serial H-55 rested completely dismantled in a small storeroom of the Sajonia helo base, once having been intended as a spare parts source for H-56.

                   54  The already mentioned I. R. No. 1 “Riachuelo” was a temporary wartime measure disbanded after the Chaco War.

55  Created by COMAR Order of the Day No. 11, dated 22 January 1981.


Este sitio es publicado por Carlos Mey -  Martínez - Argentina