October 8th is the anniversary of the Battle of Angamos, a clash between the Peruvian and Chilean navies during the 19th century War of the Pacific. This battle had major repercussions for the rest of the war and it also immortalized the persona of Rear Admiral Miguel Grau. Due to his leadership as commander of the Huascar throughout the war, including at Angamos, Grau became known as the _Caballero de los Mares_ (the Gentleman of the Seas) and is the greatest hero of the Peruvian Navy.
The project that best exemplifies how the Peruvian Navy is modernizing itself is the BAP Union this will be a new training vessel for generations of new naval cadets. It will also be the largest sail vessel in Latin America – another source of pride for the Peruvians. The key fact to keep in mind here is that the BAP Union is being constructed by the Peruvian state-owned shipyard Servicios Industriales de la Marina (SIMA); in other words, this is a homemade product. The vessel was launched in late 2014 in a ceremony with President Ollanta Humala in attendance (see video below). Other SIMA projects include the construction of patrol vessels and multi-purpose ships. Even more, in order to increase its capabilities, SIMA has signed an agreement with the Portuguese company Mota-Engil in order to upgrade the infrastructure of its shipyard in Callao.
As for other modernization initiatives, one key development is the acquisition of a support vessel from The Netherlands – the Amsterdam was purchased from said European nation last year and it will give “more flexibility and autonomy to the Peruvian Navy.” The Navy has also acquired helicopters for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations and has plans to upgrade part of its submarine fleet, namely its four Angamos-class subs. Finally, the Peruvian Navy is not only interested in defense and security, but also exploration; to this end, a Spanish shipyard in Vigo (Spain) is constructing a new oceanographic vessel, the BAP Carrasco, for the Andean country.
Training is a key component of any military, and the Peruvian Navy continuously trains for any eventuality. Case in point, a Peruvian submarine, the BAP Antofagasta, has been invited to participate in military exercises with the U.S Navy. These exercises are called SUBDIEX 2015 and are sponsored by U.S. Southern Command and the Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic.
Ultimately, while Peru enjoys cordial relations with its neighbors (occasional tensions with Chile notwithstanding), the country’s navy has plenty of work to keep itself busy. For example, in September, the Navy arrested the crews of seven Ecuadorian vessels that had illegally entered into Peruvian waters. The crackdown on the unauthorized foreign presence follows the murder of a Peruvian fisherman by Ecuadorian pirates Moreover, illegal fishing and maritime drug trafficking continue, hence the Peruvian Navy needs a strong, well-trained force in order to successfully address these national security problems.
On October 8th, the Peruvian Navy celebrates the courageous behavior of Rear Admiral Grau and his sailors aboard the Huascar over a century ago. As I have discussed, the Peruvian Navy will commemorate this year’s anniversary in a strong shape. The Huascar and the other heroes of Angamos would be proud of their heirs, who are tasked to protect “The Sea of Grau.”
Watch the ceremony of the BAP vessel from 2014: