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Sister ship: MINAS GERAIS
Notes: This class, authorized in 1906, was the heart of the 1904 Program. These ships were the largest and most powerful "DREADNOUGHT battleships" in the world when completed, and professional magazines of the time were full of rumors that Brazil was in fact acting as an agent for another naval power and would turn them over to "their rightful owner" when completed. The English press speculated that Germany, Japan or the United States were the real backers, while much of the European press speculated that the British were building them for themselves. These speculations had no basis in fact. In U. S. naval journals, expressions such as "Pan Americanism" and "Hemispheric Cooperation" began to appear. Brazil, now possessing the two most powerful warships in the world, was being courted as a potential ally. However, a depression in the Brazilian economy, coupled with a serious mutiny (on 22 November 1910) aboard the MINAS GERAIS (named after the inland province) brought the Brazilian dreadnought program to a halt. A third ship was to have been built, but was cancelled when the much larger RIACHUELO was ordered (but never laid down)
The basic design took DREADNOUGHT as a model, but with a greater beam and displacement to allow for heavier armor and armament. The most unusual design feature in the class was the use of reciprocating engines instead of turbines. The armor plates were Krupp steel, manufactured by W G Armstrong, Whitworth and Co. The main battery guns were in six double turrets, with superimposed positions fore and aft, and single turrets on each side located roughly between the twin funnels but slightly offset. As with many British warships of the period, the "control top" was located atop a tripod behind the first funnel, and was often made unusable by heat and smoke from that funnel.
While powerful ships, the MINAS GERAIS class were "too much" for the limited dockyard resources of Brazil; they did not receive nearly the amount of upkeep they both needed. During 1917 and 1918, they formed the backbone of the Central Area Patrol, based in Rio de Janeiro. When Brazil declared war on the Central Powers on 24 October 1917, it was decided to send both of these ships to Scapa Flow to join the British Grand Fleet. Unfortunately, they were in such poor condition, they were to go first to the New York Naval Yard in the United States for refit, and to add modern fire control equipment. SÃO PAULO was sent first, in June, 1918. She broke down on the way, and required considerable effort to get her to New York for her refit. During the refit, SÃO PAULO had ten of her 4.7" guns removed, and two 3" AA guns were added. Overall, the refit took two years to complete; by then, World War I had been ended, and SÃO PAULO returned to Brazil.
The Brazilian Navy became a focal point for social unrest; sailors were among the best traveled, and thus exposed to new ideologies, and many had been abroad due to ship construction in foreign yards. In 1924, SÃO PAULO hoisted the red flag of rebellion. She prowled Rio de Janeiro's harbor, and even fired a single round (a six-pounder) into MINAS GERAIS, but could win no converts. Finally, the mutineers received asylum in Uruguay, and SÃO PAULO was returned. In 1931, MINAS GERAIS received an extensive refit which lasted nearly four years; she was converted to burn oil, and the two funnels were trunked into one. SÃO PAULO was then to receive a similar refit; but due to her poor condition, this was not executed. During World War II, SÃO PAULO was "in reserve", and at best, suited only for coastal defense. Following World War II, she was decommissioned in 1946. SÃO PAULO was sold to a British firm for breaking up in 1951; while being towed for scrapping, the tow was broken in bad weather, and SÃO PAULO sank without a trace north of the Azores on 4 November 1951.