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Chile Navy - Modernization

Due to the limited economic ressources the Chilean Navy equipment is somewhat old but kept very clean and in good working order. Most important, the crew usually knows how to use it well thanks to its strong professionalisation ratio.

With the widespread boycott of the military regime following the 1973 overthrow of Salvador Allende, Chile found many traditional sources of equipment closed. United States arms exports to Chile were formally terminated in 1976 after the adoption of the Kennedy Amendment in 1974. With the return of democracy in 1990, the Aylwin government assured the United States that it would continued to prosecute those responsible for the assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier, an opponent of the military government, and his assistant, United States citizen Ronnie Moffit, in Washington in 1976. As a result of these assurances the embargo was lifted, and United States arms sales to Chile resumed.

In the mid-1990s the Zenteno and Baquedano frigates of the Chilean Navy lacked a surface to surface missile system. The Navy was seen as likely to pursue the upgrading of these units to include effective anti-submarine capabilities. The Navy was also considering structural modernization of the command and control systems currently operational in most of its vessels. The Navy was in the market to replace its "Almirante class" destroyers. They were considering the purchase of two "Leanders" from the U.K. The CWS-22/Sea Cat missile on board Navy ships needed replacement and the Navy seems to favor a purchase of Sea Wolf missiles. The Navy was also considering replacements and possibly additions to its submarine fleet - the Netherlands offered the WALRUS and the U.K. offered the UPHOLDER. The Navy purchased eight P-3A and they hope to maintain at least four of these units in flight ready condition. They were also in the market for radar and anti-submarine warfare equipment for this aircraft. The Navy also acknowledges that its 155mm POTEAUX coastal artillery units show are aging in addition to increasingly significant technical limitations. Thus, the Navy may be in the market for a replacement for these artillery units.

By the end of the 1990s the Chilean Navy faced both the issue of block obsolescence of its main combatants and of their limited remaining hull life. The fleet only has eight mayor combatants, four modified County class and four modified Leander class. This is the lowest numerical strength since the late 30s. Even worst, the average hull age far exceeded 35 years and the engineering challenges to keep the machinery working were stiff. These ships were reported not to be even close of their maximum theorical speeds.

As part of its permanent mission, in the regional and international political-strategic context of the moment and the medium term, the Navy assumed the specific mission for 1999-2010 of contributing to the consolidation of Chile as a maritime nation with a relevant role in the globalized world. Given the mission and forces available, the Chilean Navy has structured and prepared the planning of operational, development and support activities in three different time periods:

  • The Ocean Directive, defines the institutions objectives to be met within a period of twelve years, and provides a guideline of how it intends to meet them. This directive contains the Navys permanent mission, its vision, and the mission, strategy and objectives to be reached within the time frame, all considering the realistic possibility and financial feasibility of implement it within the established time period.
  • The Admiral Directive guides the pursuit of the objectives established in the Ocean Directive through partial objectives and policies for each area. This is a four-year schedule that runs from the Commander in Chief of the Navys second year in office to his successors first year, thereby giving true continuity to the pursuit of the long-term objectives.
  • The Annual Plan of Activities (PACA), plans the specific tasks for each calendar year and allocates resources to a group of administrative commands in charge of performing those tasks and working towards the objectives established in the Ocean and Admiral Directives.

Forces of Projection are counted on as part of a balanced force, consequent with the strategic lines that they have settled down, allows to face other plans of renovation. The next efforts of renovation of materiel concentrate in the Amphibian and Strategic Transport. To equip the Marine Infantry force with greater operative flexibility, with its own mobility of high speed, with capacity to accede to distant scenes and that it makes possible to them to operate in places with little infrastructure support. Also, they serve as it bases of a quick cargo capacity strategic and as good autonomy. In addition, that constitutes a capacity to concur quickly to the zones of catastrophes, to mitigate its effects in the population. Logistical support in the sea must offer an integral, versatile logistical support and of the high mobility; so that they give to persistence and credibility to the capacity of the Expeditionary Marine Force. They must constitute an effective Force multiplication factor.

The ARIES system of light artillery for light boats (patrol, OPV, corvettes) has been delivered aboard vessels OPV-81 "Piloto Pardo" and OPV-82 "Comandante Toro" of the Chile navy. Both systems approved port and sea tests satisfactorily in September and October of this year. Chile Navy OPV were built in the shipyards and Asmar (ASMAR) based on a design of Fassmer GmbH. The vessels are equipped with Northrop Grumman system "integrated Bridge system" (IBS) and a montage of artillery 40 mm Bofors 40 L70.

The Navy of Chile is planning to construct an LPD amphibious ship [Buque de Proyeccin Estratgica, not Buques de proyeccion de la armada] with 9,000 ton displacement and capacity of transporting up to 500 Marines with combat team armored vehicles. The ship is part of the renewal and expansion plan of the Chilean armed forces. The ship in question would be the largest built until now by Asmar and is destined to provide support in all types of naval vessel including natural catastrophe. The Chilean project is based on the Dutch Enforcer LPD 8000 concept class. This projection vessel would be built in Chilean shipyards, starting 2015 to 2016 as a likely date.

In 2005 the Navy finished a renovation programme of the submarine fleet which introduced two new SCORPENE-class submarines and also to maintain the two 209-class submarines. The modernisation of the naval surface fleet was done in three phases:

  1. 2004 - the incorporation [into service] of the British Type 22 WILLIAMS
  2. 2006-07 - The Dutch M-type frigates ALMIRANTE BLANCO ENCALADA & ALMIRANTE RIVEROS* and the Dutch Ltype ALMIRANTE LATORRE & CAPITAN PRAT
  3. 2008 - the acquisition of three British Type 23 frigates ALMIRANTE LYNCH , ALMIRANTE COCHRANE and ALMIRANTE CONDELL.

The renovated Squadron should serve Chile until about 2026. At that point, at least a pair of new submarines would be required, according to Admiral Rodolfo Codina. Commander in Chief, Chilean Navy. But this estimate from 2008 seems a bit optimistic, since by that year the Type 209 submarines - SS-20 Thomson and SS-21 Simpson - both of which entered service in 1984, would be over forty years old. American practice generally restricts submarines to a 30 year service life, while Japan typically replaces submarines after 20 years. While it is true that Taiwan kept a pair of World War II era GUPPY submarines in service for some six decades, after about 40 years of service they were not regarded as having much operational value.

Jose Miguel Pizarro noted in 2010 that "Out of all the South American nations, Chile along with Brazil -- is the one with the most urgent and obvious need for an aircraft carrier and embarked aviation fighter squadrons. The increasingly active and more evident involvement of the Chilean Navy throughout international naval exercises such as the exclusive RIMPAC (Japan, Australia, Canada, United States, etc.) is a clear sign that change might be under way. However, and due to the strict discipline of the Chilean Navy officer corps, their leaders and aviation pilots are not vociferous and publicly aggressive as they should be regarding new requirements.

"Chile is traditionally Latin America's major sea power. Although it lost its position of quantitative primacy to Brazil late in the 20th century now ranks second in terms of size and firepower amongst regional navies.... Since Harriers can take off and land from small ships, the Chilean navy can take them on board of its frigates and destroyers when going at sea, adding tremendous firepower, tactical mobility and playing a major role in the activation of a fighter force ready to protect its economic interest beyond territorial waters. This alternative offers an advantage when an enemy has the capability to operate fast attack boats against commercial vessels."

By 2013 one of four missile boats the Chilean navy operates was to be retired. It wasn't immediately clear how the retiring LM 36 Guardiamarina Riquelme would be replaced. The Guardiamarina Riquelme, a former German missile boat known as Wolf, has been in Chile's navy since 1997, when it was acquired second-hand from Germany. The boat was bought from Germany along with three other Type 148 Tiger class vessels. The patrol boat was built at Cherbourg, France, launched in January 1974 and transferred to Chile in August 1997.

Chile had three other Israeli-made Sa'ar 4 class missile boats that served earlier in the Israeli navy. The Chilean naval boats' main role was to guard Chile's naval waters and keep vigil against problems of contraband trade, including narcotics and illegal immigration to and from neighboring countries. Chile's economic growth has drawn migrants from neighboring countries faced with slower growth, unemployment and social dislocation.



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