Chile's long coast contributed to the development of a distinguished maritime tradition. The Chilean Navy accordingly has enjoyed an unusual primacy among the nation's armed forces, despite the army's formal status as the senior service. From its earliest days, the navy has operated under strong British influence.
As of 2011 the 22,000-person Navy included 2,500 Marines and 2,000 coastguardsmen. The fleet consists of more than 85 surface vessels, including seven frigates, an oiler, and an amphibious landing ship. The frigates are based in Valparaiso. The Navy operates its own aircraft for transport and patrol; it does not have any Navy fighter or bomber aircraft. The Navy also operates four modern diesel-electric submarines based in Talcahuano. The Chilean Navy Coast Guard is responsible for environmental protection of the sea and search and rescue responsibility of an area over 26.5 million square kilometers.
The Chilean Navy has the basic mission of participating in the country’s foreign security and military defense on an ongoing basis, safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity. For this purpose, it carries out actions both in peace and in wartime. In Peacetime the Chilean Navy contributes to the development of Chilean maritime power, providing security for navigation, encouraging sea activities and port development, continuing the marine cartography and signaling, and performing inspections and supervisions that safeguard human life at sea. The Chilean Navy supervises the national maritime territory, comprised of the Inland Waters, Territorial Sea, Exclusive Economic Zone, and Presence Sea, protecting the national security and interests, as well as the integrity of the water environment. It supports the nation’s development, connecting the isolated areas by sea, and assisting their inhabitants. It also performs the tasks of maritime supervision, search, rescue and security, in the maritime zone for which the country is responsible, according to the international agreements regulating this matter.
In Wartime the Chilean Navy carries out operations that will allow Chile the free use of the sea at all times, and the sea lines of communications to sustain the war effort and protect international trade. Simultaneously, it denies this privilege to the enemy in order to strengthen the nation’s war effort, on the one hand, while weakening the corresponding effort of the enemy, in the interest of a victorious outcome for the nation. The Navy helps project the nation’s military power into enemy territory and in turn prevent the projection from the sea of the adversary’s military power. It supports the war effort of other services of the Armed Forces.
Today's strategic thinking by the Chilean Navy is centered around the concept of Mar Presencial which is the piece of sea where Chile has to have an effective presence. By effective presence it is at least meant patrol and surveillance but ideally should be able to perform sea denial to any other foreign power. To that effect a considerable effort has been undertaken to acquire or built more patrol and sea denial assets. The Taitao project of which 6 examples were built by ASMAR and the acquisition of important aircraft patrol assets in the form of P-3s and O-2s is a clear example of the patrol and surveillance side of this policy. The purchase of a number of missile boats and submarines is part of the sea denial strategy. The Mar Presencial strategy represents a departure from the traditional rivalry with Argentina and a refocus on the Pacific ocean which has and will have deep impact on future Chilean policy. In particular all sorts of patrol assets and OPVs have been put into service and more could be expected to follow suite.
In line with the mission and context of a continuous search for more effective management, the Navy has recently readapted its general organization, allocating more functional characteristics to its senior staff. In this way, the Navy’s current organizational structure is made up of high level directing and management entities, technical agencies, forces and operational resources, and support establishments.
The Office of the Commander in Chief of the Navy is the leading entity of the Institution. The Admiral who holds the position of Commander in Chief operates with a group of direct consulting agencies, formed by the officers exercising the institution’s higher command. These include the Strategic Planning Council (for institutional direction issues), the Economic Council (for budgetary and financial control issues), and the Navy’s Council (for handling institutional management issues). The Commander in Chief constitutes its command authority with a General Staff, and the support and advice of the Office of the Secretary General, Comptroller’s Office, Office of the Inspector General, and a set of management control systems.
The General Staff of the Navy provides advisory services and work for the Commander in Chief of the Navy with respect to all issues related to institutional planning, administration and upper- level direction, performing the duties of upper-level planning and coordination with the other navy directing agencies and authorities, in general. The General Directorate of Naval Personnel is the higher agency responsible for the Navy’s human resources management. As such it constitutes the highest echelon of the institution in relation to personnel administration, assuming the corresponding functions of selection, incorporation, training, promotion and retirement of the personnel. For this effect, it has a group of specialized technical agencies that take care of the educational, medical-health, welfare and religious assistance aspects.
The General Directorate of Naval Services is in charge of the upper-level management of the Navy’s material and technological resources. As such, it constitutes the highest echelon of the institution in terms of material logistics, in charge of creating and supporting the resources with which the Navy operates, and the rules to be applied for effective and safe use of people and environment. In order to perform its functions, it has several technical and specialized logistical agencies under it, covering regulations, research and development, procurement, project management and material management.
The General Directorate of Naval Finance is in charge of managing the financial resources of the institution. As such, it is in charge of proposing and executing the financial policy of the Navy, performing integral control of the financial-accounting management and establishing the general rules and procedures in budgetary, accounting, calculation, cost control and financial order matters. In the performance of their duties, both technical agencies specialized in budgets and accounting are under this Office.
The General Directorate of Maritime Territory and Merchant Marine is the agency of the Navy by which Chile ensures the enforcement of laws and international agreements to protect human life on the sea, the marine environment, and the natural sea resources, and to regulate the activities carried out in this field, thereby contributing to the nation’s sea development. In this context, this office coordinates its leadership functions through the Offices of “Maritime Security and Operations” and “Maritime and Sea Environment Interests.” Its operations are carried out in a decentralized manner, implemented through the four Naval Zones that supervise a total of 16 Maritime Governorships that execute their tasks through 61 Harbor Master’s Offices and 266 Sea Mayor’s Offices.
The Naval Operations Command is in charge of directing the navy operations in order to achieve the strategic objectives assigned to the Navy. It is also in charge of training the Navy’s forces to carry out the operations set forth in the corresponding plans and to direct the operations determined by the Commander in Chief. The Naval Operations Command is in charge of warships, submarines, aircraft, and amphibian and special forces.
The naval forces are the elements that execute the Navy’s strategy and consist of operational forces and type forces, organized, equipped and trained to achieve the objectives of naval warfare. Combat forces consist of units or groups organized to perform a specific mission. The naval and navy air facilities include all landbased facilities within a specific area, and they have been established to provide, coordinate and execute the services they are to provide to the navy forces.
The Type Forces are the Fleet, the Submarine Force, Naval Aviation, the Marine Corps, the Amphibian and Naval Transportation Command, and the Tactical Divers Command. The main function of the commanding officers of the Type Forces is to keep the units available and trained to be integrated into task forces and groups to be created, according to operational tasks. While performing their assigned missions, the Navy forces also cooperate in activities that benefit the country in peacetime, under the regulations established by law.
The Naval Zones are operational and logistical forces designed to contribute to maritime defense and to control and protection of maritime traffic within their jurisdictions. They consist of combat, sea and coastal patrolling and logistical support resources. They perform their operational tasks through their subordinate or assigned combat means and they provide logistical support to other forces through the naval and navy air bases and stations in response to operational requirements and directives from the service’s technical agencies.
Chile assumes responsibility for maritime search and rescue in an area extending approximately 4,000 kilometers west of its coastline. It maintains search-and-rescue coordination centers at Iquique, Valparaíso, Talcahuano, Puerto Montt, and Punta Arenas. As none of its vessels is suitable for deep-sea patrol or rescue work, the Coast Guard may call on the ships and aircraft of the navy proper, in particular its helicopters, for support when necessary. The various port captains also maintain and staff lifeboats for inshore rescue.
Ships of the Navy of Chile [Buques de la Armada Chile] use the prefix BACH in the same way that American warships use USS [United States Ship] and the British use HMS [Her Majesty's ship].
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