Ecuadorian Navy - Armada - Modernization
At the time of the navy's formal establishment, naval equipment consisted of one frigate and seven gunboats. During the turbulent years that followed, however, the fortunes of the navy often suffered, and equipment was reduced to a single vessel in 1880. Four years later, the armed forces took the first step in the creation of a modern navy with the launching of the Cotopaxi, a 300-ton gunboat. Well into the twentieth century, the navy's only seagoing units remained the Cotopaxi and the 750-ton torpedo gunboat, Liberator Bolívar.
Ecuador acquired a number of armed yachts and miscellaneous craft from the United States in return for having granted the latter base rights in the Galápagos Islands and at Salinas during World War II. In 1955 Ecuador purchased two older Hunt-class destroyers from Britain; these became the most formidable vessels in the Ecuadorian fleet. A significant expansion took place during the 1970s with the purchase of missile attack craft and two small submarines from the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). In the early 1980s, Ecuador acquired corvettes equipped with Exocet missiles from Italy. The Hunt-class destroyers were retired and were replaced in 1980 by a United States-manufactured Gearing-class destroyer, renamed the Presidente Eloy Alfaro. This destroyer remained the principal surface vessel as of 1989.
Ecuador is a particular case where fast attack missile boat (FAMBs) were bought in order to replace Second World War vintage destroyers, achieving at low cost a considerable power projection capability. This was not the best solution for two reasons: First because of the geographical situation of that country, (located at the Northwestern part of South America and with a wide open sea in front of it) was not the best environment for missile boat operations since they are better used in restricted waters. And second, the large open ocean area, combined with the limited endurance and surveillance capabilities of the FAMB's, made it very impractical to search, locate, attack and destroy threats with the required level of success. As with bigger ships, the problem of searching and locating the enemy remains the key point for success at sea, and this is very difficult to soive with the limitations of the FAMB's.
By 2008 the Navy asked for US SouthCom's assistance to coordinate the technical transfer of Vulcan Phalanx anti-aircraft weapon systems (Phalanx) as part of the Ecuadorian Navy's purchase of two ex-British Leander class frigates from Chile.
On September 27, 2011 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Ecuador of refurbishment of 2 SH-2G Helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $60 million. The proposed sale will improve Ecuador’s capability to meet current and future anti-ship threats. The helicopters will perform anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare, search and rescue (SAR), and logistics support missions for the Ecuadorian Navy. They will improve Ecuador’s ability to participate in the Maritime Multinational Operations with the U.S. Navy, will enhance Ecuador’s control of its territorial sea and exclusive economic zone, and will increase the Ecuadorian Navy’s SAR capabilities, further reducing Ecuador’s dependency on the United States in case of emergencies. Additionally, these specialized ASW Helicopters would constitute a highly effective system to search, track, and destroy the mini-submarines used for illegal drug trafficking. Similar items have not previously been provided to Ecuador.
As part of the plan to strengthen the Ecuadorian Armed Forces, the proposed modernization of submarines in Astilleros and Arsenals of the Chilean Navy ASMAR materialized. The modernization includes system integration submarine tactical combat and installation of sonar system, as well as the general tour of systems, components, training and personnel training, reaching the qualification of safety at sea and ready for combat.
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