With a long military tradition and a lengthy coastline, Chile is spending substantially on arms purchases. Its defense bill was $4.8 billion in 2008, representing 3.5 percent of the nation’s gross economical product, twice over the region’s average level.

An armored team comprising a Leopard 2A4 and Marder armored infantry fighting vehicle training in the Chilean desert. Photo: Chilean Army

Major programs in recent years included the induction of ten F-16C/D/Block 50+ with the Chilean Air Force (FACh) under the Peace Puma program. The aircraft were transferred from the U.S., along with advanced weapons, including AMRAAM, Sidewinder air/air missiles, Maverick and JDAM guided weapons. These F-16s can also operate the Israeli-made Rafael Derby and Python IV air-to-air missiles carried by F-5E/F Tiger III fleet. Along with ten new Falcons Chile also acquired 36 used F-16 block 20 (MLU upgraded) from the Royal Netherlands Air Force which is planning to transfer 18 additional MLU Falcons. In 2007 Chile received 12 new Bell 412 helicopters from U.S. Bell Textron Helicopters. In 2009 a dozen new EMB-314 light attack aircraft/trainers were delivered from Brazil.

Chile was the first country in Latin America to take advantage on the availability of massive quantities of modern armored vehicles offered as military surplus by NATO members. In total, Chile acquired Leopard 1 main battle tanks, Marder armored infantry fighting vehicles and Leopard II tanks. Germany and the Netherlands emerged as the leading suppliers of armored vehicles – with Netherlands delivering 202 Leopard 1V tanks (114 operational) and 139 YPR765 armored personnel carriers. In March 2006 Chile concluded a deal to buy 118 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany to replace 131 obsolete tanks still in service.

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In addition, the Chilean Navy is using a locally produced variant of the 6×6 Pirahna and is also considering the acquisition of wheeled armored vehicles – the Pirahna 8×8 (Stryker) alongside the French Panhard PVP are considered.

In recent years Chile has modernized its surface fleet with the acquisition of frigates from the Netherlands and U.K. Among these vessels, two are Dutch built “Karel Doorman” M class multi-purpose frigates (“Almirante Blanco Encalada” and “Almirante Riveros”). The other two ex-Dutch frigates are “Jacob van Heemskerck” L class air defense frigates (“Capitan Prat” and “Almirante Latorre”), both armed with Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Among the four delivered from Royal Navy surplus are a single type 22 “Almirante Williams” and three type 23, “Almirante Condell”,”Almirante Lynch” and “Almirante Cochrane”.

The Piloto Pardo is one of two Fassmer OPV 80 vessels designed by the German designer Fassmer for the Chilean Navy. Photo: Fr. Fassmer GmbH

In addition, the Chilean Navy received two Offshore Patrol Vessels in recent years – the “Piloto Pardo” built by the Chilean Navy Shipyards (Asmar) and the “Comandante Toro” built by the German company Fassmer. Two additional vessels are under construction. The new Oceanographic Research Ship “Cabo de Hornos” is also scheduled to become operational soon. In 2010 the Chilean navy received the first of eight CASA C-295 Persuader maritime patrol aircraft including. The Navy also operates eight Dauphin naval helicopters.

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