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Chile's frigate modernisation plans make progress

With the procurement of two Adelaide-class frigates surplus to the needs of Australia and the modernisation of its three Cochrane-class multipurpose frigates, the Chilean Navy is giving shape to its future force of main surface combatants.

According to senior military sources in Santiago, the acquisition of the former HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Newcastle is expected to be finalised by the end of the year, with their transfer taking place in 2020.

The 4,267-tonne Australian frigates will replace two former Royal Netherlands Navy air defence frigates of the Jacob van Heemskerck class acquired in 2004 and known as the Latorre class in Chile.

Armed with SM-2MR Standard and ESSM surface-to-air missiles, the Australian-built, second-hand frigates will increase the range of the Chilean fleet’s air defences substantially compared to the capacity of the SM-1MR-missile-carrying frigates currently in service.

Meanwhile, the modernisation of three former UK Royal Navy Type 23 frigates acquired in 2005, known as the Cochrane class in Chilean service, began in 2017 at the ASMAR naval shipyard in Talcahuano and is advancing apace. The vessels are being refitted and upgraded with new CMS 330 combat management systems provided by Lockheed Martin Canada, together withTRS-4D 3D radars from Hensoldt and the Sea Ceptor air defence missile system from MBDA.

The first modernised frigate, Almirante Cochrane , is currently undergoing acceptance trials. Work on the second Type 23, Almirante Lynch , began in May and the ship is expected to be back in service late in 2020, to be followed in 2022 by the third ship, Almirante Condell .

Two former Dutch frigates of the Karel Doorman class, acquired in 2003 and known locally as the Blanco Encalada class, were modernised between 2013 and 2016.

A view of part of the Chilean Navy’s Escuadra Nacional – the surface combat squadron – gathered at Valparaiso in 2018 for the navy’s 200th anniversary. In the foreground are two former Royal Navy Type 23 frigates acquired in 2005, while in the distance are three Dutch-built frigates procured in 2003. (Chilean Navy)

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