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Chile Submarine Capabilities

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Chile Submarine Capabilities

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The Chilean Navy currently operates a flotilla of four diesel-electric attack submarines. The fleet comprises of two Thomson-class (Type 209) submarines and two Scorpène-class submarines, all of which are based in Talcahuano. [1]

Capabilities at a Glance

Total Submarines in Fleet: 4

  • Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBNs): 0
  • Nuclear-Powered attack submarines (SSNs): 0
  • Diesel-electric attack submarines (SSKs): 4
  • Air-independent propulsion (AIP) enabled: 2/4
Submarines

Chile Submarine Table Class, Builder, Year Commissioned

History

Chile’s two Thomson-class submarines, the CS Thomson (SS-20) and CS Simpson (SS-21), were constructed by German firm Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft in Kiel. Chile's two Scorpène-class submarines were jointly developed and constructed by the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia and French company Naval Group. The O'Higgins (SS-23) was built at the DCN shipyard in Cherbourg and commissioned in 2005. The Carrera (SS-22) was built at the Navantia shipyard in Cartagena and commissioned in 2006. [2]

Modernization and Current Capabilities

In 2009 Naval Group upgraded the Thomson (SS-20) to operate the Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System (SUBTICS) Submarine Combat System and carry the Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subaquei (WASS) Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes. In 2012, Naval Group upgraded the Simpson (SS-21) with these capabilities as well. [3] In April 2015, French company Thales announced its plans to build an “acoustic technology center” in Brazil. The facility will produce sonars that, inter alia, will be used to upgrade the Chilean Scorpènes. [4] These modernizations are reported to extend the life of the Type 209 submarines until 2023-2025. [5]

Despite Chile's current modernization and replacement rate, which is the highest in Latin America, it is not expected that Chile will expand beyond its current fleet of four diesel-electric submarines. [6]

Chilean company Vapor Industrial announced in 2012 that they are planning to construct a Crocodile-class 250 submarine. The vessel, introduced as a "light SSK," is intended to be used in a coastal-littoral denial role, outfitted with both wire-guided torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. [7] While the construction of the Crocodile-class submarine was expected to take 12-18 months, there are no official updates on the status of the vessel. [8]

Ship Biographies

Thomson-Class (Type 209/1400-L)

Chile possesses two Thomson-class diesel-electric attack submarines. These submarines are 64.6 meters long with a 6.5-meter-wide beam and can travel up to 22.5 knots when submerged. They can remain submerged for about 50 days without surfacing and are armed with eight 533mm torpedo tubes. Their weapons system can carry up to 14 torpedoes. The Thomson-class submarines can support a crew of 36 people. [9]

Scorpène-Class

Chile possesses two Scorpène-class diesel-electric attack submarines. These submarines are 61.7 meters long with a 6.2-meter-wide beam and can travel up to 20 knots when submerged. They can remain submerged for about 50 days without surfacing. The Scorpènes are equipped with flank-area sonar and six 533mm torpedo tubes that can deploy WASS Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes and SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles with a range of 50km. Their weapons system can carry a total of 18 torpedoes and missiles, or 30 mines. These submarines also possess an AIP system and employ the SUBTICS combat management system. The Scorpène-class submarines can support a crew of 32. [10]

Import and Export Behavior

Imports

The Chilean government imported two Type 209 submarines from German manufacturer Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in the 1980s, and two Scorpène-class submarines from France in 2005 and 2006. [11]

Exports

Chile is not an exporter of submarines.

Sources:
[1] “SS-20 Thomson,” GlobalSecurity.org, 11 December 2012.
[2] “SSK Scorpene Class Attack Submarine,” Naval Technology, (2012), www.naval-technology.com.
[3] “El submarino chileno Simpson se reincorpora al servicio tras su modernización en ASMAR,” Información de Defensa y Securidad, 18 June 2012, www.infodefensa.com.
[4] Andrew MacDonald, “Thaler to Open Sonar Production in Brazil,” Janes, 15 April 2015, www.janes.com.
[5] “Jane's World Navies: Chile," IHS Jane's, 8 April 2014, www.janes.com.
[6] "Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment: Procurement – Chile," IHS Jane's, 25 March 2014, www.janes.com.
[7] "Jane's Navy International: Chilean firm present light SSK," IHS Jane's, 13 December 2012, www.janes.com; "SSK Scorpene Class Attack Submarine," Naval Technology, accessed: 22 May 2014, www.naval-technology.com.
[8] Cony Sturm, “Crocodile Class 250, el primer submarine de rescate construido en Chile,” FayerWayer, 12 April 2012, www.fayerwayer.com.
[9] "Military Submarines Type 209 Class," Military Submarines, (2012), military-submarines.com.
[10] "SSK Scorpene Class Attack Submarine," Naval Technology, (2012), www.naval-technology.com.; "Scorpene Class Patrol Submarine," Military-Today.com, (2006); "Scorpene Class Diesel Air Independent Propulsion Patrol Submarine," Navy Recognition, 6 April 2012, www.navyrecognition.com.
[11] “Janes Underwater Warfare Systems: Submarine Forces – Chile,” IHS Jane’s, 15 June 2011, www.janes.com.

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Glossary

Diesel-electric submarine
A submarine with a diesel-electric transmission. Diesel-electric transmissions require access to oxygen for the diesel generator to charge the submarine’s batteries or drive the motor.  This type of submarine is thus louder and must surface more frequently than a nuclear-powered submarine.  A diesel-electric submarine can fire conventional cruise missiles against land targets, and in theory, can also carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. Diesel-electric submarines are significantly cheaper to build and purchase than nuclear-powered vessels, which makes them the vessel of choice for smaller navies.
SSBN
Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear: A hull classification for a submarine capable of launching a ballistic missile. The "N", or nuclear, refers to the ship's propulsion system. SSBN's are generally reserved for strategic vessels, as most submarine launched ballistic missiles carry nuclear payloads. A non-strategic vessel carries the designation SSN, or attack submarine.
Diesel-electric submarine
A submarine with a diesel-electric transmission. Diesel-electric transmissions require access to oxygen for the diesel generator to charge the submarine’s batteries or drive the motor.  This type of submarine is thus louder and must surface more frequently than a nuclear-powered submarine.  A diesel-electric submarine can fire conventional cruise missiles against land targets, and in theory, can also carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. Diesel-electric submarines are significantly cheaper to build and purchase than nuclear-powered vessels, which makes them the vessel of choice for smaller navies.
Air Independent Propulsion Technology (AIP)
A propulsion system that uses liquid (or compressed) oxygen or hydrogen fuel cells, thereby allowing submarines to stay submerged for longer periods without the need for external sources of oxygen. This increased endurance also increases a submarine’s survivability.
Air Independent Propulsion Technology (AIP)
A propulsion system that uses liquid (or compressed) oxygen or hydrogen fuel cells, thereby allowing submarines to stay submerged for longer periods without the need for external sources of oxygen. This increased endurance also increases a submarine’s survivability.

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