Chile Submarine Import and Export Behavior


The Republic of Chile received its first modern submarines from the United Kingdom in 1917. These vessels - the Guacolda, Tegualda, Rucumilla, Quidora, and Fresia - were originally constructed for the British Royal Navy. However, they were offered as compensation for four destroyers that Chile had previously ordered, which the Royal Navy retained due to the outbreak of World War I. [1]

In the late 1920s, the British engineering company Vickers-Armstrongs Limited provided the Chilean Navy with its next batch of submarines. The three O'Brien Class submarines contributed to a substantial naval expansion that took place during that time as a result of Chile's perceived threats from neighbors Argentina and Peru. [2] These submarines, the Capitan O'Brien, Almirante Simpson, and Capitan Simpson, operated for three decades before being discarded in 1957 and 1958. [3]

In the early 1960s, Chile purchased two World War II-era Balao submarines from the U.S. Navy, which were subsequently renamed the Thomson and Simpson, and operated until 1970 and 1982. [4] The United Kingdom's Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited produced the Chilean Navy's next set of submarines. These two Oberon-class vessels, the Hyatt and O'Brien, entered into service in the mid-1970s, and were at the time considered to be among the quietest of non-nuclear submarines. They continued to operate until the Chilean Navy arranged to have them replaced by two French Scorpène-class submarines. The Hyatt was retired in 1998, followed by the O'Brien in 2003. [5]

The German shipbuilder Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft (HDW) broke into the Chilean submarine market in the 1980s with its sale of two Type-209 vessels, the CS Thomson and the CS Simpson. The Type-209 is a class of diesel-electric submarine designed specifically for export. It was the best-selling submarine from the late 1960s until the beginning of the 21st Century. [6] HDW has exported more than 50 Type-209s to twelve countries. [7] In 2009 and 2012, the CS Thomson and CS Simpson were refitted with the Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System (SUBTICS), an advanced combat management system, at Astilleros y Maestranzas de la Armada (ASMAR) Talcahuano Shipyard. [8]

Most recently, the Chilean Navy imported two Scorpène-class submarines from the French shipbuilder DCNS. The O'Higgins and Carrera were commissioned in 2005 and 2006. The new submarines are expected to serve until 2026. [9] They are equipped with flank-area sonar and six 533mm torpedo tubes that can deploy Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subaquei (WASS) Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes and SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles with a range of 50km. [10]

Chile has not announced plans for further submarine acquisition.


Chile is an importer of submarines and does not export them.

[1] "Chilean Navy," World Naval Ships,; Guillermo J. Montenegro, "An Argentinean Naval Buildup in the Disarmament Era: The Naval Procurement Act of 1926," Universidad del Cema,
[2] Guillermo J. Montenegro, "An Argentinean Naval Buildup in the Disarmament Era: The Naval Procurement Act of 1926," Universidad del Cema,
[3] "Chilean Navy," World Naval Ships,
[4] Gary Priolo, "Spot (SS-414)," NavSource, (2013); Gudmundur Helgason, "Springer (SS-414) of the US Navy,"
[5] "SSK Scorpene Class Attack Submarine," Naval Technology, (2012),; "Chilean Navy," World Naval Ships,; Patrick Boniface, "Oberon class submarines of the Royal Navy," Helium, Inc., 6 January 2010,
[6] "Type 209 Class," Military Submarines, 2013,
[7] "Executive Overview: Underwater Warfare Systems," Jane's Underwater Warfare Systems, 24 December 2010.
[8] "El submarino chileno Simpson se reincorpora al servicio tras su modernización en ASMAR," Información de Defensa y Securidad, 18 June 2012,
[9] "Chile Navy Modernization," Global Security,
[10] "SSK Scorpene Class Attack Submarine," Naval Technology, (2012),; "Scorpene Class Patrol Submarine,", (2006),; "Scorpene Class Diesel Air Independent Propulsion Patrol Submarine," Navy Recognition, 6 April 2012,

September 28, 2015
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The submarine proliferation resource collection is designed to highlight global trends in the sale and acquisition of diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines. It is structured on a country-by-country basis, with each country profile consisting of information on capabilities, imports and exports.

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.