Monday, August 30, 2010

Does Multirole Ship Make Sense for Chile?

In a sign that Chile is getting serious about acquiring a multi-role ship, the navy is entertaining offers from France and Italy. France is offering to sell the Siroco, a 12,000-ton ship, according to reports. France's DCNS, meanwhile, is proposing to build a new Mistral-class multirole vessel. That option that no doubt would be more costly, but the navy has expressed interest in such a project. Italy is trying to sell Chile two San Giorgio-class vessels built in the late 1980s. Chile's navy is still dusting itself off from the major 8.8-magnitude earthquake in February, which seriously damaged some naval facilities. But the disaster also underscored the need for ships that can move rescue and relief materials to ports or shores. Chile's unsual geography makes the country vulnerable to earthquakes or volano eruptions that can cut off the major north-south highways. At the same time, most cities and towns are within a reasonable drive of the coast, which makes it feasible for multirole ships to carry major loads to afflicted areas. Such vessels also would support peacekeeping operations, with the capacity to move a battalion-sized force and helicopters to distant locations. A multirole ship, however, would not be an aircraft carrier. Multirole ships are designed to carry a handful of helicopters, not carrier-borne fighter jets. In a pinch, a vertical take-off jet could use one of these ships. But Chile has no plans to acquire any.

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