Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Closer Look at Chile's New Assault, Er, Relief Ship

The Navy officially took ownership of a second-hand landing ship in December and is quickly moving to get the vessel in operating order. Already, at least two Cougar helicopters have been purchased from civilian operators and could serve as the airlift arm of the ship. The ex-French Foudre, rechristened Sargento Aldea, can operate up to three helicopters simultaneously and can accommodate up to seven similar-sized helicopters, including four in its hangar. Chile also bought from the French a tank landing vessel and two barges that can operate from the well deck. The 12,000-ton vessel (fully loaded) has a maximum speed of 20 knots and can sail 11,000 miles without refueling, assuming a normal cruise speed of 15 knots. Commissioned in 1990, the ship can carry a mechanized infantry battalion of 467 troops, making it Chile's principal force-projection asset. Naval-Technology.com has more details on capabilities and on-board equipment. As a relief ship, Sargento Aldea can load up to 1,600 people plus its crew of 224. It is ideal for disaster relief operations, thanks to a hospital suite that includes 51 beds, two operating rooms, a dental clinic, an X-ray room, a lab and even a burn unit. A single mission could have handled the recent evacuation of the volcano-stricken Chaiten community and could have carried the entire tonnage of the airlift that followed the 2010 earthquake. It is this type of civilian-friendly mission that makes acquisitions of multi-role ships politically attractive in just about any country. For Chile in particular, amphibious ships are essential because many isolated island and southern communities rely on the Navy for some basic services. The Sargento Aldea could be in a Chilean port as early as this month.

2 comments:

Axel said...

Sargento Aldea transited the Panama Canal on Feb 22nd 2012. We were tied behind her in the Gatun locks with our 40ft sailing boat.

J.C. Arancibia said...

That sounds so cool.