Friday, June 19, 2020

Chile's Navy Quietly Acquires 2 Frigates from Australia

Chile's Navy acquired a pair of used frigates from Australia, boosting its air defense capabilities. The purchase of the former HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Newcastle was finalized late last year, and the warships were transferred to Chile in May. The vessels replace a pair of ex-Dutch L-class frigates that were launched in 1986. The Adelaide-class frigates were built in 1989 and 1992 and carry better armament than the Dutch ships they replace. Each is armed with SM-2 air defense missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 76mm Oto Melara gun and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles. A computerized command and control system integrates the weapons systems. The ships, based on the U.S. Oliver Hazard Perry class, also have hangar space for two medium helicopters. They underwent a refit before the transfer to the Armada. The acquisition, reportedly for more than $70 million, was made with little publicity. The Navy only posted the two vessels on its website once they had arrived in Chile this month. The transfer occurred while Chile was fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and while it still faces social unrest, so the Navy appeared to avoid publicizing the deal. Chile's Navy has named the new frigates FFG 14 Almirante Latorre and FFG 11 Capitan Prat, the same names given to the Dutch vessels. It is the largest acquisition by the Navy in nine years. It's also the first major military purchase from Australia, an ally in the Pacific Rim and a trade partner.