Chile - A Maritime Nation
© 2007 FrontLine Defence (Vol 4, No 4)

Chile impacts this globalized world in positive ways such as trade, technology sharing, the promotion of democracy, and respect for human rights. However, conventional and unconventional threats, such as terrorism and drug smuggling, also exist, negatively impacting the world.

FF 15 “Blanco Encalada” sails with Peruvian frigate BAP “Mariategui” during RIMPAC 2006. (Photos courtesy Chilean armed Forced)

We believe that prevention, international cooperation, and regional integration are the best and most effective solutions for addressing these types of threat facing our continent. In this process, the Chilean Armed Forces are playing an active role in establishing new ties of cooperation within its sphere of action – without compromising their main role as assigned by the Chilean Constitution. In this regard, our National Defence Policy is an important factor. Defence resources are categorized as follows:

  1. Deterrence: although Chile maintains a “defensive attitude,” as a fundamental orientation of its Defence Policy, deterrence is perceived as an attempt to discourage (as early as possible) any intention to interfere with the nation’s vital interests. The armed forces play a primary but not exclusive role in this.
  2. Cooperation: Chile is determined to increase its present degree of international cooperation, at different levels or contexts (neighboring, regional, sub-regional, continental and global). As a testament to this new priority, President Michelle Bachelet recently hosted Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.
  3. Coercive use of Military Power: the use of military force will always be regulated in accordance with international law.

In general terms, our strategy also focuses on three areas:

  • to “Defend Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity” (Defence: Armed Forces);
  • to “Protect and Promote Maritime Interest”
  • (Maritime: the Navy); and
  • to “Preserve International Peace and Stability” (International: in combination with other countries).

The Chilean Armed Forces has a total of 60,000 personnel (26,300 Army; 21,700 Navy; and 12,000 Air Force) and a 2007 budget of US1.3 billion (Army $0.588, Navy $0.445, and Air Force $0.284).

In accordance with the Defence Policy and the need to update and renew our resources, which in many cases have exceeded the life utility, Chile has purchased the following conventional weapons in recent years:

Members of the deploy team in Cyprus. (Photos courtesy Chilean armed Forced)

Conscious that the military focus should be conjunct, we are working in areas (operative, logistics, training, etc.) to combine efforts and reduce costs. Next year, for example, will see the amalgamation of three existing Schools of Aviation (Army, Navy and Air Force). Military pilots will be trained by the Air Force and subsequently incorporated into their respective services.

Chile’s Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) is more than six times its continental territory. If we consider the Presential Sea, it increases to more than 30 times the landmass.

More than 80% of the total Chilean foreign trade is carried out by sea. Today this is of great importance given the increasing trend to sign free agreements like those celebrated with Canada (July 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of the Free Trade Agreement), the United States, Mexico, the European Union, China, Japan and South Korea, and those under negotiation with India and Malaysia. This highlights the importance of merchant shipping and the need for ensuring that existing routes remain free of threats of any kind.

The Maritime control and surveillance (EEZ, rivers, lakes, etc.) are the responsibility of the Chilean Navy under the command of the Chief of the Maritime Staff, the Naval Pillar (Navy) and the Maritime Pillar (Coast Guard). Due to insufficient resources to control the full maritime space, the CMS shares assets from both pillars.
F-16 MLU (Mid Life Update) aircraft arrive at the Antofagasta Air Base from the Netherlands. (Photos courtesy Chilean armed Forced)

With the aim of increasing surveillance and control capabilities in the EEZ, search and maritime rescue, control and combat of aquatic pollution, support of the maritime signposting maintenance, and logistical support to isolated zones, the Chilean Navy has decided to acquire two Maritime Zone Patrol Vessels for the Coast Guard. Chile’s main shipyard, Asmar Shipbuilding, is in charge of the construction. The basic engineering stage was completed in 2006, and the next phase is well underway.

Delivery of the first Maritime Zone Patrol vessel is due in mid-2008, and the second one in mid-2009.  

Bordering the Pacific Ocean obligates the state of Chile to contribute internationally to aspects related to the safety of human life at sea, security matters, control and surveillance of maritime communications routes, and protection of the environment, with the final aim of keeping “Safer Shipping and Cleaner Oceans.”

Since the 1997 publication of the Defence Book and within the sphere of Mutual Confidence Measures, a number of activities (such as combined exercises with Argentina, and annual bilateral meetings with Perú and others) have been taking place that help significantly in achieving greater transparency and mutual understanding among the Armed Forces of Chile, Argentina and Peru.

Since the first operation in 1935 (after the conflict between Paraguay and Bolivia, called the “Chaco War”), Chile has maintained a permanent policy of participation in the activities related to international peace and security. Examples include UNMOGIP (India-Pakistan), UNTSO (Palestine), UNMIK (Kosovo), UNFICYP (Cyprus), UNMOVIC (Iraq), UNMIBH (Bosnia-Herzegovina).

Our biggest deployed force is presently in Haiti, with 518 personnel from the Chilean Armed forces and Police.

On 27 December 2005, the Chilean and Argentine Ministers of Defence signed an agreement to create a combined force which will be named “Cruz del Sur.” The general idea is to have a “Standby Force” at ONU’s disposal. A joint Staff had been created from both countries for this purpose – working first in Argentina and next year in Chile. Beyond 2008, other countries will be invited to join this force.

The Armed Forces of Chile have been in the process of rationalizing much of their infrastructure and personnel, with the objective to be more efficient. The three branches of defense are developing various modernization projects; the acquisitions mentioned earlier set the stage for the renovation of materials, which allows us to be able to support the areas of defined action in Chile’s Defense Policy.
Captain (Navy) Arturo Undurraga is the Chilean Defence Attaché in Canada.
© FrontLine Defence 2007