Procurement: July 6, 2005

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Chile will purchase three Type 23 frigates from Britain, beating out competing bids from Pakistan and Belgium. The $348 million deal coupled with the recent purchase of four used Dutch frigates -- gives Chile the most modern warships in Latin America. The HMS Norfolk, HMS Grafton and HMS Marlborough were built between 1990 and 1997. Each 4,900-ton ship is equipped with eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 4.5-inch MK 8 main gun, 30mm close range guns, torpedo tubes and the Sea Wolf anti-missile system. They can also carry a medium-sized helicopter. Chile's navy started negotiating for the vessels many months ago, but finally made up its mind when competition emerged. U.S. officials reportedly lobbied hard for the sale to go to Pakistan, an ally in the war on terror. But the British stuck with Chile, a longtime ally of their own. In fact, a new book details extensive, yet secret, assistance Chile provided the British during the 1982 Falklands War. To avoid harming the recent rapprochement with Argentina, Chile's defense minister and the head of the navy traveled to Buenos Aires to inform their counterparts of the frigate deal before it was announced. Chile's warship modernization, which includes two new Scorpene subs undergoing sea trials, now totals about $1.2 billion. The country has little choice but to protect its waters. Because of its odd geography, Chile's territorial waters are actually larger than its land mass. Fisheries are a key natural resource, and three-fourths of its lucrative foreign trade passes through shipping lanes. -- J.C. Arancibia

 


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