Forces: July 27, 2005

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There are four major naval powers in South America. These navies are small when compared to naval powers like France or the United Kingdom, but have proven to be potent in the past. Going through these four naval powers can give one an appreciation for what navies need to deal with. Argentina is the first of these. This navy has taken a few steps back over the past decade. It now consists of two Type 42-class destroyers (acquired prior to the Falklands War). These destroyers have suffered as a result of  losing the 1982 conflict. The Sea Dart SAM systems no longer function. One has been converted with a helicopter hangar aft. The other is in reserve, and Argentina has been considering a conversion to a fast transport. Argentina also has four MEKO 360-class large frigates, equipped with Exocet anti-ship missiles, Aspide surface-to-air missiles, and a five-inch gun. Six Espora-class corvettes and three Drummond-class corvettes round out the major surface units. These two classes of frigates have four Exocets each. The Esporas carry a helicopter and a 76mm gun, while the Drummonds carry a single 100mm gun. Argentina also has three submarines. Two are TR 1700s built in Germany, each with six 21-inch torpedo tubes and 22 torpedoes. The third is the Salta, a Type 209, with eight 21-inch torpedo tubes and 14 torpedoes.

Brazil has a navy which has long been one of the best. Its biggest fleet unit is the Sao Paolo (the former French carrier Foch). This ship carries 16 Skyhawk bombers and six helicopters. Brazils other carrier, Minas Geras, was withdrawn from service in 2001. Brazil has a large number of frigates to serve as escorts (one Barroso-class under construction, four Inhauma-class frigates, four Broadsword-class frigates, six Niteroi-class frigates, and four Garcia-class frigates). Of these nineteen frigates, eight (the Broadsword and Garcia-classes) are second-hand from the UK and US, three were built in the UK, and eight have been built in Brazil (or, in the case of the Barroso-class frigate, being built). Brazil also features five Type 209 submarines, which have eight 21-inch torpedo tubes (like the Argentinean sub), but carry 16 torpedoes as opposed to 14. Four of those submarines have been built in Brazil.

Next on the list is Chile. Chile is modernizing its force. The current force consists of three County-class destroyers purchased after the Falklands War which have been modernized with a helicopter hangar and eight-cell launchers for the Israeli Barak surface-to-air missile. Chile also operates three modified Leander-class frigates. These will be replaced with two Jacob Van Heemskirk-class frigates and two Karel Doorman-class frigates from the Netherlands and three Type 23-class frigates from the UK. Chiles older submarine force (two Type 209s and a British Oberon-class) will be replaced with two French Scorpene-class submarines.

Peru is the other major power. The centerpiece of its Navy is the cruiser Almirante Grau, a former Dutch vessel with eight six-inch guns and eight Otomat anti-ship missiles. Peru also has one Daring-class destroyer (with six 114mm guns and eight Exocets), and four Lupo-class frigates (with an eight-round Aspide launcher, eight Otomat anti-ship missiles, and a five-inch gun). Peru also features six Type 209 submarines. There are like Argentinas Type 209, with eight 21-inch torpedo tubes and 14 torpedoes. A second cruiser, the Aguirre, was retired in the late 1990s.

The Brazilian navy is the strongest of these. It has the largest (in quantity) force, and it has built a fair portion of its navy (eight of its frigates as four of its submarines). It also features South Americas only carrier in service (the Argentinean Veinticinco de Mayo was retired in 1999 without a replacement and taken to India in 2000 for scrapping, and the Minas Gerias was scrapped in 2004). It is clearly growing in capability and will be the top naval force there for the foreseeable future. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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