South American countries are preparing for the renewal of their submarine fleet

While most of the international attention on naval forces is focused on the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the Mediterranean-Atlantic theater, the South American fleets are far from being left behind, in particular with regard to their fleet of submarines.

Thus, no less than 24 diesel-electric submarines belonging to 7 South American Navies are currently in service, for the vast majority of German Type 209s purchased new or second-hand in the 70s and 80s.

Some of these navies, in this case the Chilean and Brazilian Navy, have already undertaken to modernize their fleet, Santiago being the first customer of the then new French submarine Scorpene in the mid-2000s for 2 ships, then Brasília, again for 4 Naval Group Scorpene, the first of which entered service in December 2022, as part of a major technology transfer program that should lead to the design of the first South American nuclear attack submarine.

However, today there are no less than 16 Type 209s which will soon reach their age limit, and which will have to be replaced in the years to come. This is why the Argentine (2 units), Chilean (2 units), Colombian (2 units), Ecuadorian (2 units) and Peruvian (6 units) navies came together for the 1ᵉʳ International Symposium of South American Commandos and Submarine Forces organized by the Ecuadorian Navy on March 22.

It was a question, for the delegations present, of sharing their past and present experiences, as well as their visions as for the evolution of the submarine forces in the years and decades to come. Beyond the sharing of knowledge, it was also a question of establishing a starting point for possible international cooperation, particularly in the industrial field, so as to guarantee the security of the continent.

the Peruvian submarine fleet is one of the largest on the South American continent
The Peruvian Navy aligns 6 conventional submarines, 4 Type 209 (Here the S-31 Angamos) and 2 Type 206

The replacement of the Type 209 submarines is particularly urgent for the Argentine Navy, whose 2 remaining ships, the Santa Cruz and the Salta, which entered service in 1984 and 1973 respectively, were placed in reserve following the loss of the San Ruan , the sistership of the Santa Cruz, in 2017.

The situation is no better for the Colombian Navy, whose two Type 209s, the ARC pijao and the CRA Tayrona entered service in 1975, when its 2 Type 206, the ARC Bold and the CRA Indomitable, acquired second-hand from Germany in 2011, entered service in 1974 and 1975 respectively.

The 2 Ecuadorian ships, the Shyri and Huancavilca, entered service in 1977 and 1978 respectively. Thomson and Simpson entered service in 1983 and 1984, as well as the 4 Peruvian Type 209/1200, the let's go, Antofagasta, pisagua et chipana, which entered service between 1980 and 1983, while its two Type 209/1100, the Islay and l'Arica, entered service in 1975.

The replacement of these some 12 Type 209s, but also of the 2 equally old Colombian Type 206s, will represent a critical issue for international manufacturers. But if the market is attractive and colossal, the competition, meanwhile, has never been so strong.

Indeed, no less than 8 manufacturers can position themselves on these markets, for 11 different submarine models. Europe alone offers 6 models by 4 manufacturers, the Type 212 and 214 from German TKMS, S-80 from the Spaniard Navantia, Scorpene et Shortfin Barracuda of the French Naval GroupAnd the Swedish Kockums' A26 Blekinge.


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