South African defence systems are under consideration by the Chilean Navy as an option for the modernisation of its frigate force.
"South Africa is one of the countries the Chilean Navy is looking at, searching for cost-effective solutions," Vice Admiral Kenneth Pugh, the Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Navy's First Naval Zone, told Engineering News Online at the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), in Cape Town, on Thursday.
"We're interested in South Africa. It's solid, reliable and robust."
The Chilean Navy's frigate force is made up of second-hand British and Dutch ships, which must, in the coming years, go through very major refits known as mid-life updates.
"We are looking for systems we can integrate on our platforms [ships]", he explained.
The Chilean Navy has its own shipyard, Asmar, which in turn has its own systems integration capability. "This is proving much more cost effective. It works for us. We've been doing this since the mid-1980s."
Should South African systems fulfil Chile's requirements, "they could be options for the upgrade of our ships," he pointed out. "Weapon systems should be mature enough to be bought. Sometimes it's not good to be the first user. You must have something working in the navy of the country that developed it, proving that the system is working. A prototype is not good enough."
He highlighted that the Chilean navy was always investigating options for replacing ageing systems and that the procurement process for new systems is a long one, typically taking ten years.
For example, Chile's ex-British frigates are equipped with the Seawolf surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, which is now ageing (the UK Royal Navy plans to take it out of service within the next five or so years and its replacement, called the Sea Ceptor, is of an advanced stage of development).
"South Africa has very good missiles, especially anti-aircraft missiles," affirmed Pugh. "The companies you have here are very good."
It should, perhaps, be noted that Denel Dynamics' Umkhonto naval SAM is now in operational service with the South African and Finnish Navies, in its infrared homing version. However, a proposed longer-ranged radar-guided version has yet to be developed.
The Chilean Navy is present at IONS as an observer navy.
Keith Campbell is attending IONS as a guest of the South African Navy.