Chile Begins Naval Exports

By Anthony Preston

WCMG's "Guardian" design is based on the Canadian Government fishery patrol vessel Leonard J. Cowley , but has an enclosed bridge and superstructure shaped to reduce radar cross-section. A helicopter flight deck and hangar also are provided. Armament is light: a single 40-mm L/60 gun supplied by the Chilean Navy will be mounted forward when the ship reaches Mauritius.

The design emphasizes seakeeping and robustness, with a heavy-duty steel hull. The ship is driven by four 2,000kilowatt Caterpillar 3516 diesels coupled to twin shafts, generating a maximum speed of 22 knots. Accommodation is provided for 18 officers, 8 petty officers, 36 enlisted personnel, and 2 helicopter pilots; in addition, up to 100 survivors can be accommodated in spaces normally occupied by a 20-man military detachment. The vessel has a four-berth sickbay with a separate surgery. Eight six-meter supply containers can be stowed in the cargo hold. All these characteristics come at the amazingly low cost of $22.5 million (U.S.), reflecting the advantageous combination of a cheap Canadian dollar and low Chilean labor costs.

The Mauritian Coast Guard is a very young organization, but it has a major responsibility: protecting offshore fishing grounds from poachers. It is heavily supported by the Indian Navy, which lent an elderly patrol craft until the Vigilant was ready for sea, and funded the procurement of nine inshore patrol boats. The Vigilant is manned by a number of personnel seconded from the Indian Navy, including the commanding officer, Commander S.P.S. Cheema. Following sea trials at Talcahuano the vessel set sail for home at the end of May, passing through the Straits of Magellan and calling at South Africa on the way.

ASMAR has entered the competition to supply offshore patrol vessels to the Philippine Navy, and also is hoping to interest the Chilean Navy in a larger 90-110 meter variant, as a frigate replacement.

Those who have sailed in the Vigilant can testify to the steadiness and lack of vibration, even at full power, resulting largely from the very beamy hull. The combination of a short hull and maximum beam, however, is likely to cause excessive pitching, and the low forecastle is likely to be blanketed by spray in anything but calm weather. ASMAR showed us a 90-meter variant armed with a 76mm L/62 OtoBreda gun, and the Chilean Navy's experience in its own southern waters in severe winter conditions might suggest a higher forecastle.

The "Guardian" design is an unorthodox solution to the offshore patrol mission. Although not designed as a combatant, it meets the requirements of small navies and coast guards for cost effective ships, and has the potential for development into a more potent corvette.



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