Chilean Army

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Chilean Army
Ejército de Chile
Coat of arms of the Chilean Army.svg
Army of Chile
Active 1603[1] – present
Country  Chile
Type Army
Size 45,000 (of which 12,700 conscripted)
Part of Ministry of National Defense (Chile)
Motto Siempre vencedor y jamás vencido ("Always Victorious and Never Defeated")
March Los viejos estandartes (The Old Standards) by Guillermo Bascuñán Dockendorff (music) and Jorge Inostroza (words)
Anniversaries 19 September (Army Day)
Engagements War of Arauco
Chilean War of Independence
Freedom Expedition of Perú
War of the Confederation
Chincha Islands War
War of the Pacific
1891 Chilean Civil War
Beagle conflict
Humberto Oviedo Arriagada
Bernardo O'Higgins, José Miguel Carrera, Manuel Bulnes, Manuel Baquedano, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, Augusto Pinochet

The Chilean Army (Spanish: Ejército de Chile) is the land arm of the Military of Chile. This 45,000-person army (12,700 of which are conscripts)[2] is organized into six divisions, a special operations brigade and an air brigade.

In recent years and after several major reequipment programs, the Chilean Army has become one of the most technologically advanced and professional armies of the Americas.[3][4]

The Chilean Army is mostly supported by equipment from Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United States, Israel, France, and Spain.


War of Arauco[edit]

See also: War of Arauco

19th. Century[edit]

The Army of the Kingdom of Chile was created on December, 2 of 1810 by order of the First National Meeting of Government of Chile.[5] The army participated actively in the independence war, which, was fought against royalist troops in battles such as Yerbas Buenas, San Carlos, Quechereguas, Rancagua, Chacabuco and Maipú. During this period national figures such as José Miguel Carrera, Bernardo O'Higgins and Argentinian General José de San Martín commanded the army toward definitive victory over the Spanish forces ultimately achieving independence for the country. The Army's first commander-in-chief was José Miguel Carrera.
After obtaining independence from Spain, the newly formed Republic tried to reorganize its military structure by inaugurating the War Military academy of Chile, which was founded by General O'Higgins in 1817.

Guardia Nacional[edit]

Diego Portales set up a civil militia, the Guardia Nacional, to end one of the worst stages of militarism in Chile's history. The militia was created in 1825 but Portales developed this parallel army to compensate the army's might.[6] The Chilean Conscription Law of 1900 marked the beginning of the end of the Guardia Nacional.[7]

War of the Confederation[edit]


The War of the Pacific[edit]

Military emulation 1885-1914[edit]

Noncommissioned Officers' School during on 19 September 2014

During the War of the Pacific, many high officers won valuable insights into the state of the army and became aware that the army required rebuilding. Losses, material destruction, organizational flaws regarding strategic planning, officer formation were noted by officers like Emilio Sotomayor and Patricio Lynch, who approached President Santa María arguing the need of good schools and technical departments for the military. Other factor that supported the emulation was the danger of war with Argentina. The emulation was backed by a broad coalition of civil and military leaders.

Chile had contracted a French military training mission in 1858,[8]:129 and during the War of the Pacific, in 1881, the Chilean legation in Berlin was instructed to find a training mission. But the large-scale emulation, based on the Prussian Army began with the appointment in 1886 of Captain Emil Körner, a graduate of the renowned Kriegsakademie in Berlin, and 36 Prussian officers to train officer cadets in the Chilean Military College and occurred in three phases, the first in 1885-1891, started under the presidency of Domingo Santa María, the post-civil-war phase and the 1906 reorganization.[8]:128-

The emulation was concentrated in the areas: armaments, conscription, officer recruitment and instruction, and general staff organization as well as the military doctrine (adopted 1906). It was extended also into military logistics and medical services, promotions, retirement, salary regulation and even uniforms (adopted 1904), marching styles, helmets, parades, and military music.

Armaments: Prior to 1883 the army was equipped with a variety of rifles, mostly French and Belgian origin. From 1892 to 1902, the Chilean — Argentine Arms Race, marked the peak of Chilean arms purchase. 100,000 Mauser rifles and new Krupp artillery was bought for 3,000,000 Deutsche Mark (DM) in 1893, 2,000,000 DM in 1895 and 15,000,000 DM in 1898. Munitions factories and small arms manufacturing plants were established.[8]:134

Conscription: Like others armies in South America, Chile had had a small army of long-term service officers and conscripts. In 1900 Chile became the first army in Latin America to enforce a system of obligatory military service, whereby training, initially five to eighteen months (Germany: three years), took place in zones of divisional organization in order to create a solid military structure that could be easily doubled with well-trained and combat-ready reserve forces. Budgetary restrictions prevented the full impact of the law: the service fell disproportionately on the lower classes, no more than 20% of the contingent was incorporated annually, and the periodic retraining of enlistees wasn't done.[8]:137

Officer formation and training: The beginning of the German mission were dedicated almost exclusively to the organization and implementation of a standardized, technically oriented military education with the essence of Moltke's German military system of continuously study of artillery, infantry, cartography, history, topography, logistics, tactics, etc. for a modern, professional and technically trained officer corps. 1886 was opened the "Academia de Guerra" (War Academy) "to elevate the level of technical and scientific instruction of army officers, in order that they be able, in case of war, to utilize the advantages of new methods of combat and new armaments". The best alumni were candidates for general staff services. By the mid-1890s Körner organized schools and courses for Noncommissioned Officers' School (Escuela de Suboficiales y Clases).[8]:139

During the 1891 Chilean Civil War Körner was removed from duty by José Manuel Balmaceda. He and his disciples set sail north to joint the congressional forces in Iquique. He became chief architect of the new army and though Estanislao del Canto formally was the chief of the army, it was Körner who lead the rebel forces in the major clashes of the civil war.[8]:145

Chile had had a General Staff during the War of the Pacific.[9] Körner turned his attention to a permanent institution in 1893-94 that should replace the old "Inspector General del Ejército" but with control over military affairs in peacetime and wartime. It had four sections: Instruction and Discipline, Military Schools, Scientific Works (strategic and operational planning) and the fourth was Administration.[8]:147-

20th. Century[edit]

Milicia Republicana[edit]

The Guardia Republicana or Milicia Republicana was created after the fall of the Socialist Republic of Chile in order to prevent another Coup d'Etat. On 7 Mai 20,000 militiamen marched past President Arturo Alessandri in the streets of Santiago. In Las Mercedes' plot, 1933, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Pedro Vignola called "to resist the Milicia Republicana by any means" and he was removed of the army[10] She was dissolved in 1936.[10][11]

US Influence[edit]

The Army under Pinochet[edit]

Chilean soldiers burning books after the coup d'état 1973: "Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people". (Heinrich Heine in Almansor)

On 11 September 1973, in a watershed event of the Cold War and the history of Chile, president Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a coup d’état by the Armed Forces. Paul W. Drake and Ivan Jaksic state in The Struggle for Democracy in Chile:

The armed forces killed, imprisoned, tortured, and exiled thousands of Chileans. The military suppressed, dismantled, and purged not only political parties but also publication, unions, schools, and other bastions of the democratic opposition. Even such privileged constituencies as university professors and students encountered serious limitations on their traditional ability to voice opinions of national, or even institutional relevance. ... The military regime viewed such activities [of the Catholic Church] with distrust, if not hostility. It launched a campaign of harassment against the Catholic Church ...
Once the military had demobilized the polity and society , the regime began implanting its vision of a new order. It set out to replace not only democratic with authoritarian politics but also statist with market-driven economics.[12]

Patricio Aylwin was elected president of the Republic on December 14, 1989. Although Chile had officially become a democracy, the Chilean military remained highly powerful during the presidency of Aylwin, and the Constitution ensured the continued influence of Pinochet and his commanders.

The Chilean Army today[edit]

As a result of tensions with neighbors during the conflict-prone 1970s and early 1980s, the Chilean army refined existing strategic concepts and eventually formulated a plan to restructure the army’s forces. Though wars were avoided, the threats from the 1970s and 1980s encouraged the army to address more effectively its major defense disadvantage: lack of strategic depth. Thus in the early 1980s it looked to outward for a model of army organization that would best advance defensive capabilities by restructuring forces into smaller, more mobile units instead of traditional divisions. The resulting Plan Alcazar, envisions three military zones in Chile, with the bulk of forces concentrated in the north, and reinforces the center and south. The plan was implemented in stages, and the first began in 1994. Thus Alcazar, based on threat scenarios of the past, is one of the most durable “lessons” of the past. Even with the resolution of almost all remaining territorial disputes, the restructuring agenda remained on track and structurally reinforces a conflict-based mindset in the army.[13]



Structure of the Chilean Army 2014 (click on image to enlarge)

Order Of Battle[edit]

Army Commandant Office in Santiago, where the main decisions of the Chilean Army are given

Army Ground Operations Command, headquartered in Concepcion, the HQ garrison of the Chacabuco 7th Reinforced Regiment

  • I Army Division Regions II and III, with headquarters in Antofagasta.
  • II Motorized Division Regions IV, V, VI, VII and Santiago Metropolitan Region with headquarters in Santiago de Chile. This is the largest of the six Army Divisions, serving five regions and is where the Army Headquarters is located alongside some of the military academies that the Army operates in the Santiago Metropolitan Region and nearby Valparaiso Province.
  • III Mountain Division Serving Regions VIII, IX, XIV, and X with headquarters in Valdivia
  • IV Army Division Region XI with headquarters in Coyhaique
  • V Army Division Serving Region XII with headquarters in Punta Arenas, the division assigned to protect the Chilean Antarctic and the world's southernmost city.
  • VI Army Division Serving Regions I and XV, with headquarters in Iquique.
  • Army Aviation Brigade with headquarters in Rancagua. (Brigada de Aviación del Ejército) It is the Army's aviation forces, composed of 4 battalions and a logistics company.
  • Special Operations Brigade "Lautaro" with headquarters in Peldehue (Brigada de Operaciones Especiales "Lautaro")It is the Army's special forces brigade, named after one of Chile's national heroes.

Army Institution and Doctrine Command (Comando Instituto y Doctrina)

  • Army Schools Division (Division Escuelas)
  • Army Education Division (Division de Educacion)
  • Army Doctrine Division (Division de Doctrina)

Army Force Services Command (Comando Apoyo de la Fuerza)

  • Army Logistics Division. with headquarters in Santiago (División Logística del Ejército)
  • Army Engineering Command
  • Army Communications Command
  • Army Infrastructure Command
  • Army Military Engineering and Industry Command

Army Independent Commands

  • Army General Garrison Command in Santiago, serving the Santiago Metropolitan Region, reports directly to Army Headquarters
  • Army Medical Command in Santiago
  • Army Administration Command

Army General Staff Office (Estado Mayor General del Ejercito)

  • Chilean Military Mission to Washington
  • Directorate of Intelligence
  • Directorate of Operations
  • Finance Directorate
  • Logistics Directorate

Military Equipment[edit]

The Chilean Army has acquired a number of new systems with the goal of having a completely modernized, and largely mechanized army by 2015. The military has also modifying the operational structure, creating armoured brigades throughout the entire territory, and a new special operations brigade while conserving the current divisional scheme.


Weapon Caliber Origin Notes
Pistols and Submachine Guns
CZ-75 9x19 mm NATO  Czechoslovakia Pistol
FAMAE FN-750 9x19 mm NATO  Chile Main pistol. Locally produced version of the CZ-75.
HK MP5 9x19 mm NATO  Germany
FAMAE SAF 9x19 mm NATO  Chile Standard issue submachine gun. Locally designed variation on the SG 540.
FAMAE SAF-200 9x19 mm NATO  Chile Testing. Tactical variation of the regular SAF.
Assault Rifles and Carbines
SIG SG 540 5.56x45mm NATO   Switzerland Chile Built under license by FAMAE. Standard issue rifle. They will be replaced by the Galil ACE.
SIG SG 542-1 7.62mm NATO   Switzerland Chile Higher caliber version of the SG 540. Manufactured in Chile by FAMAE. For use by mountain troops. They will be replaced by the Galil ACE.
M4 carbine 5.56x45mm NATO  United States Special Forces
SIG SG 543 5.56x45mm NATO   Switzerland Chile Carbine version of the SIG 540.
SIG SG 556-1 5.56x45mm NATO   Switzerland
Galil ACE 5.56x45mm NATO  Chile
Standard issue rifle.
Sniper Rifles
FAMAE FD-200 7.62 x 51 mm NATO  Chile Locally produced version of the SG 540 modified as a sniper rifle
Barrett M82A1M 12.7 x 99 mm NATO  United States
SIG Sauer SSG 3000 7.62mm NATO   Switzerland
Machine Guns
Heckler & Koch HK21 7.62x51 mm NATO  Germany Magazine-fed light machine gun
FN MINIMI 5.56x45 mm NATO  Belgium Light machine gun
MG3 7.62x51 mm NATO  Germany General-purpose machine gun
M60E4 7.62x51 mm NATO  United States General-purpose machine gun
FN M2HB-QCB 12.7 x 99 mm NATO  United States Heavy Machine Gun
Grenade Launchers
M203 40x46 mm  United States Designed to be attached to a rifle
Milkor MGL 40x53 mm  South Africa Grenade launcher
Mk 19 Mod 3 40x53 mm  United States Automatic grenade launcher

Infantry Support Weapons[edit]

Quantity Weapon Origin Notes
Anti-tank Guided Missile Launchers
2,700 Spike  Israel MR/LR/ER missiles
Anti-tank Recoilless Rifles

Carl Gustaf M2 Recoilless Rifle

 Sweden 84 mm
- M40 recoilless rifle  United States 106 mm / some of them are mounted on Jeeps
- M67 recoilless rifle  United States 90 mm
Light Anti-tank Weapons
AT4  Sweden 84 mm
M72 LAW  United States 66 mm


Quantity Type Origin Notes Photo
172 Leopard 2A4CHL  Germany 120 mm gun. May be upgraded to 2A5CHL in the near future. Leopard 2A4CHL Chile.jpg
105 Leopard 1V  Germany
105 mm gun Leopard 1v lesany.jpg
Infantry Fighting Vehicles
280 [14] Marder 1A3  Germany Marder1A3.6.jpg
319 AIFV-B/YPR-765  Belgium
Some equipped with missiles Spike LR Pantserrupsvoertuig YPR-765.jpg
Armored personnel carrier
427 M113A1/A2  United States M-113 MILAN Ejército Español.JPG
340 MOWAG Piranha  Chile Built under license in Chile FAMAE, in various configurations. Mowag Piranha de la Infantería de Marina Española.JPG
Armored Wheeled Vehicles
400+ HMMWV  United States HUMVEECH.jpg
180 Land Rover Defender  United Kingdom
Land Rover Defender 110 2011 (14881763062).jpg
400+ AIL Storm  Israel AILStorm03.jpg
Self-propelled Artillery
8 LAR-160  Israel LAR-160.jpg
24 M109A5  United States 24 requested in 2011, 12 delivered in 2012 and 12 more in 2015 respectively. 2015[15] Moroccan M109A5 howitzer, 2012-03.jpg
24 M109 KAWEST  United States
Bought in 2004 M109kawest.JPG


Quantity[16] Aircraft Origin Service versions
Fixed Wing
2 C-212 Aviocar  Spain C-212-300 Aviocar
3 CN-235  Spain CN-235 M-100
3 Cessna 208 Caravan  United States Cessna 208B Grand Caravan
1 Cessna 680 Citation Sovereign  United States Cessna 680 Citation Sovereign
4 Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma  France Aerospatiale SA-330L Puma
12 Eurocopter AS532 Cougar  France Eurocopter AS-532AL Mk-1 Cougar
4 Eurocopter AS350  France Eurocopter AS-350B3 Ecureuil
1 Eurocopter AS355  France Eurocopter AS-355N Ecureuil 2
9 McDonnell Douglas MD 500 Defender  United States McDonnell Douglas MDD-369FF Defender
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
6 + BlueBird SpyLite  Israel [17]

Military ranks[edit]

An aspiring non-commissioned officer or officer of the Chilean Army undergoes studies at these two schools, both located in the Santiago Metropolitan Region:

  • Bernardo O'Higgins Military School (for officers)
  • Sgt. Daniel Rebolledo Sepulveda Sub-officers School (For non-commissioned personnel)

Upon graduation, he/she becomes a military officer (Ensign) or non-commissioned officer (Corporal), and the moves on to the branch of his or her choice, except for newly recruited soldiers, whose primary rank is Soldado Dragonante or Soldier Dragonite, and are immediately enrolled as part of the Army Sub-Officer School in Maipu.

Military ranks are similar to the Prussian and later German Armies, but also has the British/Prussian Ensign rank for officers. The Captain General rank, first used by Bernardo O'Higgins and later by Presidents Ramon Freire and Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, is now inactive.

The ranks used today in the Army are from the 2002 reorganization. It keeps the old enlisted ranks (Privates, Corporals, Sergeants and Sub-officers) but a new officer rank scheme is used, with 3 general officers instead of four general officers.

Enlisted ranks[edit]

All Privates and Student NCOs studying in the Army NCO School wear no rank insignia.

Rank Subofficer Majors Sub-officers Classes
Full Dress uniform
and Service Uniform
(Office, Garrison, Outdoor/Mess Wear, Parade Dress)
Battle Duty Uniform
(Center and South)
50px 50px 50px 50px 50px 50px 50px
Battle Duty Uniform (North) 50px 50px 50px 50px 50px 50px 50px
Grade Warrant Officer Class 1 Warrant Officer Class 2 Staff Sergeant Sergeant Master Corporal Corporal Lance Corporal
Abbreviation SOM SOF SG1 SG2 CB1 CB2 CBO
Name in Spanish Suboficial Mayor Suboficial Sargento Primero Sargento Segundo Cabo Primero Cabo Segundo Cabo
NATO pay grade Code OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2
Rank English translation Years of service US Army Equivalent rank/British Army Equivalent rank
Suboficial Mayor Sub-officer Major 30 years Command Sergeant Major/Warrant Officer Class 1
Suboficial Sub-officer 27–29 years Sergeant Major/ Warrant Officer Class 2
Sargento Primero First Sergeant 24–26 years Master Sergeant/Staff Sergeant
Sargento Segundo Second Sergeant 19–23 years Sergeant First Class/Sergeant
Cabo Primero First Corporal 11–18 years Staff Sergeant/Lance Sergeant,
Master Corporal
Cabo Segundo Second Corporal 4–10 years Sergeant/Corporal
Cabo Corporal 2–3 years after graduation Corporal/Lance Corporal
Soldado Soldier 1–5 years after recruitment,
one year after graduation
Private First Class
Cabo Dragonante (student) Corporal Dragonite (student) 2 years of study Private
Soldado Dragonante/Alumno (student) Soldier Dragonite (student) 1 year of study (save when recruited into the Army) Private Basic/NCO Candidate

Officer ranks[edit]

Officer ranks are derived from those of the German and French Armies. While field grade and senior grade officer rank insignia show German influence, general officer rank insignia are similar to those used in the French Army but in red shoulder straps (similar to those used by the United States Army) with two to four golden stars.

Rank[18] General Officers Superior Officers Chief Officers Subaltern/Junior Officers
Grade General of the Army Divisional General Brigade General Brigadier Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Sub-lieutenant Ensign
NATO pay grade code OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF-1 N/A
Rank English translation Years of service US Army Equivalent rank/British Army Equivalent rank
Capitan General Captain General now inactive General of the Army/Field Marshal/Marshal
General de Ejercito General of the Army General
General de Division Divisional General Lieutenant General
General de Brigada Brigade General 31–32 years Major General
Brigadier Brigadier,
Colonel Commandant
Brigadier General, Brigadier/
Colonel Commandant (honorary rank for senior Colonels)
Coronel Colonel 26–30 years Colonel
Teniente Coronel Lieutenant Colonel 21–25 years Lieutenant Colonel
Mayor Major 16–20 years Major
Capitan Captain 10–15 years Captain
Teniente Lieutenant 5–9 years First lieutenant/Lieutenant
Subteniente Sublieutenant 2–4 years Second lieutenant
Alferez Ensign 1 year of service after graduation Acting Lieutenant/3rd Lieutenant/Ensign
Subalferez Junior Ensign, Sub-ensign (student) 3–4 years of study Officer Cadet/Student Officer 1
Cadete Cadet Officer (student) 1–2 years of study Officer Candidate/Student Officer 2


See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance, 2002–2003
  3. ^ Chile : Country Studies – Federal Research Division, Library of Congress
  4. ^ Chile (01/08)
  5. ^
  6. ^ Memoria Chilena, Guardia Nacional, retrieved on 4 December 2012
  7. ^ Rberto Hernández Ponce, La Guardia Nacional de Chile. Apuntes sobre su origen y organización, 1808-1848, Universidad Católica de Chile, retrieved on 4 December 2012
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Resende-Santos 2007
  9. ^ William F. Sater; Holger H. Herwig (1999). The Grand Illusion: The Prussianization of the Chilean Army. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 204–. ISBN 0-8032-2393-5. 
  10. ^ a b Luis Vitale, Intervenciones militares y poder fáctico en la política chilena, de 1830 al 2.000, Santiago, 2000
  11. ^ Juan Bragassi H, Las Milicias Republicanas de Chile, retrieved on 4 December 2012
  12. ^ Paul W. Drake; Ivan Jaksic (1995). The Struggle for Democracy in Chile. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 4–. ISBN 0-8032-6600-6. 
  13. ^ Kristina Mani, Democratization and Strategic Thinking: What the Militaries in Argentina and Chile Learned in the 1990s, Columbia University, 2003, retrieved on 4 August 2013
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ World Air Forces 2013 -, pg 12, December 11, 2012 -
  17. ^ BlueBird seals SpyLite deal with Chilean army -, April 9, 2013
  18. ^


  • Resende-Santos, Joao (2007). Neorealism, States, and the Modern Mass Army. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978 - 0 - 521 - 86948 - 5. 

External links[edit]