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Chile: Army
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Mission and Organization of the Armed Forces > Army

ARMY


The Chilean Army has long enjoyed a reputation as a creditable military force. Although it had not fought a war against a foreign enemy since the War of the Pacific, the army is still well regarded by armed forces throughout Latin America. However, it has been the most backward of the three services, having fallen behind the navy and FACh in the modernization process. Nevertheless, in 1993-94 the army was undertaking modernization measures, including the replacement of its old armored vehicles with French AMX-30 or German Leopard-1 tanks.

The army divides the country into seven military areas (AMs) headquartered in Antofagasta, Santiago, Concepción, Valdivia, Punta Arenas, Iquique, and Coihaique. AM 1 (Antofagasta) embraces the province of Antofagasta and Atacama Region. AM 2 (Santiago) includes the capital and the provinces of San Felipe de Aconcagua, Colchagua, and Valparaíso, as well as Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins Region and Coquimbo Region. AM 3 (Concepción) encompasses the provinces of Bío-Bío, Concepción, Curicó, Linares, Malleco, Ñuble, and Talca, as well as Maule Region. AM 4 (Valdivia) contains the provinces of Cautín, Llanquihue, and Valdivia. AM 5 (Punta Arenas) shares its borders with Magallanes Province. AM 6 (Iquique) consists of Tarapacá Region. AM 7 (Coihaique) encompasses the provinces of Aisén and Chiloé.

In 1993 the army totaled about 54,000 personnel, including 27,000 conscripts. It is organized into seven divisions -- one for each of the seven AMs. Five of the divisions are grouped under two army corps headquarters. The First Corps, based in Iquique, comprises the First Division and the Sixth Division. The Second Corps, headquartered in Punta Arenas, controls the Fourth Division, the Fifth Division and the Seventh Division. In the early 1990s, it appeared that the Second Division and the Third Division might ultimately be grouped under a third corps headquarters in keeping with the strategic doctrine developed during the 1970s, which envisaged the formation of the army into three divisions of varying sizes in time of war.

The composition of the divisions has varied considerably. The Second Division and the Third Division have between two and three times the strength of the other five. Each division essentially incorporates an artillery regiment and a regiment or battalion each of engineers, signals, and logistic troops, plus a variable number of infantry and mechanized cavalry units.

The First Division, headquartered in Antofagasta, includes a commando battalion and adds three motorized infantry regiments and one armored cavalry regiment, plus an antitank guided-weapon (ATGW) company to the basic elements. The Second Division, based in Santiago, adds three motorized regiments and five mountain infantry regiments, an armored cavalry regiment, and a motorcycle reconnaissance group to its basic support units. The Third Division, headquartered in Concepción, includes two infantry regiments, three mountain regiments, and two armored cavalry regiments. The Fourth Division, based in Valdivia, includes a commando battalion and adds two infantry regiments, one mountain regiment, and two armored cavalry regiments, plus a tank battalion to its basic support units. The Fifth Division, headquartered in Punta Arenas, also includes a commando battalion, plus two infantry regiments, two armored cavalry regiments, and an antitank battalion. The Sixth Division, based in Iquique, has a full commando regiment, plus two infantry regiments, one mountain regiment, and two armored cavalry regiments. The Seventh Division, based in Coihaique, was raised from brigade status in 1990 and comprises an infantry regiment, a reinforced mountain infantry regiment, a commando company, a horsed cavalry group, a motorcycle reconnaissance squadron, an artillery regiment, an aviation section, an engineer company, and a logistics battalion. It was scheduled to acquire a tank battalion from the Fourth Division.

Army troops include an army headquarters battalion, an aviation regiment, engineer and signals regiments, and a transport battalion. Each infantry regiment contains one to four battalions. Eight of the battalions are designated as reinforced (reforzado) because they have additional attached combat and logistic support elements to enable them to function as semiindependent combat teams.

The difficulty in acquiring matériel during the period of international ostracism that followed the 1973 coup resulted in an extremely varied equipment inventory likely to cause considerable logistics problems. In 1993 the army's aviation regiment, created in 1970, operated 111 aircraft. Each major army unit had a close defense antiaircraft artillery section.

Data as of March 1994




Last Updated: March 1994


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Chile was first published in 1994. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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