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Chilean Navy

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Chilean Navy

Chilean Navy
''Armada de Chile''
Coat of arms of the Chilean Navy
Coat of arms of the Chilean Navy
Active 1817–present
Country  Chile
Size 25,000 personnel
71 vessels
8 frigates
4 submarines
4 amphibious warfare ship
3 fast attack craft
8 patrol boat
2 corvettes
39 auxiliary ship
Motto Vencer o Morir
("Conquer or Die")
March Brazas a ceñir (Brass on the Anchors) by WO1 Luis Mella Toro (Official hymn)
Anniversaries 21 May, Día de las Glorias Navales (Navy Day)
Engagements Chilean War of Independence
Peruvian War of Independence
War of the Confederation
Chincha Islands War
War of the Pacific
Panama Crisis of 1885
1891 Chilean Civil War
Commander in Chief of the Navy Admiral Enrique Larrañaga Martin
Lord Thomas Cochrane
Manuel Blanco Encalada
Juan José Latorre
Arturo Prat
Jorge Montt
Juan Williams Rebolledo
Naval Ensign[1] Ensign of Chile
Naval Jack Jack of Chile
Roundel of Naval Aviation Jack of Chile

The Chilean Navy (Armada de Chile) is the naval force of Chile.


  • History 1
    • Origins and the Wars of Independence (1817–1830) 1.1
    • Age of exploration, territorial expansion and wars (1830–1885) 1.2
    • Civil war and arms race (1885–1915) 1.3
    • Depression, mutiny and political turmoils (1915–1950) 1.4
    • Role in Antarctica, incidents with Argentina and the navy in the government (1950–1990) 1.5
  • Present 2
  • Wars and conflicts 3
  • Inventory 4
    • Submarine 4.1
    • Frigates 4.2
    • Fast attack craft 4.3
    • Replenishment vessels 4.4
    • Amphibious warfare 4.5
    • Patrol boat 4.6
    • Oceanographic research ship 4.7
  • Aircraft inventory 5
  • Chilean Marines 6
  • Future Navy acquisitions 7
  • SHOA 8
  • Ranks and rates 9
  • Commanders-in-chief 10
  • Historic ships 11
  • Gallery 12
  • Footnotes 13
  • Endnotes 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16


Origins and the Wars of Independence (1817–1830)

The origins of the Chilean Navy date back to 1817. A year before General Bernardo O'Higgins prophetically declared that the Chilean victory at the Battle of Chacabuco subsequent victories wouldn't be of significance if Chile did not gain control of the sea.

This led to the development of the Chilean Navy, and the first legal resolutions outlining the organization of the institution were created. Chile's First National Fleet and the Academy for Young Midshipmen which was the predecessor of the current Naval Academy were founded, as well as the Marine Corps and the Supply Commissary.

The Chilean Squadron sails off for Perú

The first commander of the Chilean Navy was anglophone complement of officers and midshipmen and crews of British, Irish and American seamen. He became a key figure in the war against loyalist forces in Peru and was instrumental in taking control of the fortresses of Valdivia even though he failed in his attempt to conquer Chiloé Island.

In March 1824, the Chilean Navy and Army undertook an expedition to expel the Spanish from Battle of Mocopulli. It was only after Ramón Freire's Chiloé expedition in 1826 did the royalist forces at Chiloé under the command of Antonio de Quintanilla, surrender and Chiloé joined the new Chilean nation.

Age of exploration, territorial expansion and wars (1830–1885)

After the wars of independence, a series of conflicts demonstrated the importance of the Navy to the nation. First of these conflicts were the War of the Confederation (1836–1839), the Chincha Islands War (1864–1866) and the War of the Pacific (1879–1883). The founding of Fuerte Bulnes in the Strait of Magellan marked the starting point of a series of Chilean Navy explorations, led by navy hydrographers like Francisco Vidal Gormaz and Francisco Hudson, in the unknown zone between the Strait of Magellan and Chiloé. To deal with this new area of activity the navy founded in 1874 the Hydrographic Office whose first director was Francisco Vidal Gormaz.

The Chilean war hero and martyr Arturo Prat is regarded as the ultimate example of the commitment of the Navy to its country, after his death while leading a boarding party onto the enemy ironclad Huáscar at the naval battle of Iquique on 21 May 1879, during the War against Peru and Bolivia. The anniversary of this battle is celebrated every year as a public holiday called Día de las Glorias Navales. Prat is also considered to be one of the co-founders of the Naval Seaman Training School in 1868, which began operating a year later, and was one of the Naval Academy's finest graduate officers that in 1943 it became the National Naval School "Arturo Prat" in his honor.

Chilean Navy officer's uniform, circa 1890

The Navy further distinguished itself during the Battle of Pisagua in 1879, led by both the Navy and the Marine Artillery Groups and Marine Infantry, the world's first modern military landing operation, that resulted in Chilean victories in other parts of Peru's Tarapaca region, and resulted to its annexation by Chile.

After navy visits to Easter Island in 1875 and 1887, Chilean navy officer Policarpo Toro managed to negotiate an incorporation of the island into Chile with native Rapanui in 1888. By occupying Easter Island, Chile joined the imperial nations.[2](p53)

With the Peruvian Navy destroyed, Bolivia becoming a landlocked country and Argentina having only a brown-water navy the Chilean Navy had a regional hegemony in the years following the War of the Pacific. To secure this advantage and not letting new Argentine acquisitions challenge Chilean Naval power the Chilean government decided to modernize its navy. The modernization plan included the ordering of two cruisers, two torpedo boat destroyers and the modernization of two armoured ships in English docks.

Civil war and arms race (1885–1915)

Chilean Navy ship purchases and orders, 1887–1912
Year Ships Builder
1887 1 pre-dreadnought battleship
2 protected cruisers
2 torpedo boats
La Seyne
La Seyne
1891 Chilean Civil War
1892 1 protected cruiser Elswick, Tyne and Wear
1895 1 protected cruiser
1 armored cruiser
1896 1 armoured cruiser
6 torpedo boats
1901 2 pre-dreadnought battleships
1 protected cruiser
1902 arms control treaty with Argentina
1911 1 dreadnought battleship
6 destroyers
Armstrong Whitworth
J. Samuel White
1912 1 dreadnought battleship Armstrong Whitworth

A new pre-dreadnought battleship, Jorge Montt was elected president.

Not all navy officers sided with the congress. Some like Juan Williams Rebolledo, Juan José Latorre and Policarpo Toro remained on the presidential side and Francisco Vidal Gormaz declared his neutrality. After the war these officers were removed from their offices. In contrast to these officers whose career or influence in the navy was truncated by the war, the 1891 Chilean Civil War served as a starting point of a successful career in the navy for a generation of young officers like Francisco Nef and others who sided with the congressionals who won the war.

After incidents with Chile in 1872, 1877 and 1878 Argentina had decided that a brownwater navy, even if modern, was not enough to back up its ambitions in Patagonia and the South Atlantic. Both countries were distracted in the next few years by Argentina's internal military operations against natives and Chile's War of the Pacific against Bolivia and Peru, but by 1890 a full-fledged naval arms race was underway between the two.[3] The Boundary treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina had been a major success in laying the groundwork for nearly all of Chile's and Argentina's 5600 km of shared borders, but the drawing a boundaries in the largely unexplored inland Patagonia soon became a major source of territorial disputes. Over the 1880s and 1890s Chile and Argentina engaged in an arms race fueled by nationalistic rhetoric and tax income from their blooming economies. Both countries signed a treaty in 1902 to end the arms race. However, in 1904 Brazil ordered two Minas Geraes-class dreadnoughts to be built by the United Kingdom.[4] In response, Argentina ordered two Rivadavia-class dreadnoughts with an option for a third from the United States. They also ordered twelve destroyers from three nations in Europe. With its major rival acquiring so many modern vessels,[upper-alpha 1] Chile was forced to respond, though this was delayed by a financial depression brought on by a major earthquake and a drastic fall in the nitrate market in 1906 and 1907, respectively.[6][upper-alpha 2]

During the 1890s, the Chilean Navy carried out many hydrographic surveys in the Patagonian channels aimed to improve navigation and explore the river basins of Patagonia. A German geoprapher, Hans Steffen, led navy explorations to western Patagonia, laying the groundwork for colonization of what would be Aisén Region years later. The Navy occasionally collaborated with European naturalists such as Carl Skottsberg in their surveys of Chilean territory.

Depression, mutiny and political turmoils (1915–1950)

The Chilean Air Force bombs the Chilean Fleet at the port of Coquimbo during the Chilean naval mutiny of 1931.(Probably a faked photo)

In 1931, the navy once more made headlines in Chilean politics when large portions of it (26 ships) begun a mutiny that demanded the president to rescind a salary reduction. The demands were later expanded to include an agrarian reform, industrial "solidarity" and the payment of the external debt by the "millionaires". The mutineers had their ships located at Coquimbo and Talcahuano's naval base which they controlled. Chilean government responded by sending the Chilean Air Force to bombard the ships in Coquimbo and charging Talcahuano's naval base. After the quelling of the rebellion the navy was purged, although the mutiny had its origin among the lower ranks. It did not affect further expansion of it, however.

Role in Antarctica, incidents with Argentina and the navy in the government (1950–1990)

Chile formulated its Antarctic claim in 1940 and in 1947 the navy established the first Chilean base, Captain Arturo Prat Base, in the continent before the Chilean Army or Air Force established their own bases. Since then the navy has played a major role in supplying Chilean bases and performing numerous rescue missions among them of MS Explorer in 1972 and 2007.

The Navy's sailing school ship, the Buque Escuela Esmeralda, began operations in 1952. It since has made various trips around the world, with selected cadet officers and NCO's on board trained in ship handling and operations, as a requirement for graduation.

Beginning in the 1950s, the Chilean Navy began to be involved in a series of incidents with the Argentine Navy and Argentine civilians in the disputed area of Beagle Channel and Cape Horn. This incidents took both form of incursions into Chilean waters by Argentine fishing ships and provocations such the shelling of a Chilean lighthouse by the Argentine Navy during the Snipe incident of 1958. During the critical phases of the Beagle conflict of the late 1970s the Chilean Navy played a decisive role in defending Chilean sovereignty over Picton, Lennox and Nueva islands that the Argentine Navy planned to seize. While Argentina aborted its invasion plan, Operation Soberanía in December 1978, Argentina went rather into war with the United Kingdom in the Falklands just after 4 years. During that conflict the Chilean Navy provided diversion to favour the British, as it was understood that if Argentina won the war they would once again try to seize Picton, Lennox and Nueva and Cape Horn.

1964 would see the birth of the modern Chilean Marine Corps of today.

Naval educational institutions were reformed in 1968 when president Eduardo Frei Montalva created the Naval Specialities Schools System with headquarters in Las Salinas Naval Base in Viña del Mar. One of its schools, the Naval Seaman Training School, became the Seamen's School of the Navy "Captain Alejandro Navarrete Cisterna" on the same year as its centenary, in honor of the first naval seaman to rise through the ranks to become a naval officer. The NSSS soon became the Naval Polytechnic Academy in 1995, through a merger of all its component schools, some of these schools staying as independent constituent academies.

After the 1973 Chilean coup d'etat together with the Army, the Air Force and the Carabiniers, the Navy, led by Admiral Jose Toribio Merino became part of the Government Junta led by Army commander in chief Augusto Pinochet, and upon the latter's resignation from the Junta leadership in 1981, Adm. Merino became its chairman until March 1990, presiding over its sessions and those of the Legislative Commission, and was also concurrently the National Defense Minister. The training ship Esmeralda functioned as a floating prison and torture chamber for political prisoners during the 1973–1980 period of the military dictatorship.[8] It is claimed that probably over a hundred persons were kept there at times and subjected to hideous treatment.[9][10] It was also an unprecedented period of growth and expansion of the naval service as more vessels became part of it, the Marines strengthed and the Navy's special forces unit raised.


The 25,000-person navy, including 5,200 Marines, is directed by Admiral Enrique Larrañaga Martin as of 2013. Of the fleet of sixty-six surface vessels (soon to be increased to seventy-four), twenty-one are major combatant ships based in Valparaíso. The navy operates its own aircraft for transport and patrol; there are no fighter or bomber aircraft. The Navy also operates four submarines and a tender ship to support them, all based in Talcahuano. The Navy permits the integration of Chile's Pacific and Southern island regions, thus integrating its disjointed geography. The transport of passengers, especially during the school year or in cases of emergency, together with the supply of provisions and fuel, are of key importance to the inhabitants of these insular zones.

The Chilean Navy is generally considered to be among the most capable and professional in the Americas, considered by specialists the fourth most capable navy in the Americas, behind Canadian, Brazilian and American navies, and is heavily aligned with significant naval powers such as the British Royal Navy.

The institution regularly carries out civil operations whereby Navy professionals provide social assistance and health care to the civilian population, and provide support in cases of natural catastrophe.

Saar 4 type ship of the Chilean Navy

It also undertakes preventative education campaigns for Chile's population on issues that include security on beaches and seaside resorts and measures to be taken in the case of a tsunami.

The most important naval bases and supply depots are (from north to south) in the Pacific Ocean: Iquique, Easter Island, Valparaíso, Talcahuano, Puerto Montt, in the Atlantic zone: Strait of Magellan: Punta Arenas, in the Beagle Channel: Puerto Williams, and in Antarctica: Captain Arturo Prat Base. These are now spread into 5 Naval Zones: the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Naval Zones.

Wars and conflicts



Type vessels source mission photos notes
Type 209 submarine SS-20 Thomson
SS-21 Simpson
 Germany submarine updated in 2009 in ASMAR, among the improvements include the ability to launch Exocet missiles and the French combat management system SUBTICS.
Scorpène-class submarine SS-23 O'Higgins
SS-22 Carrera


Type vessel(s) source mission photos notes
Surface Combatants
Type 22 frigate Almirante Williams
 United Kingdom General Purpose Modernized in Talcahuano by ASMAR. Addition of an OTO Melara 76 mm gun, SAM Barak VL and SSM Harpoon.
Type 23 frigate Almirante Cochrane
 United Kingdom Anti-submarine warfare
Almirante Lynch
Almirante Condell
M-class frigate Almirante Blanco Encalada
(ex-Abraham van der Hulst)
 Netherlands General Purpose
Almirante Riveros
(ex-Tjerk Hiddes)
L-class frigate Almirante Latorre
(ex-Jacob van Heemskerck)
 Netherlands Anti-aircraft warfare
Capitán Prat
(ex-Witte de With)

Fast attack craft

| Sa'ar 4-class missile boat | (LM-32) Chipana
(LM-31) Casma
(LM-34) Angamos |  Israel | Missile boat | | Northern Command |}

Replenishment vessels

Type vessel source mission photos notes
Underway replenishment
Henry J. Kaiser-class oiler AO-52 Almirante Montt
(ex-Andrew J. Higgins)
 United States Underway replenishment
Araucano AO-53 Araucano  Sweden Underway replenishment

Amphibious warfare

Type vessel source mission photos notes
Amphibious warfare
Foudre class LSDH-91 Sargento Aldea
 France Landing platform dock
Aquiles AP-41  Chile Amphibious warfare
 Chile Amphibious warfare

Patrol boat

Type vessel source mission photos notes
Patrol boat
Grumete-class patrol boats (LPC-1814) Díaz
(LPC-1815) Bolados
(LPC-1816) Salinas
(LPC-1817) Téllez
(LPC-1818) Bravo
(LPC-1820) Machado
(LPC-1822) Troncoso
(LPC-1823) Hudson
 Israel Patrol boat

Smaller vessels distributed in the 5 naval zones are:

boat Name
Patrulleros de Zona Marítima PZM (OPV-81) Piloto Pardo, (OPV-82) Comandante Toro, (OPV-83) Marinero Fuentealba.
Submarine tender (BMS-42) Almirante Merino. (Decommissioned 15/01/2015).
Barge Class "Elicura" (LSM-90) Elicura, (LSM-94) Orompello
Rescue vessel (BRS-63) Ingeniero Slight
Icebreaker (AP-46) Almirante Oscar Viel
Hydrographic patrol: Corneta Cabrales (AGS -61) Cabo de Hornos
Tugboat (ATF-66) Galvarino, (ATF-67) Lautaro
Class Patrolman "Protector" (Coast Guard) (LSG-1603) Alacalufe, (LSG-1604) Hallef, (LSG-1609) Aysén, (LSG-1610) Corral, (LSG-1611) Concepción, (LSG-1612) Caldera, (LSG-1613) San Antonio, (LSG-1614) Antofagasta, (LSG-1615) Arica, (LSG-1616) Coquimbo, (LSG-1617) Puerto Natales, (LSG-1618) Valparaíso, (LSG-1619) Punta Arenas, (LSG-1620) Talcahuano, (LSG-1621) Quintero, (LSG-1622) Chiloe, (LSG-1623) Puerto Montt, (LSG-1624) Iquique
Patrullero Clase "Taitao" (PSG-71) Micalvi, (PSG-72) Ortiz, (PSG-73) Isaza, (PSG-78) Sibbald, (PSH-77) Cabrales, (PMD-74) Cirujano Videla
Patrol boats 20 Class Patrol Boats "Arcangel" and 15 Class Patrol Boats "Defender"
Minor patrol boat 35 boats
2 patrol boats Yagán and Ona
2 Historical relic Monitor Huáscar and Oberon-class submarine O'Brien

Oceanographic research ship

Cabo de Hornos, an oceanographic research ship operated by the Chilean Navy, delivered to the Navy in April 2013.[11][12]

Aircraft inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service[13] Notes
Cessna O-2A Skymaster  United States Search and rescue (SAR) O-2A Skymaster 8 To be retired
Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante  Brazil Maritime patrol aircraft (MPA)
Tactical transport
EMB-111AN Bandeirulha
EMB-111CN Bandeirante
EADS CASA C-295  Spain Maritime patrol aircraft/Anti-submarine warfare
P-295 MPA Persuader
P-295 ASW Persuader
Lockheed P-3 Orion  United States Maritime patrol aircraft/Anti-submarine warfare
/Anti-surface warfare (MPA/ASW/ASuW)
P-3ACh Orion 3 Service life to extend past 2020.[14]
Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer   Switzerland Trainer PC-7 Turbo Trainer 7 Originally 10 PC-7 in fleet.
None lost in accidents
MBB Bo 105  Germany Search and rescue (SAR) Bo-105CBS Bolkow (UH-05) 5 To be retired
Bell 206  United States Search and rescue (SAR) Bell 206AS JetRanger III (UH-57A)
Bell 206B3 JetRanger III (UH-57B)
To be retired
Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin  France Search and rescue (SAR) AS-365N2 Dauphin 2 (HH-65)
SA-365F1 Dauphin 2 (HH-65)
SA-365F1 former Irish Air Corps
Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma  France Anti-submarine warfare/Anti-surface warfare (ASW/ASuW)
Search and rescue (SAR)
AS-332F1 Super Puma (SH-32)
AS-332L1 Super Puma (HH-32)
1 lost in night-time ASW
training accident
In LSDH Sargento Aldea

Chilean Marines

Chilean Navy special forces sailors seen here using the MP5N.

The Chilean Marines or (Infanteria de Marina de Chile) are the land/amphibious attack force of the Chilean Navy. The 5,000 man force combines special training and tactics with state-of-the-art equipment.

Future Navy acquisitions

Amphibious landing ship Foudre


The Servicio Hidrográfico y Oceanográfico de la Armada de Chile (SHOA, Spanish for Hydrological and Oceanographic Service of the Chilean Navy) is an agency of the Chilean Navy managing situations dealing with hydrology and oceanography including tides and tsunamis. SHOA is also the official Chilean government timekeeper. [1]

Ranks and rates

Ranks and rates are shown on the sleeves of all Chilean Navy summer uniforms (and on the shoulder boards on winter or summer service uniforms as well for officers and WOs only). Shoulder and sleeve ranks are inspired by those in the British Royal Navy, the French Navy and the German Navy. Officers, WO's and NCO's of the Marines add the Infante de Marina (Marine Soldier) title to their ranks from Seaman onward, as the Marines are part of the Navy.

All officers, active or reserve, study at the Arturo Prat Naval Academy and later in the Naval Polytechnic Academy and the Naval War Academy receive improved training and education to be promoted as well as training in his/her specialty field while all active and reserve NCOs (known in the Navy through the general term Men of the Sea) study at the Seamen's School of the Navy "Alejandro Navarette Cisnerna" and later in the Naval Polytechnic Academy and its attached and independent colleges for later specialty training.

Navy Enlisted Personnel Ranks
Insignia Rank
Naval Deckhand,Grumete Naval
or Marine Infantry Deckhand, Grumete de Infantería de Marina
(during training)
1st Seaman, Marinero 1°
or 1st Soldier, Soldado 1°
(granted on completing training, i.e. there is no "2nd Seaman" rank)
2nd Corporal
Cabo 2°
1st Corporal
Cabo 1°
2nd Sergeant
Sargento 2°
1st Sergeant
Sargento 1°
Sub-officer Major
Suboficial Mayor
Navy Officer Ranks
Insignia (Sleeve) Insignia (Shoulder) Rank
Midshipman (Guardiamarina)
Second lieutenant
Teniente 2°
1st Lieutenant
Teniente 1°
Corvette Captain
Capitán de Corbeta
Frigate Captain
Capitán de Fragata
Ship-of-the-Line Captain
Capitán de Navío
Counter Admiral
Vice Admiral


Historic ships



  1. ^ By 1911, the disparity between the navies of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil had grown; Brazil had nearly four times the tonnage of Chile, while Argentina had nearly three and a half times as much.[5]
  2. ^ Livermore and Grant, who cites Livermore's work,[7] both attribute part of this delay to a 1908 earthquake, but no major earthquake hit Chile in that year, cf. List of earthquakes in Chile. However, the Valparaíso earthquake of 1906 caused nearly 4,000 deaths, a tsunami, and a wide swath of destruction over the Chilean capital and surrounding areas. Given this, it seems likely that Livermore's 1908 earthquake was a typographical error inadvertently repeated in Grant's account.


  1. ^ Chile uses its national flag as an ensign.
  2. ^ William Sater, Chile and the United States: Empires in Conflict, 1990 by the University of Georgia Press, ISBN 0-8203-1249-5
  3. ^ Schenia, Naval History, 45–46; Garrent, "Beagle Channel," 85–87.
  4. ^ Livermore, "Battleship Diplomacy," 32.
  5. ^ Livermore, "Battleship Diplomacy," 41.
  6. ^ Livermore, "Battleship Diplomacy," 33–41.
  7. ^ Grant, Rulers, Guns, and Money, 168; Livermore, "Battleship Diplomacy," 40.
  8. ^ Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (English translation of the Rettig report, PDF file)
  9. ^ Esmeralda: The torture ship Archived former site of a committee led by Germán F. Westphal, a former Chilean political prisoner and a professor at the University of Maryland in the United States. They believe the ship should not be allowed in ports as long as the crimes remain unpunished. Last updated 15 March 2006.
  10. ^ Niegan libertad en crimen de sacerdote en la Esmeralda, La Nación, 3 May 2008.(Spanish)
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "World Military Aircraft Inventory", Aerospace Source Book 2007, Aviation Week & Space Technology, 15 January 2007. -
  14. ^ Chile; P-3 Orions life extension plans -, 13 July 2013
  15. ^ Chile; Navy interested in new light maritime patrol aircraft -, 23 July 2013
  16. ^ Chile to add light aircraft, UAVs for maritime surveillance -, 31 July 2013
  17. ^ Chilean navy considers Hermes 900 deal -, 7 October 2013


Garrett, James L. "The Beagle Channel Dispute: Confrontation and Negotiation in the Southern Cone." Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 27, no. 3 (1985): 81–109. JSTOR 165601. ISSN 0022-1937. OCLC 2239844.
Grant, Jonathan A. Rulers, Guns, and Money: The Global Arms Trade in the Age of Imperialism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-674-02442-7. OCLC 166262725
Livermore, Seward W. "Battleship Diplomacy in South America: 1905–1925." Journal of Modern History 16, no. 1 (1944): 31–48. JSTOR 1870986. ISSN 0022-2801. OCLC 62219150.

External links

  • Armada de Chile website (Spanish)
  • Armada de Chile website (English)
  • Ranks of the Armada de Chile
  • Official Chilean time webpage in English; from SHOA.
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