Chilean Army

Chilean Army
Ejército de Chile
Chilean Army emblem
Active 1603, 1810[1] – present
Country  Chile
Type Army
Role Land warfare
Size 50,000 (9,200 conscripts) [2]
Part of Ministry of National Defense (Chile)
General HQ Santiago
Patron Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Motto(s) Siempre vencedor, jamás vencido ("Always Victorious, Never Defeated")
Colors Red, Grey          
March Los viejos estandartes ("Old Banners")
Anniversaries September 19th (Army Day)
Engagements War of Arauco
Chilean War of Independence
Freedom Expedition of Perú
Chilean Civil War of 1829–30
War of the Confederation
1851 Chilean Revolution
Revolution of 1859
Chincha Islands War
Occupation of Araucanía
War of the Pacific
1891 Chilean Civil War
Chilean naval mutiny of 1931
1973 Chilean coup d'état
Beagle conflict
Gen. Humberto Oviedo
Bernardo O'Higgins, José Miguel Carrera, Manuel Bulnes, Manuel Baquedano, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, Augusto Pinochet
Flag of the Chilean Army chief
Fin flash

The Chilean Army (Spanish: Ejército de Chile) is the land arm of the Military of Chile. This 50,000-strong army (9,200 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 in the Americas.[3][4]

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


War of Arauco

Main article: War of Arauco

19th Century

The Army of the Kingdom of Chile was created on December 2, 1810 by order of the First National Government Junta of Chile.[5] The army was actively involved 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 reorganized its military structure by creating the Military Academy of Chile, which was founded by General O'Higgins in 1817.

Guardia Nacional

Diego Portales set up a civil militia, the Guardia Nacional, to end one of the worst stages of militarism in Chilean 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


War of the Pacific

Main article: War of the Pacific

Military emulation 1885-1914

Noncommissioned Officers' School during on 19 September 2014

During the War of the Pacific, many high-ranking officers won valuable insights into the state of the army and became aware that the army required rebuilding. Losses, material destruction, and organizational flaws regarding strategic planning and officer training, 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, the deliberate systematic imitation of the military technology, organisation, and doctrine of one country by another[Notes 1] was the danger of war with Argentina. The emulation was backed by a broad coalition of civil and military leaders.

Chile hired a French military training mission in 1858,[8]:129 and the Chilean legation in Berlin was instructed to find a training mission during the War of the Pacific in 1881. But large-scale emulation of the Prussian Army began in 1886 with the appointment of Captain Emil Körner, a graduate of the renowned Kriegsakademie in Berlin. Also appointed were 36 Prussian officers to train officer cadets in the Chilean Military Academy. The training occurred in three phases; the first took place from 1885 to 1891 during the presidency of Domingo Santa María, the second was the post-civil-war phase, and the third was the 1906 reorganization.[8]:128-

The emulation was focused in armaments, conscription, officer recruitment and instruction, and general staff organization as well as 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 DM in 1893, 2,000,000 DM in 1895 and 15,000,000 DM in 1898. Ammunition 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 soldiers. In 1900 Chile became the first country in Latin America to enforce a system of compulsory 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 former conscripts were not retrained periodically.[8]:137

Officer education 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 continuous study of artillery, infantry, cartography, history, topography, logistics, tactics, etc., for a modern, professional and technically trained officer corps. In 1886, the "Academia de Guerra" (War Academy) was founded "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 service. By the mid-1890s Körner organized the courses for a 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 followers set sail north to join the Congressional forces in Iquique. He became chief architect of the new army and, though Estanislao del Canto formally was commander-in-chief, Körner led 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 Administration.[8]:147-

20th Century

Milicia Republicana

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 May 7, 20,000 militiamen marched past President Arturo Alessandri in the streets of Santiago. In Las Mercedes' plot, 1933, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Pedro Vignola called "to resist the Milicia Republicana by any means" and he was forced to retire from his post.[10] In 1936, the militia was disbanded.[10][11]

U.S. Influence

The Army under Pinochet

Chilean soldiers burning books after the coup d'état 1973)

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]

The Army, with now Captain General Augusto Pinochet, leader of the coup, as Commander-in-chief of both the Army and the Armed Forces, led the national mobilization effort in 1978 as the Beagle conflict began to hit the country. The Army was on full alert status during the duration of the crisis.

Patricio Aylwin became 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, amended by Pinochet's regime, ensured the continued influence of Pinochet and his commanders.

The Chilean Army today

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 its 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 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 Alcázar 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, starting in 1994. Thus Alcázar, 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 continued, reinforcing a conflict-based mindset in the army.[13]



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

Order Of Battle

Army General Headquarters, in Santiago.

Land Operations Command, headquartered in Concepcion.

Training and Doctrine Command (Comando de Institutos y Doctrina)

Force's Support Command (Comando de Apoyo de la Fuerza)

Army Independent Commands

Army General Staff (Estado Mayor General del Ejército)

Military Equipment

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 modified the operational structure, creating armoured brigades throughout the entire territory and a new special operations brigade, while preserving the current divisional scheme.


Weapon Caliber Origin Notes
Pistols and Submachine Guns
FAMAE FN-750 9×19mm NATO  Chile Main pistol. Locally produced version of the CZ-75.
Beretta Px4 9x19mm NATO / .40 S&W / .45 ACP  Italy Special forces
HK MP5 9×19mm NATO  Germany
FAMAE SAF 9×19mm NATO  Chile Standard issue submachine gun. Locally designed variation on the SG 540.
FAMAE SAF-200 9×19mm NATO  Chile Tactical variation of the regular SAF
Assault Rifles and Carbines
M4 carbine 5.56×45mm NATO  United States Special Forces
SG 540-1M 5.56×45mm NATO  Chile Main issue rifle, being replaced in northern units by the Galil ACE. SG 540-1M upgraded by Famae.
Galil ACE 5.56×45mm NATO  Israel Standard issue rifle, replacing SIG 540.
Sniper Rifles
FAMAE FD-200 7.62×51mm NATO  Chile Locally produced version of the SG 540 modified as a sniper rifle
Barrett M82A1M 12.7×99mm NATO  United States
PGM 338 .338 Lapua Magnum (8.6x70mm)  France
SIG Sauer SSG 3000 7.62×51mm NATO   Switzerland
Machine Guns
FN MINIMI 5.56×45mm NATO  Belgium Light machine gun
MG3 7.62×51mm NATO  Germany General-purpose machine gun
M60E4 7.62×51mm NATO  United States General-purpose machine gun
FN M2HB-QCB 12.7×99mm NATO  United States Heavy Machine Gun
Grenade Launchers
M203 40×46 mm  United States Designed to be attached to a rifle
Milkor MGL 40×53 mm  South Africa Grenade launcher
Mk 19 Mod 3 40×53mm  United States Automatic grenade launcher

Infantry Support Weapons

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 vehicles
M67 recoilless rifle  United States 90 mm
Anti-tank Weapons
AT4  Sweden 84 mm


Quantity Type Origin Notes Photo
200 Leopard 2A4CHL  Germany 120 mm gun. May be upgraded to 2A5CHL in the near future.
100 Leopard 1V  Germany
105 mm gun
Infantry Fighting Vehicles
280 [14] Marder 1A3  Germany
319 AIFV-B/YPR-765  Belgium
Some equipped with Spike LR missiles
Armored personnel carrier
427 M113A1/A2  United States
404 MOWAG Piranha  Chile Built under license in Chile by FAMAE, in various configurations.
Armored Wheeled Vehicles
400+ HMMWV  United States
180 Land Rover Defender  United Kingdom
400+ AIL Storm  Israel
230 Toqui A-2  Chile
Self-propelled Artillery
8 LAR-160  Israel
1 SLM FAMAE  Chile
24 M109A5  United States 24 requested in 2011, 12 delivered in 2012 and 12 more in 2015[15]
24 M109 KAWEST  United States
Bought in 2004
24-36 Soltam M-71  Israel Bought in 1982
74 M101 howitzer  United States
54 OTO Melara Mod 56  Italy


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]


In 2013, there were 3,900 officers, 17,300 NCOs, 3,600 professional soldiers, and 9,200 conscript soldiers. In military schools, 2,400 students. Civilian employees, 8,400.[2]

Military ranks

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

Upon graduation, he/she becomes a commissioned officer (Ensign) or non-commissioned officer (Corporal), and then 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-Officers' School in Maipú.

Military ranks are similar to those in the Prussian and later German armies, including the Prussian Fähnrich rank for officers. The "Captain General" rank, first used by Bernardo O'Higgins and later by presidents Ramón Freire and Augusto Pinochet, is now inactive.

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

Enlisted ranks

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

RankSubofficer MajorsSub-officersClasses
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
GradeWarrant Officer Class 1Warrant Officer Class 2Staff SergeantSergeantMaster CorporalCorporalLance Corporal
Name in SpanishSuboficial MayorSuboficialSargento PrimeroSargento SegundoCabo PrimeroCabo SegundoCabo
NATO pay grade CodeOR-8OR-7OR-6OR-5OR-4OR-3OR-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

Officer ranks are mostly derived from those in the German army, with some remnants from other influences. While field grade and senior grade officer rank insignia show German influence, general officer rank insignia are inspired by those used in the French Army, but in red shoulder straps with two to four golden stars.

Rank[18]General OfficersSuperior OfficersChief OfficersJunior Officers
Full dress uniform
Duty dress uniform
Battle Duty Uniform (Center and South)
Battle Duty Uniform (North)
GradeArmy GeneralDivisional GeneralBrigade GeneralBrigadierColonelLieutenant ColonelMajorCaptainLieutenantSub-lieutenantEnsign
NATO pay grade codeOF-9OF-8OF-7OF-6OF-5OF-4OF-3OF-2OF-1OF-1N/A
Rank English translation Years of service US Army Equivalent rank/British Army Equivalent rank
Capitán General Captain General now inactive General of the Army/Field Marshal/Marshal
General de Ejército Army General General
General de División 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
Capitán Captain 10–15 years Captain
Teniente Lieutenant 5–9 years First lieutenant/Lieutenant
Subteniente Sublieutenant 2–4 years Second lieutenant
Alférez Ensign 1 year of service after graduation Acting Lieutenant/3rd Lieutenant/Ensign
Subalférez 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

Drill and traditions

The Chilean Army is famous for its elaborate drill, exhibited in large scale during the Día de las Glorias Navales on 21 May and the Parada Militar de Chile (Great Military Parade of Chile on 19 September. The early armed forces adopted many Prussian military traditions, and it was during this period that the Chilean military had many of its most famous victories. As a result, the drill features many 19th and early 20th century Prussian and German patterns.

Participating soldiers wear stahlhelm and pickelhaube helmets and march in unaltered stechschritt. Marching music consists of Central European marches, alongside several local compositions. Each Parada Militar on 19 September ends with a playing of Preußens Gloria by a mounted band playing in the German tradition (first played in 2007).

Pickelhaubes have been worn by the Military School and since recently by the 1st Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Artillery Regiment, and the stahlhelm only by the NCO School.

This is also the cases on parades held on 18 September, Independence Day, in the local level, whenever Army units take part.

Given the long list of battles fought by the Army, the following wear on parade historical dress uniforms from these times, but not march in the German manner:


See also


  1. Joao Resende-Santos in Neorealism, States, and the Modern Mass Army (page 3, 9-10) uses "emulation" instead of "prussianization" as a broader term. He says: "Crossnational emulation occurs in a wide variety of areas and by a equal variety of state and nonstate entities ... Emulation in all forms , by firms or states whether in economic or military areas is driven by the same pressures of competition and based in the same political criterion"


  2. 1 2 3 "Memoria del Ejército de Chile 2013" (PDF). 8 January 2015. p. 381. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  3. Chile : Country Studies – Federal Research Division, Library of Congress
  4. Chile (01/08)
  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. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 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. 1 2 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
  16. World Air Forces 2013 -, pg 12, December 11, 2012 -
  17. BlueBird seals SpyLite deal with Chilean army -, April 9, 2013


External links

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