Chilean Navy Thomson class, Thomson S-20 (German Type 209)

The Chilean Navy involvement with submarines goes back to the six H Class boats that were delivered in 1917 by the British Navy. Since then they have gained the trust of the Fleet and are nowadays thought of has an important and integral part of the Chilean defense strategy.

Current thinking is that eight to nine boats are needed to cover the very long Chilean seacoast and that Chile should be autonomous with respect of the repair and manufacture of submarines. Chilean Navy Shipyard ,ASMAR, has taken steps in that direction by being able to completely overhaul and refit both the Oberon Class and the Type 209 submarines.

Steps taken in the direction of manufacturing locally a version of the Type 209 do not seem to prosper, mainly by the inadequacy of that type to the conditions of the Chilean sea. The Type 209 target environment was the Baltic sea and not the South Pacific sea where the temperature, salinity and depth conditions are quite different.

This is why in the early 1990s the Navy submitted a request for two new submarines these were to be oceanic boats of at least 1,400 tons. These were to be new build boats with the latest technology. The race quickly decanted between the Type 209 (already in service) and the French/Spanish Scorpène CM 2000. A new comer was the offer from the British Navy of the four Upholders recently retired after very little use.

In the end, the Scorpène offer won the day and an order for two of them has been placed. They should replace the ageing Oberon class. These boats are designed for deep water operations, with sub launch missiles capability, Exoset SM-39 missile, as well as the option to add an  AIP, Air Independent Propultion, segment to the submarines during their next big refit. The construction of these boats has already begun with first steel being cut mid-1998 in France. It is to be expected that ASMAR will build a newer serie of these boats in Chile once the first two are put into service in the Chilean Navy.

Thomson S-20, Thomson class:
The Thomson S-20 is the lead boat of two German built Type 209/3, 1500 tons known in the Chilean navy as Thomson class, the second submarine is Simpson S-21.

The Thomson S-20 was laid down on November 1, 1980 in HDW, Kiel, launched October 28, 1982 and commissioned August 31, 1984.


Two boats were built by HDW with fin and associated masts lengthed by 50 cm` to cope beter with the the Oceanic wave size in Chilean coasts.

Image Country Year Description
Chile 1992 Submarine Thomson S-20, SSK Thomson class (type 209/3)
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