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Chilean Army

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Chilean Army

Chilean Army
Ejército de Chile
Chilean Army emblem
Active 1603, 1810[1] – present
Country  Chile
Type Army
Role Land warfare
Size 36,500 (9,200 conscripts) [2]
Part of Ministry of National Defense (Chile)
General HQ Santiago
Patron Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Motto 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
War of the Confederation
Chincha Islands War
War of the Pacific
1891 Chilean Civil War
Beagle conflict
Gen. Humberto Oviedo
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 36,500-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.


  • History 1
    • War of Arauco 1.1
    • 19th Century 1.2
      • Guardia Nacional 1.2.1
      • War of the Confederation 1.2.2
      • Araucanía 1.2.3
      • War of the Pacific 1.2.4
      • Military emulation 1885-1914 1.2.5
    • 20th Century 1.3
      • Milicia Republicana 1.3.1
      • U.S. Influence 1.3.2
      • The Army under Pinochet 1.3.3
    • The Chilean Army today 1.4
      • Peacekeeping 1.4.1
  • Organization 2
    • Order Of Battle 2.1
  • Military Equipment 3
    • Firearms 3.1
    • Infantry Support Weapons 3.2
    • Armour 3.3
    • Aircraft 3.4
  • Personnel 4
  • Military ranks 5
    • Enlisted ranks 5.1
    • Officer ranks 5.2
  • Drill and traditions 6
  • Commanders-in-chief 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12


War of Arauco

19th Century

The Army of the

  • Official Chilean Army site (Spanish)
  • Ranks of Chilean Army site, Chilean Army website: Chilean Army, archived from the original on 28 August 2010, retrieved 28 August 2010 
  • Latin American Light Weapons National Inventories

External links

  • Resende-Santos, Joao (2007). Neorealism, States, and the Modern Mass Army. New York: Cambridge University Press.  


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c "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)
  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–.  
  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–.  
  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. ^


  1. ^ Joao Resende-Santos in Neorealism, States, and the Modern Mass Army (page 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"


See also


  • 1st Infantry Regiment "Buin" - Grenadier uniform of the 1st Infantry Battalion "Chilean Grenadiers"
  • 7th Reinforced Regimient "Chacabuco" - War of the Pacific French-styled uniform worn by the 4th Company, in recognition of its heroic final stand in the Battle of La Concepcion
  • 4th Reinforced Regiment "Rancagua" - War of the Pacific French-styled uniform worn by the Historical Company, similar to those worn by the regiment during the 1880 Battle of Arica

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:

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

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.

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.

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.

Drill and traditions

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 General of the Army 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
Rank[18] General Officers Superior Officers Chief Officers Junior Officers
Full dress uniform
Duty dress uniform
Battle Duty Uniform (Center and South)
Battle Duty Uniform (North)
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

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.

Officer ranks

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
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)
- - - - - - -
Battle Duty Uniform (North) - - - - - - -
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

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

Enlisted ranks

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.

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.

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 Maipu.

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

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

Military ranks

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]


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]


Quantity Type Origin Notes Photo
172 Leopard 2A4CHL  Germany 120 mm gun. May be upgraded to 2A5CHL in the near future.
105 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
340 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
Self-propelled Artillery
8 LAR-160  Israel
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


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
M72 LAW  United States 66 mm

Infantry Support Weapons

Weapon Caliber Origin Notes
Pistols and Submachine Guns
CZ-75 9×19mm NATO  Czechoslovakia Pistol
FAMAE FN-750 9×19mm NATO  Chile Main pistol. Locally produced version of the CZ-75.
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
SIG SG 540 5.56×45mm NATO   Switzerland
Built under license by FAMAE. Standard issue rifle. Will be replaced by the Galil ACE.
SIG SG 542-1 7.62×51mm NATO   Switzerland
Higher caliber version of the SG 540. Manufactured in Chile by FAMAE. For use by mountain troops. Will be replaced by the Galil ACE.
M4 carbine 5.56×45mm NATO  United States Special Forces
SIG SG 543 5.56×45mm NATO   Switzerland
Carbine version of the SIG 540
Galil ACE 5.56×45mm NATO  Israel Standard issue rifle
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
SIG Sauer SSG 3000 7.62×51mm NATO   Switzerland
Machine Guns
Heckler & Koch HK21 7.62×51mm NATO  Germany Magazine-fed light machine gun
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


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.

Military Equipment

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

Army General Staff (Estado Mayor General del Ejército)

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

Army Independent Commands

  • Logistics Division, with headquarters in Santiago (División Logística del Ejército)
  • Engineers Command
  • Telecommunications Command
  • Infrastructure Command
  • Military Industry and Engineering Command

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

  • Army Schools' Division (División Escuelas)
  • Army Education Division (División de Educación)
  • Army Doctrine Division (División de Doctrina)

Training and Doctrine Command (Comando de Institutos y Doctrina)

  • 1st Army Division: Regions II and III, with headquarters in Antofagasta.
  • 2nd Motorized Division: Regions IV, V, VI, VII and Santiago Metropolitan Region with headquarters in Santiago de Chile.
  • 3rd Mountain Division: Serving Regions VIII, IX, XIV, and X with headquarters in Valdivia.
  • 4th Army Division: Region XI with headquarters in Coyhaique.
  • 5th Army Division: Serving Region XII with headquarters in Punta Arenas.
  • 6th 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 force, 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.

Land Operations Command, headquartered in Concepcion.

Army General Headquarters, in Santiago.

Order Of Battle

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



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, and the first began 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 remained on track and structurally reinforces a conflict-based mindset in the army.[13]

The Chilean Army today

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 Army, with now Captain General Augusto Pinochet, the one who led 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.

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]

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:

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)

The Army under Pinochet

U.S. Influence

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]

Milicia Republicana

20th Century

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-

During the 1891 Chilean Civil War, Körner was removed from duty by José Manuel Balmaceda. He and his disciples 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, it was Körner who led the rebel forces in the major clashes of the civil war.[8]:145

:139[8]: 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 Officer education and training

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 the periodic retraining of enlistees wasn't done.[8]:137

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

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.

:128-[8] and the Chilean legation in :129[8] Chile hired a French military training mission in 1858,

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[Notes 1] was the danger of war with Argentina. The emulation was backed by a broad coalition of civil and military leaders.

Noncommissioned Officers' School during on 19 September 2014

Military emulation 1885-1914

War of the Pacific


War of the Confederation

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]

Guardia Nacional
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