The Chilean government entered into an agreement with France and Spain to produce for it two conventionally-powered attack submarines of the Scorpene-class. These vessels would directly replace their aging Oberon-class with a career spanning some 30 years in service to the Chilean Navy. The French concern of DCN ("Direct Chantier Navel") teamed with Navantia of Spain to manufacture the submarines of which one became the CNS General Carrera (SS-22) (the Scorpene product is now managed by DCNS - "Direction Technique des Constructions Navales" based in Paris, France). During construction of the Carrera, the bow was completed by DCN while the remaining hull was handled by Navantia and final assembly was undertaken in Cartagena, Spain. As of September 2013, some nineteen total Scorpene-class submarines are planned with several already in active service with the Chilean (2), Indian (6) and Malaysian (2) navies. Brazil is set to receive the first of four units beginning in 2015.
The General Carrera is named after General Jose Miguel Carrera Verdugo (1785-1821), one of the founding fathers of independent Chile. Its sister, the CNS General O'Higgins, carries the name of General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme (1778-1842), another Chilean patriot. Both served in the Chilean War of Independence (1810-1826) which further weakened Spanish rule in South America and led to a free Chile.
The Carrera's hull was laid down in November of 2000 with a launching on November 24th, 2004. She was formally commissioned on July 20th, 2006. Despite her hull number of "SS-22", the General Carrera actually follows her sister - the General O'Higgins (SS-23) - in service for the O'Higgins began construction in November of 1999, was launched in 2003 and commissioned in 2005. The Carrera was only completing her sea trials in November of 2005. She was handed over to Chilean authorities in December of 2006 upon arriving at Valparaiso and now makes her homeport at Talcahuano (as does the O'Higgins). Talcahuano is situated along the central portion of the Chilean coastline with unfettered access to Pacific waters.
The Scorpene-class exhibits a rather traditional design profile with its rounded bow, tubular body and tapered stern. The sail is fitted just ahead of amidships and contains the requisite optics, sensor and communications systems found in other submarine designs. Dive planes are fitted high on the sail while the tail section showcases a cruciform fin arrangement including dorsal and ventral vertical fins as well as a pair of horizontal planes. The multi-blade propeller is fitted well-aft on the design, behind the rudder, maximum efficiency in cutting through the pressure of deep waters. The armament section is at the forward portion of the hull with the crew quarters residing just aft of amidships. Overall dimensions include a length of 217.9 feet, a beam of 20 feet and a draught of 19 feet. Navigation is handled by the Sagem system while electronic warfare consists of the Argos AR 900 ESM suite.
As a conventionally-powered submarine, the Carrera is not equipped with a nuclear propulsion system as featured heavily in American and Russian designs (as well as some French and British). Instead, the arrangement centers on a diesel-electric system which is lower-cost, low-risk alternative for burgeoning naval powers like Chile. The combined-technology propulsion system provides energy for both surface and underwater operation, allowing for a maximum surfaced speed of 12 knots to be reached with a maximum submerged speed of 20 knots possible. Operational range is 6,500 nautical miles when cruising economically at 8 knots on the surface though underwater range is limited to 550 nautical miles when running at 5 knots. A normal mission endurance window of 50 days is listed when on standard onboard food and fuel stores. The vessel can operate up to depths of 980 feet (300 meters).
As an attack submarine, the Carrera is equipped with 6 x 533mm torpedo tubes supporting the Whitehead Alenia "Black Shark" homing torpedo. The vessel can carry 18 reloads in its confined onboard storage spaces. The vessel also supports the French-originated SM.39 Exocet anti-ship missile in place of its torpedo stock for engagement of surface warships at range. Furthermore, the missiles can themselves be replaced by naval mines as required.
While not as outright capable when compared to her Western counterparts - primarily American nuclear-powered attack submarines - the General Carrera certainly adds much needed underwater prowess for the Chilean Navy, particularly in South America where a few specific modern arms can sometimes make a world of difference in a given conflict.