With ongoing tensions in South America and a long-reaching coastline to defend, the Chilean government began investing in modernization of its naval assets in 1887. As the country lacked the capabilities to design and produce a warship locally, it looked to the latest offerings emerging from the European powers. The result of this search produced a 6,900 ton design from France to which shipbuilder Forges et Chantiers de la Mediterranee was charged with its construction. The keel of what would become "Capitan Prat" was laid down during 1888 and she was launched to sea on December 20th, 1890. Commissioned for service in 1891, the Chilean government finally took her over during May of 1893.
The warship carried the name of Chilean naval Captain Arturo Prat, a 31-year-old officer killed during fighting with the Peruvian Navy in 1879.
As built, Capitan Prat was a conventional ironclad battleship through and through. Her unique quality was in becoming the first-ever warship to be equipped with an integrated electrical system from the start. Her profile showcased two main masts, one fore and the other aft, with a series of turrets housing variable armament fits. Twin smoke funnels, situated inline, were featured near midships which exhausted her machinery consisting of five boilers feeding horizontal triple expansion engines driving twin shafts through 12,000 horsepower output. Maximum speed was just over 18 knots. Armor protection included 300mm at the belt, up to 80mm at the deck, 270mm at the conning tower, and 270mm thickness at the turret barbettes. Dimensions included a length of 100 meters with a beam of 18.5 meters and a draught of 7 meters. The total crew complement numbered 480 personnel.
Her main battery consisted of 4 x 9.4" (240mm) guns fitted as four single-gunned turrets, two mounted forward and the remaining two aft. Supplemental armament included 8 x 4.7" (120mm) guns, 6 x 6-pounder cannon, 4 x 3-pounder cannon, and 10 x 1-pounder guns. She also carried 4 x 18" (460mm) torpedo tubes.
Capitan Prat formed part of the Chilean Navy's frontline fleet for a good decade before her design was readdressed. This was mainly due to a treaty agreed upon with neighboring Argentina to help head-off a naval race in the region. As such, her guns were removed to honor the agreement. She was rebuilt during 1909 to help keep her viable and remained in active service with the Chilean Navy throughout World War 1 (1914-1918). The warship stood at her post until 1926 to which she was downgraded to coastal defense duties. From the period of 1928 until 1930, she served the Chilean Navy as a submarine tender (depot ship) and, in 1935, as an engineer training school. She was finally given up for good in 1942, her design stripped of its usefulness and her hulk sold for scrapping. By this time, the steel warship had replaced the ironclad and the aircraft carrier was coming into prominence - rendering all ironclads a permanent piece of naval history.
Capitan Prat's design was respected enough that the governments of America and Japan attempted to purchase the vessel from the Chilean government - in 1898 and 1903 respectively - to help shore up their ocean-going fighting forces prior to them entering into war. For the Americans this became the Spanish-American War (1898) and, for the Japanese, this became the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).
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