Chile's long-running coastline bordering the Pacific Ocean requires a navy force of modest capabilities and firepower for offshore and deep-water work. The Chilean Navy is represented through some 25,000 personnel and over 100 ships including frigates, submarines and fast attack vessels. CS Almirante Blanco Encalada (FF-15) represents an all-modern frigate offering with typical capabilities for a ship of its displacement and size and represents one of eight frigates available to the Navy service.
CS Almirante Blanco Encalada was born from the Chilean Navy purchase of the ex-Dutch Navy HNLMS Abrahan van der Hulst (F832). The vessel was originally laid down by builder Koninklijke Schelde Groep of Vissingen on February 8th, 1989 and launched on September 7th, 1991. She was formally commissioned into Dutch Navy service on December 15th, 1993 and served until decommissioned in 2004. In 2006, the vessel was acquired by the Chilean government to begin its service as CS Almirante Blando Encalada and, as of 2015, remains in active service.
The warship carries the name of former Chilean Navy Vice-Admiral Manual Jose Blanco y Calvo de Encalada (1790-1876), an Argentine-born, Spanish-trained sailor who eventually joined Chile in its War of Independence (1810-1826).
The original Van der Hulst warship was from the Karel Doorman-class of frigates which numbered eight vessels all. They were sold off to various parties, including Chile, and have seen extended service lives with the likes of Belgium and Portugal. The ships represent a series of highly-automated, ocean-going vessels with a "general purpose" categorization.
Dimensions of the Blanco Encalada include a running length of 401 feet, a beam of 47 feet and a draught down to 14 feet. Her crew complement is approximately 175 personnel - the heavy reliance on systems automation allows the large vessel to feature a rather contained crew total.
Her profile sports a continuous maindeck with the 3" deck gun turret placed at the foremost gun position along the forecastle, set ahead of the bridge superstructure which is identifiable by its large windowed faces. The superstructure is attached to the enclosed main mast which towers over the entire warship and seats an air/surface search radar installation. Her smoke funnels are of a slab-sided, low profile enclosed design seated amidships while the aft-superstructure is also of a low profile design when compared to the fore-superstructure. An LW08 air-search radar is featured here as is a small, white SATCOM (SATellite COMmunications) dome. The aft superstructure is also attached to a full-service helicopter hangar facing out over the stern. The Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), "Goalkeeper", is seated in this area.
CS Almirante Blanco Encalada has retained her original powerplant - 2 x Rolls-Royce Spey 1A series gas turbines of 16,700 horsepower coupled to 2 x Stork-Werkspoor diesel engines of 4,895 horsepower. This hybrid powerplant coupling allows the ship crew to utilize whichever engine fit serves the current desired running speed - cruising or fast dash - and serves as a fuel efficient measure. Overall speeds can reach up to 29 knots in ideal conditions and range reaches out to 5,000 miles when traveling at 18 knots.
The ship boasts well-accepted frigate warship qualities including a stern flight deck for launching and retrieving naval helicopters of light to medium sizes. It typically carries a Westland "Lynx" series medium-lift helicopter which can serve as either transport for at-sea resupply or in the Anti-Ship Warfare (ASW) role while also providing for over-the-horizon capabilities in aiding the onboard search-and-tracking systems of the ship itself.
Armament is a broad range of systems typical of frigate types, projectile-based and missile-minded in nature. Firepower is headed by 1 x 76mm /62 caliber OTO-Melara Compact Mk 100 Dual-Purpose (DP) turreted deck gun fitted along the forecastle ahead of the bridge superstructure. Close-in defense is through the aforementioned 30mm General Electric Gatling gun tied to the Signaal SGE-30 "Goalkeeper" digitally-controlled system providing volume-fire protection against high-speed, inbound aerial threats such as cruise missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The ship also carries 4 x Mk 32 series 324mm torpedo tubes using the Mark 46 torpedo. In this way, the Blanco Encalada can engage all manner of threats - be they air, surface or underwater in nature - by way of its varied armament suite.
As is the case with other ships of this type, Almirante Blanco Encalada is outfitted with launched decoys and a towed torpedo array for a basic level of self-preservation in an active warzone.