Chile's Navy is preparing to sail two recently retired Australian warships out of Sydney after purchasing them in a deal believed to be worth more than US$ 70 million. Ex-Adelaide-class frigates HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Newcastle were quietly commissioned into their new service this month during a formal handover ceremony between both navies.
Both ships entered service with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in the early 1990s and since being retired last year Defense has been examining various options for their disposal.
Their re-commissioning, which until now had not been publicly revealed by Defense, was attended by Australia's Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mick Noonan.
Defense has confirmed the ships, renamed Almirante Latorre and Capitan Prat, will remain in New South Wales until next month while training is completed, and preparations are made for them to sail to Chile.
According to the Aussie media the deal with Chile is worth 110 million Australian dollars, comprising of 45 million for each warship and the remainder of the purchase price going towards stores, data and training.
In a statement the Australian Defense Department declined to confirm the final figure saying: As the ships are now formally owned by a foreign Navy, Defense will not be providing further comment.
Apparently the Chilean Government did not want to widely publicize its purchase given recent political unrest over cuts to public services in Chile.
The former RAN vessels are intended to replace two recently decommissioned Chilean warships which were acquired second-hand from the Netherlands in 2004.
Almirante Latorre and Capitan Prat have both undergone a basic refit at Sydney's Garden Island and Chilean crew members are completing training at Sydney's HMAS Kuttabul.
Last week the Defence Department strongly rejected a television report claiming six visiting Chilean sailors had tested positive to COVID-19, forcing a lockdown of HMAS Watson Naval Base.
Before departing Australia, a weapons system known as CIWS will be removed from the ships, while other equipment will be refitted once the vessels arrive in Chile.
Defense officials revealed that the recent warship deal is part of an effort by Australia to build a good relationship with the Chilean military.
They are pretty well equipped, well trained and capable — good partners in the Pacific, admitted Australian navy sources. All of their trade to Asia has to pass through the region so they have an interest in it, the official added.