Peru’s u-boats, USN adjacent
Peru has been in the submarine business hot and heavy for over a century, and for much of that has had a very close relationship with the U.S. Navy.
The Latin American country started off their involvement with subs back in the 1880s, when one Federico Blume y Othon came up with a small Toro Submarino submersible equipped with a cable-layed torpedo (more of a mine) that was neat but not successful, although it was an interesting footnote to the War of the Pacific between Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
Then came a pair of Holland-esque 151-foot submarines— BAP Teniente Palacios and BAP Teniente Ferré— that were ordered from Schneider in France and operational by 1913. Both were disposed of by the 1920s.
Peru’s first effective subs (and first U.S. connection) were four 187-foot R-class submarines— BAP Islay (R-1), BAP Casma (R-2), BAP Pacocha (R-3), and BAP Arica (R-4)— ordered from the Electric Boat Company in Connecticut, delivered in the mid-1920s. Carrying four torpedo tubes, these diesel-electrics were involved in both the Colombian-Peruvian War and Peruvian-Ecuadorian War before being upgraded back at Groton to extend their life after WWII, at which point they were probably the last 1920s-era diesel boats still in front-line service. Of note, the U.S. Navy used some 27 R-class boats of their own.
To replace these were four more Electric Boat-produced modified U.S. Mackerel-class submarines ordered in 1953. Termed the Abtao-class in service, the quartet– BAP Lobo/Dos de Mayo (SS-41, BAP Tiburon/Abato (SS-42), BAP Atun/Angamos (SS-43) and BAP Merlin/Iquique (SS-44)— remained in service in one form or another into 1998.
Peru then picked up a pair of aging U.S. Balao-class diesel boats in 1974– BAP Pabellón de Pica/La Pedrera (SS-49), ex-USS Sea Poacher (SS/AGSS-406) and BAP Pacocha (SS-48), ex- USS Atule (SS-403)— which they kept in service as late as 1995.
Peru has since acquired six German-built Type 209 (1100 and 1200 series) boats, commissioned starting in 1974:
BAP Angamos (SS-31)
BAP Antofagasta (SS-32)
BAP Arica (SS-36)
BAP Chipana (SS-34)
BAP Islay (SS-35)
BAP Pisagua (SS-33)
The evolution looks like this:
Besides Cold War exercises, the Peruvian submarines have been a part of the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) since 2001. In the program, the Latin American u-boats head north and operate with the USN as an OPFOR of sorts. Over the years, submarines from the country have performed such duties 15 times.
The latest, Arica, just wrapped up 89 days of stateside operations supporting “fleet pre-deployment exercises with the Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group and conducted anti-submarine training with the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft and the Helicopter Weapons School.”
“The Arica proved to be a quiet and elusive adversary, providing valuable insights into tactical operations against modern diesel submarines,” said Capt. Robert Wirth, commodore of Submarine Squadron 20.