SANTIAGO, Chile — The Chilean Army is calling for bids as part of its effort to acquire 40 new eight-wheel drive, all-terrain armored infantry transport vehicles.

The new platforms are to replace a fleet of 160 six-wheel drive Mowag Piranha armored vehicles, built locally under license by Cardoen Industries in the 1980s and assigned to infantry units in central Chile.

Several companies, including the United States’ General Dynamics Land Systems, Italy’s IVECO, Finland’s Patria, and Turkey’s Otokar and BMC, have expressed interest in the potential contract, worth $111.8 million.

Chile plans to award and finalize a contract within the first trimester of 2024.

The potential business derived from winning this contract goes beyond its initial financial worth, as the country is seeking more than 200 armored vehicles in the long term, according to military sources in Santiago, who spoke to Defense News on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

The government had considered buying secondhand vehicles or local production under license, but it ultimately dropped that approach. Now, the requirements are for brand new vehicles with a maximum weight of 38 tons, with all equipment, including weapons and communications systems, fitted to the platform.

That maximum weight requirement — more than triple the 11-ton weight of the Piranha vehicles — reflects Chile’s expectation the new vehicle offer far higher levels of survivability and protection to the combat troops onboard.

The country also requires the vehicle meet the NATO STANAG 4569′s level 3 standard. That means the vehicle’s body must resist grenade and mine blasts with up to 8 kilograms of explosive, and resist impacts of 7.62mm х 51 armor-piercing bullets with a tungsten carbide core at a maximum distance of 30 meters with a velocity of 930 meters per second.

Chile also requires that same standard’s level 3A, which means the vehicle can survive a mine or improved explosive device blowing up under any wheel. In addition, the platform must meet level 3B specifications to survive the same type of explosion under the center of the vehicle’s hull.

The vehicle should use a Euro III diesel engine with a power of at least 550 horsepower and carry enough fuel to travel 500 kilometers (311 miles). It should also fit a driver, a radio operator, a commander and eight infantry riflemen.

The vehicles included in the anticipated order, besides four command post vehicles, should include a remote controlled weapons station featuring a M2 .50-caliber machine gun and a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. All vehicles are to be fitted with optional 7.62mm machine guns and two quadruple smoke grenade launchers.

Chile began considering a replacement for its Piranha vehicles in the early 2010s, but the transfer of half the fleet to the uniformed national police since 2018 added an urgency.

The police force, known as Carabineros, deployed their Piranha vehicles in a so-called macro-zone south in southern Chile, where Indigenous people of the Mapuche group are rebelling against the Chilean government’s use of land. The Army has also deployed its Piranha vehicles to the southern region, where special forces and infantry troops have supported the police there since 2020.

This first batch of new armored vehicles are to be assigned to the 1st Infantry Regiment “Buin,” based in Santiago. The regiment provides one mechanized infantry battalion to the Southern Cross, a joint Chilean-Argentine formation made available for U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

But the future fleet’s headquarters is to be on Peldehue military camp, a large training ground north of Santiago. From there, the vehicles will be available for training infantry troops from other Chilean Army units.

José Higuera is a Latin America correspondent for Defense News.

More In Land