Sunday, April 24, 2016

Army Loses Puma Helicopter in Crash; Crew Member Killed

The stricken H-264
An Army helicopter crashed in the Andes, destroying the aircraft and leaving one of its crew members dead. The crew mechanic died at the scene of the April 20 accident, while the pilots and crew chief were injured and rescued. The helicopter was on a mission to provide maintenance to a repeater antenna in the mountains when it struck a rock and crashed, according to preliminary details. The helicopter was identified as a Puma with tail number H-264. Photos of the helicopter show it was one of the Pumas SA-330s that have been in the Army for several decades and that the Army has been trying to replace. The most recent acquisition of helicopters for the Army was a few Cougar helicopters, a newer and larger version of the Pumas, in 2013. Army officials have expressed interest in enlarging the fleet of medium helicopters. At the moment, only the Air Force (FACh) is in advanced plans to purchase helicopters.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Benefits for Civilian Life Help Boost Volunteers for Military Service

Volunteers fill the barracks.
This year, nearly 13,000 Chilean men and women will be entering military service, as enough volunteers stepped forward to fill the requirements of all three branches. Although the armed forces usually find enough volunteers, last year's recruitment class was short by 11%, which forced a draft. This year, nearly 20,000 sought entrance, meaning one-third were turned away. Why the big jump? The military stepped up its benefits. Today's volunteers have more incentives than other recruitment classes, such as new educational opportunities, a gateway to careers in police and the military, plus help with childcare and subsidies if a soldier enters higher education. Military service also provides young people with job training they can use in civilian life. Medical, machinery and auto repair are some of the fields that ex-soldiers can go into. In addition, those assigned to Chile's extreme areas get extra time off and airfare for a relative to visit. For the 2016 class, the Army is enlisting more than 12,000 (including 1,500 women), the Navy 500 and the Air Force 324.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Fidae Roundup: Helicopters Sought; Upgrades for Rifles, Orions

The biannual Fidae air show concluded this past weekend and, as it usually does, resulted in fresh updates on programs and acquisitions for Chile's armed forces. Here's a look at the most notable items out of the show:

The Air Force plans to purchase several medium-lift helicopters later this year. The favorite is said to be the Sikorsky Black Hawk, although the Russian Mil Mi-17, AgustaWestland AW139 and Airbus Helicopters H215M are also in contention. The $180 million deal would be for up to seven helicopters with high-altitude capabilities to operate in the Andes, in-flight refueling probes, advanced navigation systems and other equipment for combat search and rescue missions.

The Army is upgrading its SIG assault rifles under a program carried out by the military-owned Famae arms manufacturer. The upgrade includes adding Picatinny rails (to attach accessories) to the barrel portion of the gun, and a foldable buttstock, according to an article via Noticias FFAA Chile. Chile has about 50,000 serviceable SIG rifles in 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm versions. Front-line troops are being equipped with the Galil ACE 22 5.56 mm assault rifle, but other units will continue to use the SIG 540 and 542 models.

Lockheed Martin is replacing the wings on two Orion P-3 maritime reconnaissance planes, part of a midlife upgrade that includes new engines and cockpit improvements. Deliveries to the Navy are set for next year for the first plane and 2018 for the second, according to Defensa.com.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Women Allowed To Join Combat Units of Chile's Army

No more limitations
For the first time, women will be able to serve in all combat and front-line units of the Chilean Army. The new order allows women into the infantry and armored units, the last remaining areas that had been limited to men only. Females slowly have been integrated into Army combat units, in an evolution that already finds women in artillery, aviation and other units. The process began to take root in 1995, when women were first permitted to enter the Army academy. It continues today with a bill in the legislature that eliminates the female military service and replaces it with a gender-neutral system. The government and the Army view that as an important step to prevent sex discrimination. The number of women enlisting has been increasing as well. Only about 15% of Army personnel are female, although that figure has been rising every year.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Army Set to Replace Older Trucks

The Army has announced plans to acquire new trucks this year, as it tries to upgrade a fleet that includes some vehicles with 25 years of service. The bidding process has been completed, and the government has authorized funds for the acquisition. Deliveries could begin in September. Military trucks don't stir much interest or controversy the way that warplanes or tanks do, but the truck program is important in its own right. Chile's terrain — often inhospitable or inaccessible — has made military transport vehicles crucial to access many outlying communities. Those areas have come to rely on the armed forces for support. The program also reflects the Army's procurement philosophy, which seeks to ensure that maneuver units have adequate logistical equipment.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Army Reorganizes its Units, Again

The Army is reorganizing its divisions, although the changes are largely in how each unit is named. For example, three reinforced regiments in the north of Chile are now called motorized brigades. Another reinforced regiment that's part of the 3rd Mountain Division will go by the name of mountain "detachment," implying a smaller force than a regiment-sized unit. Similarly, other reinforced regiments were renamed "detachments." The Army has made some organizational changes in the past, such as when it created the mountain division. But the biggest change took place after Gen. Augusto Pinochet retired from the Army. Subsequent leaders took the country's various regiments and organized them into self-contained units with infantry, armor, logistics, engineer and other elements.