Friday, June 19, 2020

Chile's Navy Quietly Acquires 2 Frigates from Australia

Chile's Navy acquired a pair of used frigates from Australia, boosting its air defense capabilities. The purchase of the former HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Newcastle was finalized late last year, and the warships were transferred to Chile in May. The vessels replace a pair of ex-Dutch L-class frigates that were launched in 1986. The Adelaide-class frigates were built in 1989 and 1992 and carry better armament than the Dutch ships they replace. Each is armed with SM-2 air defense missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 76mm Oto Melara gun and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles. A computerized command and control system integrates the weapons systems. The ships, based on the U.S. Oliver Hazard Perry class, also have hangar space for two medium helicopters. They underwent a refit before the transfer to the Armada. The acquisition, reportedly for more than $70 million, was made with little publicity. The Navy only posted the two vessels on its website once they had arrived in Chile this month. The transfer occurred while Chile was fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and while it still faces social unrest, so the Navy appeared to avoid publicizing the deal. Chile's Navy has named the new frigates FFG 14 Almirante Latorre and FFG 11 Capitan Prat, the same names given to the Dutch vessels. It is the largest acquisition by the Navy in nine years. It's also the first major military purchase from Australia, an ally in the Pacific Rim and a trade partner.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Where Chile's Artillery Units Are Deployed

Chile's Army has its most powerful artillery units in the north, near the border with Peru and Bolivia. That's the main take-away from an article in an Army publication that details where each artillery unit is deployed and its main armament. (See below.) Three self-propelled units with refurbished M-109 Paladin are in Arica, Antofagasta and Baquedano, and a fourth is stationed in the far south. The only rocket artillery unit also is stationed in Arica. It is equipped with Israel-made LAR 160 vehicles. Several battalions use Soltam M-71 howitzers, also made in Israel. In other areas, primarily less-vulnerable zones, the Army supports its units with 105mm howitzers.



Saturday, March 28, 2020

Military Back on the Streets As Chile Goes on Coronavirus Lockdown

Chile has locked itself down to fight the spread of coronavirus, and the president has ordered the armed forces to help enforce the quarantine. Chile closed its borders, imposed a nighttime curfew and placed limits on gatherings and movement. The military also is being tasked with sanitation work and is deploying field hospitals. The armed forces' response is similar to what they've done in natural disasters in the past, when troops responded with mobile hospitals and humanitarian aid. It's the second time in six months that President Sebastian Piñera calls on the military to patrol the country. In October, Piñera sent out the military to help quell violent protests across Chile. Soldiers returned to their barracks after a 10-day deployment, but the government left open the option to again use the military to safeguard critical infrastructure. With a medical crisis being the new mission, the Army, Navy and Air Force (FACH) find themselves in a less-controversial role than in October.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Hercules Investigation Focuses on Dangerous Load, Malfunctions

Nearly three months after an Air Force C-130 Hercules was lost near Antartica, investigators are turning their attention from an accidental cause to a malfunction or even negligence. A report in El Mercurio notes that the plane was carrying a dangerous load. Whatever material was in the plane, it was cleared by FACh maintenance for the flight. Also, investigators are looking into two malfunctions known to have occurred on the flight, which went down Dec. 9, killing all on board.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Hercules Plane Lost at Sea; Searchers Find Debris, Parts

A piece of the missing Herc?
An Air Force C-130H Hercules disappeared Dec. 9 en route to Antartica, and debris located near the point of last contact appears ti be from the missing aircraft. Pieces of foam that may be from the fuel tanks were spotted about 30 km south of the last known location, FACh announced Nov. 11. Later in the day, Brazil's government said its polar ship found more pieces of wreckage and personal belongings. On Twitter, photos showed an aircraft wheel being pulled from the water. The search area had been expanded to an area of 700 km by 250 km, basically between the southern tip of South America and Antartica. Chile's Air Force is using F-16 and F-5 fighter jets, transport planes and helicopters to scan the ocean, while the Navy assigned patrol planes, two frigates, an offshore patrol vessel and its multi-role ship to the search. Teams from Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Uruguay joined the mission. The U.S. sent a Poseidon P-8A maritime reconnaissance plane from El Salvador to aid searchers. Satellites are taking images of the search zone as well. The Hercules was on a routine mission to resupply one of several bases Chile operates in Antartica. The 38 passengers and crew were mainly FACh personnel, plus three Army officers, two contract workers and one university engineer. The bases are used not just to plant the flag on the Antartic territory, but to conduct a number of scientific projects. The plane went down in the treacherous and frigid waters of what's known as Drake's Passage, complicating search efforts. There was no distress signal, and the plane was declared lost once it became clear it would not make its destination. The C-130H is said to have been in good operating conditions, although it had a long service life since it was built in 1978. It was acquired from the U.S. in 2015. Update: Searchers have found more wreckage of the plane and human remains. Officials say all 38 on board are presumed dead.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Possible Consequences Chile's Military Faces in the Post-Revolt Era

Chile's military has been withdrawn from the streets after spending a 10-day deployment in security tasks during the state of emergency. As short as the mission was, it has left an indelible mark on the military. Not only is it dealing with the aftermath of shooting incidents, but its future could be altered as Chile deals with a populace seeking fundamental societal changes. These are some changes the armed forces could face:
  • For many years, the Army, Navy and Air Force found enough volunteers to fill its ranks, avoiding a need to draft young people. Will this year's revolt cause fewer to enlist?
  • With bigger security problems on the domestic side, can the military justify spending on strategic weapons such as armor or air defense systems? Will the Navy delay replacing two frigates? Meanwhile, the exit of Bolivian leader Evo Morales eases Chile's peskiest international threat.
  • The armed forces nurtured an image of community service, providing aid during natural disasters and staying neutral in politics. That image took a hit with the deployment, although many Chileans welcomed troops. To be fair, the protests showed there's a faction in Chile that is always hostile against the military.