Sunday, August 16, 2015

Details from Disclosures, Plus the Military's Budget

Although Chile's military keeps its acquisitions pretty quiet, it does disclose purchases to the United Nations and the Organization of American States. From those databases, we learn some details about new weapons. A look at the disclosures -- plus the database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute -- reveals some interesting items:
  • AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, first announced in 2009, have been delivered. Ninety missiles were delivered out of an authorization for 100. Norway is listed as the supplier, meaning the missiles will be used for the NASAMS surface-to-air defense system.
  • More than 300 rockets for the LAR-160 artillery system were bought from Israel in 2007-12.
  • Last year, Chile acquired 800 Herstal Minimi light machine guns. That's a strong sign that the Minimi will become the Army's standard infantry squad machine gun.
  • Confirming a rumor, documents list the purchase of 20 Python IV air-to-air missiles from Israel.
  • A half-dozen MPQ-64 Sentinel radars were bought, and four are listed as delivered. 
  • In 2006, several Mowag armored vehicles were modified to carry missiles, and four were installed with 25 mm cannon.

Chile also has provided a summary of its defense budget for 2014, in U.S. dollars (in millions):
ArmyNavyAir ForceTotal
Operations and maintenance$5.82$71.01$72.87
Investments-- $2.78$0.27
Research & Development-- --$2.97$200.57

Friday, July 24, 2015

Navy's Largest Ship on Lease to Canada

The Navy is leasing out a fleet replenishment ship to Canada, earning some rental fees while helping an allied nation. Canada agreed to pay Chile $4.8 million to use the Almirante Montt for 40 days, according to Defense News. The rental leaves Chile without its largest ship, but the 42,000-ton vessel is not critical to the Navy because it has another tanker ship, the 26,000-ton Araucano. The smaller ship was added to the fleet in 2010, when it was purchased second-hand from a company called Ultragas. The Araucano underwent improvements at the Asmar shipyard until 2013 to bring it up to the requirements to serve as a fleet tanker. Chile uses the two supply ships for joint training exercises, including some that are conducted as part of international security treaties. Canada has retired its two supply ships, and construction of two replacement vessels has been delayed until 2021. That's left Canada scrambling to find ships that can serve as stop-gap solutions.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Chinese Fishing Ships Get the Attention of Chile's Navy

No fish, no foul
The Navy scrambled a patrol ship and a couple of aircraft after a flotilla of Chinese fishing vessels suddenly showed up in Chilean territorial waters. A fast-deployment force boarded the ships but found no evidence of illegal fishing, so the Chinese fishermen were allowed to continue. A separate group of Chinese fishing boats was boarded off the island of Chiloe. It was unusual to find Chinese boats that far into the eastern Pacific, and it made for an awkward situation for China, which is wooing Chile for space and military deals. Chile has an exclusive economic zone that runs 200 miles off the shoreline. Fishing and fish farming are some of Chile's most important industries, and shipping lanes are vital to the country's foreign trade. But with only eight surface warships and three offshore patrol vessels capable of reaching the deeper waters of that zone, there are plenty of coverage gaps. In fact, it was Chilean fishermen who spotted the Chinese boats, not the Navy. Several reconnaissance aircraft share patrol responsibilities, but they also seem inadequate in number to watch over an area that is five times larger than Chile's land mass. In addition, Chile has search and rescue responsibilities for an even larger ocean zone that spans about 1 1/2 times the total surface area of South America. Chile is building a fourth offshore patrol vessel, and has plans for a fifth. There are no immediate plans to add long-range airplanes. The few P-3 Orions are being refurbished extensively.

Friday, July 3, 2015

President's Plane Again Breaks Down

An Air Force 767 jet that serves as the official plane for the president was in the news for the wrong reasons. The plane was forced to scrap a flight to a political summit in Peru after a fuel problem was detected. President Michelle Bachelet and her entourage had to board a smaller Boeing 737 to make the trip. The problem wasn't so unusual, but it was a reminder of the maligned state of VIP transports in FACh's inventory. Politicians want to find a newer, better plane, rather than continue sharing planes that are normally used to ferry troops. The Boeing 767 was purchased second hand in 2008, and it's had major problems before. Still, don't expect a VIP transport to be acquired anytime soon. A plush jet fresh out of the assembly line would be a budgetary luxury, and potentially a political backlash for any president who would board it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

'Ethnic Conflict' Shows No Sign of Letting Up

Radical indigenous groups continue to attack ranchers, police and logging companies, and their firepower seems to be increasing. Setting fire to trucks and logging facilities remains a favorite tactic of Mapuche militants. But a few incidents this year show a more dangerous side to what the government calls an "ethnic conflict." A police armored vehicle was shot up with what's believed to be 7.62 mm assault rifles. In March, a Mapuche leader believed to be cooperating with the investigation into the attack against a prosecutor had her house set on fire by hooded men, and her husband was shot. Some Mapuches are getting shot, too. A watchman fired his shotgun at one of several men who had set trucks on fire, leaving him seriously wounded. Officials count more than 130 incidents in the disputed territory during the first four months of the year, The Mapuche rebellion stems from the loss of ancestral lands that were stripped from them. The government has had little success trying to solve the problem or in curtailing the violence.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Chile Looking to China for Satellite Acquisition

Fasat Charlie
As Chile's only satellite nears the end of its operational life, the Air Force is looking to acquire a replacement. Plans are to have the new satellite in orbit in 2017. The current unit, called Fasat Charlie, was launched in December 2011. Although FACh operates the satellite, it has limited military use. Its powerful optics are used mainly for mapping, geological research, agricultural surveying and other civilian uses. It's come in handy in coordinating aid for the various natural disasters that hit Chile every year. The FACh officer in charge of Chile's space program said he will visit China to shop for a replacement. That's a curious declaration to make so early in the selection process, and one that suggests Chile has already found a supplier for its next orbiter. Or, it could be just a negotiating ploy. The first few Chilean satellites were built in Europe.