Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chile's Military Tries to Bury its Junta Legacy

Long ago, Chile's armed forces moved on from their past as the country's rulers. Now, they seem to be wiping away any remaining memories of that era. The Army deleted the name of Gen. Agusto Pinochet from a medal. The Navy is retiring in January a submarine tender that was named after Adm. José Toribio Merino Castro, the Navy chief who was part of the junta that overthrew President Salvador Allende in 1973. Don't expect another ship to bear that name in the future, said Defense Minister Jorge Burgos. There's been public pressure to eliminate reminders of the junta from other places, such as street names. Burgos denied that the retirement of the sub tender had anything to do with politics. As far as the impact on the Navy goes, there are no plans to acquire a replacement, and other vessels such as offshore patrol boats or the multirole ship Sargento Aldea will take over its role. Tenders are used to resupply submarines out at sea and to give the sub crews some breathing space. The Almirante Merino was acquired from Sweden in 1997. It was launched in 1969, originally built as a mine layer.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to be a Professional Soldier in Chile

The Army is putting out its annual call for young men who want to become professional soldiers. It's a five-year commitment, with not only a paycheck but the opportunity to learn a trade, get free housing and health care and, after three years, the chance to apply to become a noncommissioned officer. With unemployment among young adults running high in Chile, the 7,000 openings are likely to fill up. But there are stringent (if not curious) requirements. Women cannot apply for the program, although they can enlist and even become officers under other programs. Applicants must be single, have no children, be 18 to 25 years old and be in good health. In addition, applicants must pass a physical, a mental evaluation, a 2,400-meter run and pass other tests. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What Chile's Military is Buying from the U.S.

Although Chile has little transparency in military expenditures, there are plenty of details publicly available from U.S. defense agencies that provide arms to allied nations. The database of the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency is particularly enlightening. It is packed with information about every request and delivery of surplus equipment sent to Chile in the past 20 years. The database is not complete, however. For example, it shows only one KC-135 tanker aircraft delivered to Chile, when in fact three have been transferred. It doesn't show the delivery of the former USS Higgins tanker ship. It's also unclear if the costs shown are actual figures because transfers often are made at discounted prices. Here are some of the most noteworthy items from the database:

  • Of 24 M109A5 self-propelled howitzers requested, half are shown as delivered.
  • Chile last year requested antennas and other equipment for the APG-66 radar (used in the F-16 fighter) but no deliveries are registered.
  • A total of 44 M163A2 Vulcan self-propelled anti-aircraft cannon and 66 M167A2 towed Vulcan systems were delivered in 1998.
  • A KC-130R Hercules tanker plane was sought in 2012 but not delivered.
  • Most transfers occurred in the 1990s, much less in the decades that followed.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Chile OK's Construction of 4th Off-Shore Patrol Vessel

Marinero Fuentealba
The Navy will build a fourth off-shore patrol vessel, just as the third was launched. Defense Minister Jorge Burgos confirmed the acquisition Nov. 6, noting that will be the fourth OPV in a program that envisions as many as five such vessels. Two of the Fassmer OPV 80-class boats are already in service. The third was launched the same day of Burgos' announcement. The Marinero Fuentealba is a bit different than its sister ships, sporting a larger 76mm gun and a reinforced hull for operation in the icy waters of the south of Chile. OPV 81 Piloto Pardo went into service in 2007 and OPV 82 Comandante Toro in 2009. With a crew of 32 and endurance of up to 30 days, the 1,700-ton ships are an efficient way for Chile's Navy to cover its extensive territorial waters. Each also has equipment for environmental and search and rescue missions. The program has been one of the most successful for Asmar, the Navy-operated shipyard that is getting back on its feet after getting decimated in the February 2010 tsunami.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Final Assembly of Army's Galil Rifles Being Done in Chile

Final assembly of the Army's new Galil ACE 22 AC assault rifles will be at the Famae armament company in Chile. Famae, which is controled by the Chilean Army, also will manufacture some parts, including the barrel and gas tube. In addition, it will assemble some subcomponents, such as the sights, buttstock and grip. Those details were revealed in an Army magazine article that also said the manufacturing process of each rifle will begin in Israel. The Galil ACE was designed by Israel Weapon Industries, which has been making the Galil family of rifles for decades. The ACE weighs about seven pounds, fires a 5.56mm round and has a long Picatinny rail for accessories. The Galil ACE replaces the Army's SIG-540, a dependable but sorely outdated rifle.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Salitre Wargames Bring Together 5 Air Forces

All the way from the Lone Star State
The annual Salitre wargames, a multinational exercise to improve cooperation among Chilean and U.S. allies, have ended. The Oct. 6-17 training program in the Cerro Moreno air base brought air crews from five nations. Chile had on hand F-16 MLU, F-16 Block 50, F-5 Tigre III, one KC-135 tanker and a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. Argentina brought its A-4AR Fightinghawk; Brazil had its F-5EM. Uruguay, joining Salitre for the first time, flew A-37 B Dragonfly. The U.S. participated with a half-dozen F-16 from the 149th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard. U.S. units often train with the Chilean Air Force, which shares a lot in common in terms of equipment and doctrine. Training against pilots from other air forces is always a worthwhile endeavor. It's like scrimmaging against an opposing team rather than against your own teammates. Don't expect to find details of simulated shoot-downs or anything else about pilot performance. But the public can find plenty of photos and videos of the fighter jets in all their glamour.