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.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Meanwhile in Araucania, More Bloodshed

While Chile's attention was focused on the bombings in the metropolitan area, the indigenous uprising in the south has suddenly become more violent. More than a dozen police officers were wounded in gun battles with masked gunmen the morning of Oct. 4. At least one of the gunmen was wounded, and is one of two people held in the attack. The shootings were part of a wave of violence in which masked gangs have blocked highways and set fire to commercial trucks. It's been a sharp escalation, and one that appears to have been fanned by the death of a Mapuche demonstrator run over by a tractor. Carabineros have sent in a new wave of reinforcements, this time with armored vehicles. The long conflict with Mapuche extremists shows no sign of abating, and it exposes an imbalance in the country's security system: While the military is well equipped and funded, the police lack sufficient resources to deal effectively with internal security problems.

Friday, September 19, 2014

3 Held in Connection with Subway Bombings

Police arrested two men and a woman in a Santiago neighborhood and charged them with two subway bombings this year, the most alarming attacks in a wave of blasts that has rattled the metropolitan area. The three, all in their 20s, are said to be members of the Lautaro anarchist group. One of them was on probation from a robbery conviction. Carabineros are still seeking two others who eluded the Sept 18. raid. The arrests marked a breakthrough for investigators, who had been unable to crack down on about 30 bombings this year. Police say they found gunpowder and other bomb-making materials with the suspects.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Subway Bombing Shatters Calm in Chile

The rash of bombings sweeping Chile took a frightening turn after an explosive blew up in a subway station, leaving as many as 14 people hurt. The Sept. 8 blast was far more serious than earlier explosions because it caused many casualties, and it took place in the middle of a crowded area. The bomb was left inside a trash can in a shopping and dining area of a subway station in the upscale Las Condes neighborhood of Santiago. The government said it will apply the anti-terrorism law to investigate the bombing, which grants police special powers, such as holding suspects without formal charges. As they denounced the attack, officials also sought to reassure a public that now feels much less secure. The government also is worried that its image as a safe country, which has encouraged foreign investment and tourism, has taken a damaging blow. Chileans have another reason to feel less secure. Despite some 30 bombings this year, investigators have no suspects and few clues. Chile's intelligence community was stripped of most of its powers after the end of military rule, but now it seems inadequate to deal with terrorism. Police searching for the bombers are barred from using phone taps, infiltration and some other intelligence methods. Investigators are not even sure if multiple anarchist groups are involved, or if it's the same ones going by different names. Nearly 200 bombings or attempted bombings have occurred in Chile since 2005, yet only two suspects have ever been convicted. One of them was an unlucky bomber whose explosive blew up on him. If you happen to live in Santiago, there's reason to be worried about your police's effectiveness. Update: After some anarchist cells denied responsibility for the subway bombing, one group took responsibility on its website. A group called CCF said the first subway bombing was designed to occur at an hour when no persons would be injured. It added that it gave police advance warning of the Sept. 8 blast, and that it did not intend to harm anyone. But the warning, if true, came only 10 minutes before the explosion, which would not leave much time at all to evacuate the area.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chile's Army Hits the Big Screen

A short film about the Army and its role in Chilean society will be shown in theaters in Chile. The seven-minute movie, set to run in 75 screens nationwide, is also a recruitment tool, says Army chief Gen. Humberto Oviedo. The film (a short version is on Vimeo) includes images of Army personnel providing medical aid, mine-clearing, peacekeeping and, of course, shooting off lots of guns. The Army hasn't had a shortage of volunteers, so the project is a bit curious, unless its aim is to reach out broadly to citizens. The Army has produced promotional videos before, but this is the first time it is going to the big screen. On You Tube, there are dozens of amateur videos about Chile's armed forces, most of them big on bravado and low on quality. But there is one video I found that stands out for its cinematic quality. The video seems to have been produced independently. The country's military service administration has come out with its own recruitment video, and it did a good job with it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Army Requests Details on Transport Planes

The Army sent out requests in May to various aircraft manufacturers for details on medium transport airplanes, an initial step in the purchase of new aircraft. The manufacturers have responded, and each model is now being evaluated, according to a report in Diario Financiero. The request for information marked the first concrete step toward the planned purchase of at least four medium transports. Airbus and Alenia were among the companies contacted. Alenia builds the Spartan C27J while Airbus makes the rival C-295. The Army asked for details on each model's medical, firefighting, paratroop and other configurations, the report said. The C-212 light transports have been retired, leaving just a couple of C-235 planes in the Army fleet.