Friday, April 18, 2014

Military's Medical Corps, Troops Responding to Disasters

The multi-role ship Sargento Aldea is docked in Iquique, conducting dozens of operations and other medical treatments. The city's main hospital was damaged in the April 1 earthquake, and the ship's medical facilities are picking up the slack. Civilian and Navy doctors have performed 27 surgeries on the ship, of both earthquake victims and patients who were forced off the hospital. This is the first time the Sargento Aldea is used as a floating hospital to handle a natural disaster, and it's precisely how Chile envisioned using it when it acquired the vessel from France in 2011. The Army has deployed a field hospital, which has treated more than 300 victims, delivered 45 newborns and operated on 22 patients. The armed forces continue to patrol the region and the port city of Valparaiso, where a wildfire burned hundreds of homes. FACh, for example, took its anti-aircraft and special forces troops to handle security, medical and emergency-shelter operations. Troops are patrolling the fire and earthquake zones under a special constitutional provision that lets the president send out the military to the streets during natural disasters. In the first several weeks of her new term, President Michelle Bachelet has invoked the so-called State of Constitutional Exception for Catastrophes twice already. The special rule also lets the president appoint military commanders to take control of stricken communities.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

After Long Delay, New Off-Shore Patrol Vessel is Launched

OPV Marinero Fuentealba
The Asmar shipyard has launched the Navy's newest off-shore patrol vessel. OPV 83 Marinero Fuentealba is scheduled for delivery by the end of the year. The ship, based on the German Fassmer OPV 80 design, displaces 1,771 tons and can sail for up to 30 days, with a range of 8,000 nautical miles. Its maximum speed is 20 knots. A hangar and landing pad can accommodate a light helicopter. The Fuentealba is the third of five off-shore patrol vessels Chile is building. The first two were delivered in 2007 and 2009, but the third ship was delayed as Asmar rebuilt its shipyard after the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami. In fact, this is Asmar's first new construction since that devastating disaster. The Fuentealba has a larger 76mm Oto Melara gun than its sister ships (which have 40 mm guns), and a reinforced hull for operations in the cold waters around its future base in Punta Arenas. The OPVs are used to guard territorial waters, provide assistance, protect the marine environment and conduct search and rescue missions.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Military Deployment for Earthquake Far Quicker Than in 2010

 Earthquake patrol duty, once more
The armed forces have fanned out across the north of Chile to help maintain security and provide assistance after the April 1 earthquake. Army, Air Force and Marine patrols have been stationed in supermarkets, gasoline stations and neighborhoods. The Air Force (FACh) flew more than 35 tons of relief equipment, using a pair of C-130 Hercules and two KC-135 transport planes. The military's quick deployment was a far cry from the February 2010 earthquake, when President Michelle Bachelet took two days to send out the troops, and only after looting had become widespread. This time, she had soldiers out in a matter of hours, and military commanders were given authority over the three regions most affected by the quake. Coordination among the armed forces, police and the national emergency service seems to have gone smoothly. Most Chilean communities absorbed the 8.2-magnitude quake well enough, so there was no opportunity for the armed forces to use their field hospitals. The Army's 2nd Armored Brigade in Iquique did set up a medical treatment center. The Navy had enough time to move all its ships out of port before the tsunami struck, although the waves turned out to be moderate. The multirole ship Aldea had to be hustled out of a repair yard but still made it out to sea. In the 2010 earthquake and tsunami, the naval base and shipyard in Talcahuano suffered extensive damage.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

FIDAE Update: Aircraft Upgrades, New Rocket System, Galils and Cougars for Army

The FIDAE air show is going on in Santiago this week, and several upgrade programs and acquisitions have been announced, many of them for the Army:
  • The Army has finally decided on a new standard assault rifle: the Galil ACE 5.56 mm built by Israel Weapon Industries. The Galil rifles will be assembled by the Army-operated Famae armament company, which also will manufacture some of the parts.
  • Famae introduced a mobile multiple launch rocket system. The SLM has been developed with Israel's IMI, which makes the Lynx MLRS. The project is a surprise for Famae, which developed an MLRS with Britain's Royal Ordnance more than 10 years ago, only to abandon it for lack of demand.
  • The Army accepted delivery of the first Cougar AS532 ALe, the newest version of Eurocopter's medium helicopter. Defense News reported the Army could receive at least 20 AS532 helicopters under current plans. The report is a sign the Army has finalized plans to bolster its airlift capabilities, including the formation of a new air cavalry brigade. The older Puma and Super Puma helicopters are being removed from service.
  • U.S.-based Merex Group has signed an contract to rebuild the wings of the F-5 Tiger III fighter planes operated by FACh. Air Force-owned Enaer will be a partner in the project. The program indicates that FACh will not be retiring the F-5 squadron any time soon, as had been speculated.
  • Airbus and Enaer are expanding their cooperation agreement to include maintenance of Airbus-built transport planes, including the C-295 and C-212. Under the new agreement, Airbus will provide additional support for maintenance and a potential upgrade of the FACh T-36 and A-36 Halcon trainers and light-attack aircraft. Chile's Army and Navy have retired their C-212 planes, but FACh still operates a few. Other South American countries also have C-212s.
  • Russia, which has never made a military sale in Chile, is campaigning to end the dryspell. Rosoboronexport is renewing negotiations for the sale of helicopters to Chile. Talks on a potential purchase ended in February 2010, when the earthquake and tsunami forced Chile to change its fiscal priorities, according to Rianovosti.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Article Details Chile's Military Aircraft

A Defensa.com article on Chile's aviation assets provides a few updates. One is that the Navy has retired the C 212-100 light transport planes and the Cessna O-2 Skymaster light patrol aircraft. The Army also has retired its C 212 planes. And the Air Force (FACh) may be doing yet another update to its aged F-5 fighter planes. More valuable, though, is the breakdown of the aviation fleets of the Air Force, Army and Navy. Here's the FACh order or battle, which agrees with other reports about the FACh inventory. Check the link above for the Army and Navy tables.

Combat aircraft
10 F-16 Block 50
36 F-16 AM/BM MLU
13 AT-36 Toqui II
12 F-5 E/F Tiger III

Transport and reconnaissance
3 KC-135 E Stratotanker
1 737-300
1 737-58N
1 767-300ER
3 C-130 B/H
13 DHC-6
3 C212-200, -300
1 A100 King Air
1 Super King Air
2 Learjet 35A
1 Gulfstream IV
7 PA-28-236

Training
24 T-35 Pillan
4 Citation CJ1
12 A-29 Super Tucano
6 AT-36 Halcón
2 Cirrus SR-22T

Airborne early warning and electronic warfare
1 707-385C Cóndor.

Helicopters
15 UH-1H
1 UH-60
13 Bell 412EP
5 206B Jet Ranger III

Air defense
GDF-005/007 2x35 mm cannon with FCS Sky Guard III fire control radar
Mistral missiles, some on Aspic launchers
Vulcan M-163 self-propelled, M-167 towed systems 

Acrobatic team
5 Extra 300

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mapuche Fighters Display Effective Tactics

Seven police officers were hurt in an ambush as they moved to clear a group of about 40 masked men who had taken over a ranch. The assailants, believed to be extremist Mapuche activists, fired shotguns and other weapons at police, wounding the officers. The gunmen fled, and Carabineros were not able to make any arrests. The March 4 hit-and-run attack was just one of several that Mapuche fighters have carried out with success. Their tactics show a growing sophistication, and at the same time authorities seem to be one step behind. The region's police commander is asking for armored vehicles, which would afford Carabineros with a better way to pursue guerrilla fighters and defend against ambush. Already, more officers and a surveillance plane have been moved in to support the heavily fortified police station in the community of Ercilla. Violence in the southern Chilean region escalated after a Mapuche man was convicted in the arson deaths of an elderly couple. It was a rare court victory for authorities, who also haven't had much success prosecuting suspects. Many have walked away free. In August, for example, a dozen Mapuches held more than a year for an arson attack on a bus were acquitted.