Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Russians Are Coming


Russian weapons manufacturers are finally making inroads in Chile, a market they've never penetrated before. A delegation of Chilean army officers recently visited Russia to evaluate air-defense systems and wheeled armored vehicles. The visit, reported in Jane's Defense Weekly, follows news that the air force is close to acquiring Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters. Those would be used for search and rescue operations, especially civilian emergencies. The daily La Nacion said in August that FACh had come to terms with Rosoboronexport, Russia's arms-export company, on six Mi-17s. The deal is said to be worth $70 million and includes logistical support. Many Latin American countries use Russian weaponry, but Chile has traditionally been a customer of western-made equipment.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Leopard 1 Tanks To Be Retired

Chile's 200 Leopard 1 tanks will be removed from active duty once the army's Leopard 2 fleet is fully operational. The older tanks may be placed in reserve, sold to another nation or cannibalized for spare parts, according to a wire service report. Chilean officials reportedly are sensitive about having too large of an armor advantage over neighboring armies. Although 200 is the number of Leopard 1 tanks officially reported, other sources have indicated an additional 70 were purchased. Scores of AMX-30, M-41, Sherman and other old tanks have been put to pasture already. The army's new organization consists of several Leopard 2 battalions, each with 31 tanks. They're to be supported by Marder infantry fighting vehicles, M-109 self-propelled howitzers, M-113 personnel carriers, Gepard air-defense systems and other equipment. Thus, the army is moving closer to its vision of self-contained armor brigades.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

How to Spend $3 Billion

Defense analysts estimate Chile has amassed $3 billion from copper revenues to spend on weaponry. The main items already under discussion include air-defense missiles for the army, refueling tankers and early-warning aircraft for the air force, plus UAVs for all armed forces. Here's this blog's proposed spending plan, which argues that most purchases should be for equipment that can also have a civilian use. For the navy, two more patrol vessels make sense. These ships serve a valuable role in protecting economic interests. It's also important to acquire a ship capable of transporting troops, helicopters and vehicles for peacekeeping missions and natural disasters. For the air force, UAVs and early-warning aircraft would help patrol borders and fight drug trafficking. A fleet of rescue helicopters, which is already under consideration, is needed for civilian emergencies. For the army, infantry modernization is key. That includes more optical electronics, body armor, M-4 carbines. The peacekeeping batallion should get priority. Not all $3 billion need to be spent. It would be smart to set aside $1 billion to create a fund, sort of an endowment, to generate new revenue for the military.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Loose Lips Cause International Spat

Chile's government and its neighboring countries maintain cordial relations, but every once in a while there's a reminder of festering hostilities. The latest case occurred this month, when a video clip on YouTube showed the head of Peru's army making mortal threats against Chileans. In the video, Gen. Edwin Donayre talks of preventing Chileans from entering Peru, and if they do, they'd be sent back home "in a box." If there weren't enough boxes, they would return in plastic bags, he continued. Peruvian President Alan Garcia apologized; Donayre did, too. After the diplomatic mess, Donayre appears to be retiring a bit sooner than planned. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has said she considers the matter settled. Update: Chile turned back Peru's naval commander and a Peruvian frigate from the Exponaval trade show, citing the Donayre controversy. Donayre retired Dec. 5, as originally scheduled, and many Chileans want him punished in some way. At his send-off, the general was full of bravado and was carried on soldiers' shoulders. Peru's defense minister may punish the soldiers, but there's no apparent reprimand in store for Donayre.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gepard Anti-Aircraft System Arrives

The first five of 30 Gepard 1A anti-aircraft artillery vehicles have been delivered to Chile's army. The self-propelled systems were acquired as surplus from the German army and will undergo some upgrades, according to Enfoque Estrategico. Those include an improved fire-control system and perhaps the addition of Mistral anti-aircraft missiles. The units are being deployed to the 1st Armored Brigade (based in Arica), the 2nd Armored Brigade (in Iquique) and the 3rd Armored Brigade (in Antofagasta). The acquisition, which had been rumored for years, gives the army an improved air-defense capability. Up to now, that force consisted of some self-propelled 20mm guns and shoulder-fired Blowpipe missiles. Reports have said the army is still looking to purchase air-defense missiles.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Military Faces Restrictions on Purse Strings

Chile's government controller plans to take a role in authorizing all equipment purchases for the military, sparking concerns that defense programs will be put in full view of potential adversaries. The decision arose from a new interpretation by the controller's office of its responsibilities, according to enfoque-estrategico.com. With the change, the agency gains a critical role in any weapons acquisitions, something that up to now has been largely trusted to the armed forces themselves. Meanwhile, the finance ministry's new spending restrictions (due to the global credit crisis) are affecting military operations, El Mercurio said, quoting a defense analyst. Funds from the state-owned copper company have been frozen until a new defense-budget reform is approved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Navy Doubles Its Dauphin Helicopter Fleet


Chile's navy acquired four SA-365F Dauphin II helicopters that had been retired from the Irish Air Corps. The deal adds to four other Dauphins that were acquired second-hand in 2005-06 in Brazil. The latest helicopters were purchased from a U.S.-based company for about $23 million, according to The Irish Times. The newspaper said the Air Corps sold the aircraft to the company, which made upgrades and in turn sold them to Chile. The Dauphins are used for patrol and search & rescue operations. They can also operate on the new offshore patrol vessels, and several more may be acquired to watch over Chile's extensive coastline. The Dauphins are replacing about a half-dozen outdated BO 105 helicopters.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mine-Removal Plan Proceeding -- Slowly

Chile is behind on a pledge to remove all land mines, having cleared out just 14% of all minefields so far. Defense Minister Jose Goñi said the government will probably notify the signatories of the Ottawa Treaty that Chile won't meet its 2012 target date. So far, 18,000 antipersonnel and 21,000 antitank mines have been removed from the borders with Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. But more than 150,000 mines remain buried. The army is now using a specialized excavator provided by the U.S. to clean out an area near the Peruvian border. U.S. military personnel have been assisting Chile in the effort. Chile laid the mines in the 1970s, when Peru and Argentina threatened to settle border disputes by force.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

U.S. Approves Transfer of Tanker Ship to Chile


The surplus oiler USS Andrew Higgins is being transferred to Chile's navy under a bill signed by President Bush. The Kaiser-class vessel was built in 1987 and has been out of service since 1996. It can carry up to 180,000 barrels of fuel oil or aviation fuel and eight 20-foot containers. The Higgins replaces the Araucano, a vessel built in Denmark for the Chilean navy that began service in 1967. Although transferred at no cost, the law mandates that necessary refurbishments must be done by U.S. contractors. The bill, signed Oct. 15, also authorized the transfer of two Newport-class landing ships to Peru. No word yet on when the ships will be ready for service.

Friday, October 24, 2008

F-16 Talks Confirmed, But Eurofighter In Picture

The head of Chile's air force confirmed negotiations for the purchase of 16 more F-16 fighter jets from the Netherlands. But Gen. Ricardo Ortega told La Tercera that other "very interesting offers" are being evaluated, too. Those include the Eurofigher and used F-16s offered by Denmark and Norway. Meanwhile, Chile is considering a follow-on order of 10 new F-16 C/D Block 50 jets, Flight International reported, citing local sources. The Eurofigher would give FACh another front-line warplane to supplement its existing F-16 fleet. The U.S. arms embargo of the 1970s and '80s taught Chile's military to not rely too heavily on a single country for military hardware. But while the Eurofighter's unit cost is difficult to pinpoint, it certainly would be much more expensive than second-hand F-16s. The entire package of 16 planes plus spares and logistical support would total $170 million. For that money, you can buy one or two Eurofighters. The new aircraft will replace 15 F-5 Tiger III fighters that were purchased in 1976. FACh had planned to keep them flying until 2015. But the structural repairs necessary are no longer cost-effective, defense analyst Jose Higuera told La Tercera.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Offshore Patrol Vessel Launched

The Chilean navy's second offshore patrol vessel was launched Oct. 15 at the ASMAR shipyard. The ship now goes into sea trials and is scheduled to enter service late next year. The Comandante Toro is a 1,900-ton ship with a helicopter hangar, maximum speed of 20 knots, endurance of 30 days and a crew of up to 60. Its role will be to patrol Chile's extensive territorial waters, provide rescue and environmental services and protect fisheries. Its main armament is a 40 mm gun. The navy's long-term plan is to build four OPVs, one for each of its major naval districts. The ships -- based on the German Fassmer class -- also may become the platform for a new guided-missile corvette.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Developments In Human Rights Front

Chile's highest court handed a six-year sentence to retired army Gen. Sergio Arellano, 88, for the deaths of five dissidents in 1973. The Oct. 15 ruling followed news that an ex-naval officer admitted that an activist priest died aboard the training sail ship Esmeralda after being beaten soon after the 1973 military coup. The death of Miguel Woodward has become a symbol of human rights abuses by the military. Last month, the navy brass met with relatives of Woodward and others who disappeared under navy custody. Navy chief Rodolfo Codina apologized to families, but relatives still demand an "institutional" apology. Nineteen former navy personnel have been charged in the Woodward case. The Esmeralda's second in command when Woodward died testified that medical staff tried frantically to save Woodward after it became apparent he had suffered internal injuries. Those were inflicted at a navy facility, and the priest was taken to the ship for medical care. The incident has sullied the image of the Esmeralda, a longtime source of pride for many Chileans.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Report: Chile in Talks to Acquire More F-16s

The air force plans to acquire 16 more F-16 fighter jets from the Netherlands to replace a similar number of F-5 Tiger III fighters, according to the DPA news agency. The F-5s, with more than 30 years of service, would be retired late next year, the report added. Based in Antofagasta, the F-5s serve primarily as front-line interceptors. They've been extensively upgraded with Israeli avionics, helmet-mounted targeting systems and Python 4 and Derby air-to-air missiles. Holland still has a number of surplus F-16s that have undergone the mid-life upgrade (MLU) and are quite capable warplanes. Chile purchased 18 of these three years ago. If the deal materializes, it would likely end plans to buy fourth-generation fighters. The Eurofighter had been rumored, especially after FACh commander Ricardo Ortega took a ride in one recently.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

'The Economist' On Chile's Army Reform

Chile's army won't be fully accepted as a part of democratic society until questions about its human rights past are settled, Gen. Oscar Izurieta says in an article in this week's The Economist. But to continue seeking recrimination doesn't necessarily help the country, he added. The article discusses other aspects of the army's reform, such as its growing peacekeeping role and the shift from conscription to a professional force. (These issues have been covered in this blog.) Check out "A force for good, now: A newly streamlined army polishes its democratic credentials."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Details Emerge On Arms Budget Revamp

An overhaul of the weapons-acquisition process calls for four-year plans under which the military would spell out its shopping list and how much to spend. The spending outline would be reviewed annually, according to La Tercera. The plan eliminates the armed forces' principal arms-funding source -- 10% of the state-owned copper company's export sales. (In 2007, the set-aside amounted to $1.39 billion.) But there would be a spending floor, and the budget would be based on each branch's needs, rather than an equal division of dollars under the current system. One goal is to coordinate weapons systems among the three branches of the military. Basic costs such as food, salaries and maintenance would still come from the general budget. The revamp would also set up a position similar to the U.S. chairman of the joint chiefs, who would oversee combined operations but leave administration of each branch to its top commander. President Bachelet's administration will send the proposal to Congress in a few weeks. As far as the military brass goes, army chief Oscar Izurieta has cited "technical and fundamental" issues. But generally, commanders agree with the proposal.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Air Force Gets Its 767


FACh took delivery in August of a 767-300 purchased from a Portugese company. The aircraft will be used for various transportation tasks, including ferrying the president on long-range trips. The air force's plan is to acquire two of the 767s. With a Boeing 707 and Hercules C-130 planes at advanced ages, FACh is trying to update its transportation fleet.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

FARC Involved in Mapuche Movement?

The government confirmed communications between the Colombian rebel group FARC and Chile's indigenous Mapuche activists. Emails found in the captured laptop of Raul Reyes -- the No. 2 FARC leader killed in a raid inside Ecuador last March -- sought training for Chilean activists groups, including Mapuches. The links heighten fears that foreign groups are aiding Mapuche radicals. But Interior Undersecretary Felipe Harboe said there's nothing to indicate an active role by FARC in the indigenous movement.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Police Step Up Efforts After Mapuche Attacks

The national police promised special forces, increased intelligence activities and "anti-guerilla" operations in a southern area where indigenous Mapuche groups have used violence to press their demands. The measures followed an August attack on a farm in which armed activists burned structures and assaulted a farmer. In the last 10 years, Mapuche activists have carried out more than 100 attacks on lumber operations, plus some 50 arsons and about 40 land takeovers. A prosecutor in the region says the movement has a diversified network of leadership, ready to step in with replacements if one is captured. It also has support from non-governmental agencies in Chile and abroad. Decades ago, Mapuches were stripped of most of their land and shuffled off to reservations. The movement seeks to reclaim those lands, much of which are now used for lumber harvesting.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Military Pilots Taking Airline Jobs Face Penalty

Chile's armed forces are imposing a new measure to slow the exodus of pilots leaving for lucrative jobs with airlines. Any pilot who leaves the military with less than 10 years of service will need to pay a penalty of 15 million pesos, or about US$28,750. Air Force commander Gen. Ricardo Ortega told El Mercurio that for every 25 pilots that join FACh each year, another 20 make their way to airlines. The average FACh salary for a pilot is US$1,725 a month, while airlines can pay roughly five times that much. Thus, it would take a pilot a couple of months' salary at an airline to pay off the early-exit penalty. Ortega said the military is devising incentives to keep more pilots. Despite sharp reductions in aircraft, FACh is having a hard time staffing its combat fleet with a benchmark of 3.5 pilots per plane. Training costs for warplane and transport pilots run about US$7 million each. A single F-16 course costs US$2 million. The new policy goes into effect next year.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Embraer Confirms Deal for Super Tucanos


Chile's air force is acquiring 12 Super Tucano training aircraft, Brazil's Embraer announced Aug. 15. The contract includes logistical, training and operational support, including a simulator. The cost wasn't disclosed, but news reports have estimated it at $120 million. Deliveries are set for the second half of 2009. The Super Tucano is a turboprop aircraft that can be equipped for ground-attack missions. It is replacing the CASA C-101 Halcon trainer. The deal expands Embraer's partnership with Enaer, the Chilean air force's aerospace company.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

EADS Wins Satellite Contract

Europe's EADS-Astrium won a $72 million contract to build and launch a research and surveillance satellite for Chile. The satellite, going into space in 2010, will be used to monitor climate, forests, fishing and other civilian purposes. It will also watch over Chile's borders and have a role in military intelligence. The Ministry of Defense is funding the project, even though only 5% of its use will be military. The deal gives Chile's air force a space program, which will manage the satellite and its data collection. Update: A defense panel in Chile's legislature has summoned defense official to explain the rationale for acquiring the EADS-Astrium satellite. Lawmakers are questioning inconsistencies between the request for proposals and the model chosen. They also want to review other issues, including the pricetag and concerns that the satellite's resolution is too weak to serve military purposes.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Military's Copper Cash Cow Threatened

Chilean lawmakers and defense officials are working to curtail or eliminate the largest source of funding for weapons purchases. The state-owned copper company, Codelco, is mandated to pass 10% of all sales proceeds on to the military. With the price of copper booming in recent years, the so-called copper law has provided Chile's armed forces with huge sums. Just last year, the allotment amounted to $1.39 billion. There's a growing consensus that the armed forces really don't need that much, especially when neighboring countries are making modest military purchases. There's also a push to improve Codelco's performance. Details of a new financing program, reviewed by the military brass, haven't been released. But the basic plan is to create four- or five-year acquisition programs and establish funding for the weapons systems approved. Largely thanks to the copper funds, Chile has acquired top-shelf F-16 fighters, frigates, Leopard II tanks and other hardware. But it hasn't spent all Codelco funds it's entitled to. Funding for salaries, health care, housing and other expenses come out of the government's general budget. Copper funds typically don't pay for maintenance costs, a major expense with any new system.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Army Tries Distancing Itself From 1974 Killing

Chile's army "absolutely repudiates" the 1974 kidnapping and homicide of an ex-army chief, current commander in chief Oscar Izurieta said July 7. His remarks were the first on the subject since a former intelligence head and others were convicted for the killing of Carlos Prats and his wife while they were in exile in Argentina. Izurieta said he knows "what I have to do" if other officers are charged. Meanwhile, the BBC tells of a controversy over new indictments against military personnel who were junior officers at the time of human-rights abuses. The officers say they were simply following orders in an ultra-disciplined military. Families of victims aren't so forgiving, though.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Air Force Plane Crash Kills 3 Crew Members

A Twin Otter light transport plane crashed during a training mission July 2, killing its crew of three. The pilots were practicing low-level flying when apparently an in-flight problem forced them to try an emergency landing. While attempting to land, the plane hit power wires, witnesses said. The plane went down near the southern town of Cochamo.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Air Force in Talks to Acquire Super Tucanos

Chile's air force has settled on the Embraer Super Tucano as its next advanced trainer, according to reports in Air Forces Monthly and Jane's Defence Review. Negotiations are under way for 12 of the turboprop aircraft, which are replacing the CASA/Enaer T-36 Halcon. Separately, AFM reported FACH was trying to talk the Peruvian air force into joining training exercises with the U.S. Air Force, Argentina and Brazil.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Airbus Tanker Deal Officially Dead

The air force notified EADS that it won't acquire two Airbus 310 Multi Role Tanker Transport planes, citing delays in finding suitable used aircraft. Instead, FACH is now seeking a pair of Boeing 767s. The Airbus project had stumbled from the get-go. First, FACH eliminated the refueling booms, which could have extended the range of its F-16 fighters. Then, few A310s were available in the world market, and no facilities in South America to maintain that type of plane. Under the new plan, maintenance will be handled by Lan Airlines, which has extensive experience with the aircraft. The 767s won't have in-flight refueling equipment. FACH told the daily El Mercurio that it urgently needs cargo planes, and it will consider tanker options later. Sources told the newspaper Airbus had located planes for FACH, but the air force rejected them because of the necessary upgrades. The Boeing 767s will also serve as a long-range VIP transports. Meanwhile, Chile's version of Air Force One -- a 737-500 with some business-jet features -- is being fitted with additional fuel tanks to extend its range, at the expense of passenger capacity.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Israel Firm Reportedly Knocked Off Satellite Deal

Europe's EADS or Canada's MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates will be awarded a $70 million contract for an observation and research satellite, according to a wire report. That eliminates Israel Aircraft Industries from the running, despite that Chilean military officials preferred IAI's satellite. The final decision, now expected by the end of June, rests with Defense Secretary Jose Goni.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Study Finds Military's Legitimacy, Image Improving

Chile's armed forces are considered much friendlier to democracy today than in 1991, when the election of a civilian president ended 17 years of military rule. In a survey conducted last year, 70% said another military coup is unlikely or impossible to occur in Chile. That compares to 44% who felt the same way in 1991, according to researchers at Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences. What's behind the shift in opinion? Gen. Pinochet's stepping down as army chief in 1998 was a key step, says Claudio Fuentes, one of the study's authors. The military also moved to change its image by joining peacekeeping operations, for instance. Voluntary military service, the addition of women soldiers and a greater willingness to accept responsibility for errors are other factors boosting the military's image. Still, less than 8% think the armed forces are firmly committed to democracy, while 46% say they're lightly committed.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Arms Database Offers Details On Purchases

Chile was the world's 17th largest weapons importer in 2007, spending $617 million. That puts it second in Latin America after Venezuela, which spent $887 million. Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute covering 2005-07 shows Chile paid $50 million for 20 Harpoon II anti-ship missiles. Other noteworthy items: $125 million for spares, training and munitions to supplement the $225-260 million purchase of three ex-Royal Navy frigates, and $10 million (including modernization) for three former Brazilian Dauphin helicopters. SIPRI's data also show the purchase of 1,000 Spike-MR/LR anti-tank missiles, 29 Blackshark torpedoes, 200 RIM-66B Standard-1MR surface-to-air missiles and 75 AIM-7M Sparrow SAMs. The anti-aircraft missiles are for frigates purchased from the Netherlands.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tanker-Transport Acquisition Up In The Air

The air force and Airbus have had trouble finding used planes for conversion into the A310 Multirole Tanker-Transport version, significantly delaying Chile's acquisition. Two aircraft that were to be transferred from a government-owned airline in Poland had to be scratched. European Union rules bar direct sales of surplus government property, and the required bidding process would have been lengthy. A pair of FedEx planes were then considered. But extensive corrosion also scotched that option. A couple of A310s appear to be available from Turkish Airlines, elmostrador.cl reported. Despite the setbacks, the air force says the deal with EADS remains in place. The need for new long-range transport planes was underscored when the FACH plane carrying President Michelle Bachelet and other officials had to make an emergency landing April 9. One of the engines of the aged Boeing 707 had to be shut down en route to China. The plane returned to Chile for repairs, and Bachelet (and a much smaller entourage) had to fly in an air force Citation IV.

Friday, April 18, 2008

More Trouble For Pinochet-Era Commanders

Five retired Chilean admirals were indicted April 18 over the death of dissidents, including a British-Chilean priest, following the September 1973 coup. The indictments, handed down by a judge, came one day after the former head of Pinochet's secret police was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the disappearance of a leftist activist. Retired Gen. Manuel Contreras is already serving time for abuses.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Air Force Laments Rash of Pilots Flying the Coop

The air force keeps losing pilots to higher-paying airline jobs. FACH commander Ricardo Ortega said 17 pilots quit in 2007 and 12 more in the first two months of this year. At the same time, FACH adds about 22 pilots a year, to maintain a force of about 400 aviators. The problem has gotten worse in recent years, as commercial aviation booms in Latin America. Like in other countries, the economics favor airlines. A Chilean F-16 pilot makes roughly $1,800 a month, but could earn a starting salary of $4,000 a month flying for Chile's LAN Airlines. Ortega has pleaded for higher pilot pay, but there's been no response from the government. LAN is the main destination for former FACH pilots. But others are flying for carriers in India, Vietnam, Singapore and other Asian countries. In fact, LAN itself has lost a number of pilots -- some who earn as much as $25,000 a month, not including housing and other benefits -- to foreign carriers.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Finalists Chosen for Satellite Project

Three companies are finalists for the Chilean air force's contract to build and launch a research and surveillance satellite. Europe's EADS, Israel Aircraft Industries and MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates of Canada remain from seven original contenders, according to elmostrador.cl. The project, which may cost $80 million, would serve to monitor climate, oceanic, forestry and other geologic trends. It may help watch over Chile's borders, too. The project includes technology transfers to Chile's military and universities. In 1994, Chile's first satellite was a dud: The British-built orbiter couldn't be dislodged from its Ukrainian launcher. A second satellite was put in space in 1998, ending its life in 2001. The winner of the new contract is expected to be announced by the end of April. An earlier contract, with EADS, was voided after controversy over the selection process.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Enaer Teams Up With Aermacchi For Trainers


Chile's air force-owned aerospace company is hooking up with Alenia Aermacchi on the Italian company's M-346 new-generation trainer jet and M-311 basic trainer. The partnership aims to market the planes to Latin American countries and opens the door to joint production of the aircraft by Enaer. That gives Alenia Aermacchi, a unit of Finmeccanica SpA, the inside track on Chile's upcoming contract for new trainers. The agreement is the biggest headline so far out of the Fidae air show this week in Santiago. Another noteworthy item was news that the U.S. Air Force will conduct training exercises with Chile's air force.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

General's Resignation Underscores Old Rifts

The commander of the Santiago army garrison, Gen. Gonzalo Santelices, resigned in February, yielding to calls for him to step down. The case highlights the difficulties the army still faces in extricating itself from the human rights accusations dating back to the 1973 coup. Santelices was part of a military group that allegedly executed some 75 political foes. The general was at the time a lieutenant, and says he was given orders to transfer 14 prisoners from a jail to a desert area where they were killed. Santelices has not been charged. Current army chief Gen. Oscar Izurieta praised Santelices' decision. But former army head Emilio Cheyre wasn't so diplomatic. In an editorial, he basically accused Chilean leaders of going too far. While he was in charge, Cheyre played a key role in securing Chile's new democracy, pledging that the armed forces would "never again" repeat the 1973 overthrow.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Leopard II Fleet May Face Parts Shortage

Just as the refurbished Leopard IIs start arriving at the northern brigades, a logistical problem threatens their operational capability. Many of the spare parts are no longer manufactured, says a story in strategypage.com. Meanwhile, surplus stocks are drying up. It's reasonable to think that the outlook for spares may affect Chile's plans to buy more Leopard IIs.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A310 Tankers To Lack Refueling Boom

Chile's new A310 MRTT tanker/transport planes won't have an in-flight refueling boom, Jane's Defence Weekly reported. The planes will have a hose-and-drogue system, but the booms were dropped on "operational and financial grounds." While the A310s can refuel the F-5 Tiger III fighters, they cannot support the more modern F-16s. The Jane's article also noted several defense programs planned for 2008, including an order for 14-20 turboprop trainers and a competition for advanced trainers. Chile's air force also is seeking used Hercules transport planes to upgrade and replace older C-130B aircraft. (Only one of six acquired is still in service). Two existing C-130H planes are to go through a life-extension program. The Condor (Phalcon) AWACS plane is being overhauled to keep it flying until 2016. In the navy, the Cougar attack helicopters also will go a life extension, though a date wasn't given. The frigate Williams goes into refit in March in which a 3-D radar, communications suite, Oto Melara gun and Harpoon missiles will be added.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shipyard Wins Ecuador Submarine Contract

In a new sign of cooperation with Chile's military, Ecuador is sending two Type 209-1300 submarines to Asmar for refit. The $120 million project is one of Ecuador's largest defense contracts in recent years. The German-built subs -- the Shiri and the Huancavilca -- were built in the 1970s. The deal with Asmar, a company owned by Chile's navy, follows Ecuador's acquisition of two Chilean frigates in exchange for oil exploration. (See prior post.) Asmar has experience working on Chile's own Type 209 subs. Asmar has a busy backlog, with jobs pending for an offshore patrol vessel for Iceland, another for Chile and a new research vessel also for Chile.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Chile Seeks To Export More Arms

Having acquired fighter jets, warships and armored vehicles, Chile is putting its old military hardware up for sale. The first significant deal is the sale of two Leander-class frigates to Ecuador. In an unusual financing arrangement, Ecuador would pay for the ships by opening up exploration of the Gulf of Guayaquil to Chile's Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP), and share the oil and gas production. Ecuador's president said last month the oil-for-ships deal is needed to defend that nation against drug runners, human smugglers and pirates. Ecuador already operates two Leanders, but one is practically retired and will be scuttled to keep the second one sailing. Ecuador and Chile share a historic adversary in Peru. Meanwhile, Chile is entertaining offers for its retired Mirage warplanes and AMX-30 tanks. In the past, Chile had exported mainly small arms. Its biggest export success has been the Pillan trainer airplane, sold to Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Paraguay, Spain, Dominican Republic and Ecuador.