Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Tanker Planes, F-16s Set to Arrive

The first of three KC-135 transport aircraft is due to land in Chile Feb. 18. The planes can also provide in-flight refueling, extending the operating range of Chile's F-16 fighters. The tankers were one of several program updates announced Jan. 26. Defense Minister Francisco Vidal said the 18 used F-16 jets, acquired from the Netherlands, will start arriving in October. The $270 million deal gives Chile a total of 44 F-16s. The latest batch is being assigned to the 5th Aviation Brigade in Antofagasta. Also, the first six of a dozen Super Tucano trainers have been delivered, with the remainder arriving in several months. Chile's air force also has taken delivery of some of its 12 brand-new Bell 412 helicopters. The KC-135s bolster Chile's transport capacity and combat range, but the aircraft are old and it's unclear how long they can remain operational. It's conceivable that one of the three planes will be used for spares. If the announcement wasn't enough to rile Peru, air force Gen. Ricardo Ortega fanned the fire with a thinly disguised warning: "Everyone watching us knows we have the capability to strike hard. So, it's better that they leave us alone."

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