Friday, November 25, 2011

Friends Don't Let Friends Fly Drunk

The scenario: An Air Force pilot who's been drinking alcohol takes off on a training mission flying an attack plane with a bomb payload. Something goes wrong in flight and the pilot ejects, and the plane crashes. The Air Force fires the pilot, as you would expect any reasonable military organization to do, and files criminal charges. But this month, Chile's supreme court acquitted the pilot. The court ruled the Air Force does not specifically make drunken flying a crime. The only punishment that could be meted out in this case was just disciplinary action. The crash, which occurred in 2003, resulted in the loss of an A-36 Halcon jet. That's not a front-line warplane, but still a significant loss. For the Air Force, the incident is a black eye and the latest piece of bad news in what has been a dreary year. On Sept. 2, a C-212 transport plane carrying 21 civilians and crew members crashed off the Juan Fernandez island, killing all on board. During the subsequent recovery mission, a ground crew member was struck by a propeller blade and killed. On Nov. 9, a pilot with the Halcones acrobatic flying team was killed in a training crash.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Single-Engine Planes Added to Border Security

Chile has acquired three small airplanes as part of its effort to curb drug trafficking in the northern border region. The Cirrus SR-22 planes, which cost $500,000 each, will be equipped with optical equipment for day and night surveillance. The acquisition is part of Plan Frontera Norte (Plan Northern Border), which bolsters defenses against drug trafficking from Peru and Bolivia with a combined air-sea-land campaign. The government has budgeted $70 million through 2014 for Plan Frontera Norte. Other elements of the plan include a ground radar, a mobile thermal-imaging system, fast-reaction vehicles and other sensors.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Navy Upgrading Radars on its Type 23 Frigates

The Navy's Type 23 frigates, the newest of eight surface warships in the fleet, will get new air defense radars. The Type 911 tracking radar spots targets at low elevations, such as sea-skimming missiles, and in cluttered environments. This was a shortcoming of the earlier Type 910 tracking radar. The 911 is linked to the Seawolf air-defense missile system. BAE Systems is getting about $5.25 million for the hardware and installation, which will be done in conjunction with Chile's Asmar shipyard. The two companies have already teamed up on maintenance and upgrade projects for the Navy's British-built frigates.