Sunday, June 9, 2013
How to Spread $11 Billion Around Chile's Military
The past couple of years have been lean in terms of weapons purchases for Chile (see table below) compared with earlier years. Part of the reason is the government's sensitivity to political pressures. But all that could change in the next 12 years, when $7 billion to $11 billion could be spent. The low of that range fits with the spending floor set out by a proposed reform in the defense budget that would end a tax on sales from the national copper company. That law would set a minimum of more than $600 million a year to be shared by the three armed services. Multiply that by 12 years, and you get to $7 billion. Even with the minimum allocations, the sums budgeted for weapons would be larger than in any other 12-year period, at least in relative terms. Push the spending to $11 billion, and the increase is even more dramatic. To be sure, the spending targets are no guarantee that such large amounts will actually be spent, and they have not been confirmed. The actual totals may be much more modest, just like billions in funds already have been left unspent. But by 2025, a lot of major systems will need to be replaced. The two Type 209 submarines will be obsolete, and two new subs would easily top $1 billion. The L-Class and M-Class frigates will have been in service 32 to 39 years. The venerable F-5 fleet will probably be retired well before 2025; even a used squadron of fighter planes could run $500 million. Other big-ticket potential purchases include airborne early warning aircraft, helicopters and related equipment for the new air cavalry brigade, a second multi-role ship, missile boats, infantry equipment, trainer airplanes, air-defense systems and the build-up of the ever-important command and communications network. Chile was able to snap up bargains in the 2000s buying surplus weapons from Western nations. But it may not be so lucky in the future, as less of that post-Cold War surplus gets left in the world arms market.