Saturday, March 23, 2013

Could Chile Lose its Edge in Air Superiority?

Peru is looking to acquire a fleet of second-hand Eurofighter Typhoon jets from Spain, according to Flight International. Peru's government made a formal request for 16 planes, with a cost of $61 million each and a relatively young service life of 600 flight hours. Peru is also considering other advanced fighters, including the Boeing F/A-18 and Dassault Rafale. Indeed, Peru is getting serious about upgrading its fighter capabilities, which for decades have rested on squadrons of Mirage 2000 and MIG 29. The Typhoon, Rafale and other jets Peru is considering were developed about 20 years after the F-16, and at least on paper they would leapfrog Chile's F-16 C/D and MLU planes. But in air combat, it's not necessarily the year of the plane's design that matters most. More relevant are the avionics, maintenance and training of the pilots, and in those areas Chile's air force can measure up. Its F-16 Block C/D jets have up-to-date navigation, targeting and mission software. Helmet-mounted aiming systems, beyond-visual-range AMRAAM missiles and other technologies make FACh a match for late-generation fighters. Chilean pilots are believed to spend more time in training flights than Peru's. Still, if Peru goes forward with the fighter acquisition, it would greatly narrow the air-superiority gap with Chile.