Monday, April 22, 2013

Chile and Its Love Affair with the F-16 Fighter

F-16 MLU
The backbone of Chile Air Force (FACh) is the F-16, both in the Block 50 and MLU versions. The MLU jets were purchased used from the Netherlands and continue to be upgraded. All indications are that FACh is quite happy with the planes. They are equipped with cutting-edge systems such as beyond-visual-range missiles, JDAM precision bombs and mission-control software. The F-16 is also one of the cheapest high-performance jets to operate. "It costs the (U.S.) air force $23,000 per hour to operate an F-16C," Strategypage.com explains. "Other fighters are much more expensive. An F-22 costs $68,000 an hour, while an F-15C costs $42,000, and an F-15E $36,000." Could FACh buy more F-16s? There's no urgent need for more front-line fighters, even with the F-5 Tiger III squadron in semi-retirement. But Defensenews.com reported that Chile has shelved a program to acquire advanced jet trainers due to other budget priorities. Available funds, the article noted, are being shifted to the F-16 program, and a Lockheed Martin executive told the website that Chile hopes to do more upgrades on its F-16s. Of course, this means the advanced-trainer purchase is being sacrificed, at least for now. FACh wants to replaced its aged T-36 trainers with a model more adequate for F-16 pilots. Besides the T-35 Pillan basic trainer, FACh operates a dozen A-29 Super Tucanos that have some advanced electronics.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Army Acquires SpyLite UAV

SpyLite lands in Chile
The Army has agreed to make an initial purchase of SpyLite, a lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle that has extensive battlefield use. The $3 million contract is for six UAVs and control equipment, although it is expected that the Army will purchase many more systems. The first delivery is expected in about five months. SpyLite is a 20-pound vehicle suitable for reconnaissance missions. The manufacturer said it won the competition thanks to the SpyLite's ease of use, performance and price. The UAV is made by BlueBird Aero Systems of Israel. It's the second time that an Israeli company wins a UAV contract in Chile, following the 2011 deal for the Hermes 900 from Elbit. Chile's armed forces and at least one private company continue to develop UAVs, nonetheless. Last year, for example, the Army conducted the first test flights of a UAV model.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chile, Other Countries Team Up on Trainer Plane

Seven South American countries, including Chile, have formed a partnership to develop a basic trainer for their air forces. The goal is to develop and fly the first plane by 2015, according to Flightglobal. It's not clear who exactly will design and build the plane. Chile's participation in the project is not surprising because of two factors. One, its T-35 Pillan basic trainer has served for about three decades, and a replacement is needed. (A turboprop model introduced by Enaer as a follow-up to the Pillan went nowhere.) Two, Chile has embraced partnerships with other aerospace companies in the past. For example, it is one several nations involved in the development of the KC-390 transport plane, being built by Brazil's Embraer. The other countries teaming up on the new trainer are Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela.