Sunday, June 23, 2013

New Navy Commander Could Usher in 2nd Assault Ship

The Navy this month swore in its new leader, Adm. Enrique Larrañaga Martin, whose early achievements could be bringing his force a second amphibious assault ship. Jane's reported that the Navy will move forward with plans to acquire France's Siroco multi-role ship. Her sister ship, the Foudre, was sold to Chile in 2011 (and is now called the Sargento Aldea) and immediately gave the Navy the vessel necessary to form its new Amphibious Expeditionary Brigade. Chile has had its eye on the Siroco since the Foudre was bought. Soon after he began his four-year term as head of the Navy, Adm. Edmundo González laid out a vision for one or two multi-role ships. He delivered on the first one, and Adm. Larrañaga figures to inherit the Siroco during his new term. The 12,000-ton Foudre-class ships can carry about 450 troops, up to seven helicopters and as many as 100 vehicles. The Sargento Aldea also has extensive medical facilities, which the Armada has already used on relief missions in outlying areas of the country. Acquiring another amphibious assault ship would also mean further purchases of landing craft, helicopters and armored vehicles. The Sargento Aldea is still not fully equipped; the Navy has only three Cougar transport helicopters and the dozen AAV7 armored vehicles it recently purchased won't be delivered until early next year. Another dozen AAV7 or similar amphibious vehicles could be needed if Chile completes the purchase of the Siroco.With both ships, Chile would be able to move its Amphibious Expeditionary Brigade many thousand miles, and be able to support it with armor and logistical units. But the brigade still would lack one of the key elements of a true blue water navy: warplanes. Chile has no plans to acquire vertical-takeoff planes such as Harriers to give its marines an air-attack or air-superiority arm. Instead, the brigade is being built to serve as a peacekeeping force, though it certainly could be used in case of armed conflict.

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.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

With Chile's Economy Flourishing, Armed Forces Find Fewer Volunteers

The armed forces had enough volunteers to fill this year's conscription rolls without resorting to a compulsory draft, just like they have every year since the volunteer system started. But fewer men and women signed up than last year. With Chile's economy humming along and offering plenty of job opportunities for young people, the Army, Navy and Air Force are having to compete more for workers than in the past, according to The Santiago Times. This year, the military is offering more housing, education, pay and job-training incentives. After the admissions process was done, the Army had added 10,000 volunteer soldiers this year. That included the first group of volunteers from Easter Island. The Army's new professional soldier program has meant a reduction in the number of volunteer positions available. The Navy took in 360 men and women conscripts. Last year, student protests slowed the armed services' recruitment drive. But the movement has quieted down some, and it was not cited as a factor in this year's smaller volunteer class.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

AAV7 Vehicles, M4 Carbines for the Marines


AAV7 -- coming to Chile's surf
Chile has agreed to purchase a dozen AAV7 armored amphibious vehicles for its new Amphibious Expeditionary Brigade. The vehicles are being acquired from surplus U.S. stockpiles and will be upgraded by BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems unit, according to reports. The AAV7s, being delivered next year, will be upgraded to the RAM/RS standard, which includes a more powerful engine. The batch is comprised of 10 AAVP7 A1 troop transports, one AAVC7 command vehicle and one AAVR7 recovery vehicle. The vehicles will be part of the 1,400-strong brigade embarked on the Sargento Aldea multirole ship and other vessels. The AAV7 is quite capable as an amphibious assault vehicle. But for peacekeeping missions, the large, tracked AAV7 is not as well suited as wheeled AFVs, which travel better in urban areas. The AAV7's armament is a .50-caliber machine gun and a 40mm grenade launcher, both mounted on a turret. The Expeditionary Brigade has lacked heavy weapons but is slowly being outfitted with helicopters, landing boats and other equipment. Chile also is buying 2,000 5.56mm Colt M4 carbines for the marines, according to Infodefensa.com. The carbines replace the heavier HK33 assault rifle and also are destined for the Amphibious Expeditionary Brigade, Infodefensa said. Although the reports seem credible, neither acquisition has been confirmed in the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency website. Update: Aviacion Argentina has reported that the purchase of AAV7 armored vehicles has been canceled.