Saturday, October 19, 2013

Surplus A-37B Warplanes Sold to El Salvador

The government of El Salvador has confirmed the purchase of 10 A-37B Dragonfly airplanes that had been retired by the Chilean Air Force. The $8.6 million deal, which includes spare parts, is being done with financing provided by the U.S., according to the October issue of Air Forces Monthly. El Salvador says the acquisition gives its air force a badly needed boost in equipment, although the acquisition means El Salvador will not buy A-29 Super Tucano airplanes from Brazil's Embraer. El Salvador already uses the A-37, which was used extensively during the civil war in that country. Chle had been shopping the A-37B's since they were retired from service in 2009. The Dragonfly was designed for counter-insurgency ground attack and got a lot of work in the Vietnam War. Chile had acquired more than three dozen A-37s over the years. Their last active service was in the base at Punta Arenas, in the far south of Chile. This is not the first aircraft sale to El Salvador. The Central American nation was one of several countries that bought the T-35 Pillan basic trainer from Chile.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

F-16 Crash-Lands, But Fleet Remains Intact

A mishap in Antofagasta
An F-16 pilot made an emergency landing at the air base in Antofagasta Oct. 8 after the aircraft blew a tire on takeoff. The pilot was not hurt, although the plane sustained significant damage. Last year, another F-16 MLU was damaged in a similar crash landing that was caused by a landing-gear failure. But after seven years of service in the Air Force, none of the 44 F-16s has been lost, and they continue to undergo upgrades. In fact, FACh has had a pretty clean safety record with its combat jets. The F-5E/F Tiger squadron, now at the twilight of a service life that began in 1976, remains largely intact. The Mirage 5/50 fleet did suffer some attrition before those fighter-bombers were retired. Seven times pilots ejected from their Mirages in the 1982-2003 period, according to a website that tracks pilot ejections. Three ejections are recorded for the domestically built A-36, including at least one fatal accident. Among non-combat aircraft, a pilot with the Halcones acrobatic aviation team was killed during a training exercise in 2011. Also that year, two pilots were among 21 killed when a CASA 212 light transport plane crashed while attempting to land.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Curious Case of Gen. Cheyre

As Chile's armed forces have evolved from being the country's rulers to becoming subordinates of elected presidents, the role of Gen. Juan Emilio Cheyre stands as a milestone. While Cheyre was commander of the Army in 2002-2006, he published an essay in which the Army accepted responsibility for human rights abuses during the military's rule. His vow that the Army would "never again" commit such acts effectively distanced the military from former strongman Augusto Pinochet. But today, Gen. Cheyre is fighting accusations that he himself took part in abuses. Earlier this year, he was cleared in the case of an orphaned infant he was ordered to take to a convent in December 1973. The controversy forced him to quit his post as head of the national elections service. Now, investigators are looking into accusations by three sisters who say Cheyre was one of the officers who kidnapped and tortured them as children. It's hard to imagine that a champion of human rights would be a perpetrator himself. Yet, that's the conundrum facing the retired general. Meanwhile, the military officers who led the anti-communist war during Pinochet's rule are becoming more isolated. President Sabastian PiƱera shut down an exclusive prison where several officers convicted of human rights abuses were being held. They will serve the rest of their sentences in a regular prison, although one of them committed suicide rather than accept life with common criminals. Many Chileans view these officers as heroes who battled leftist terrorists and whose work was not much different than the CIA's or SOCOM's. Indeed, the government has launched a probe into more than 100 attacks by leftist extremists.