Saturday, April 11, 2015

Chile's Disasters and the Military's Muscle

Trading rifles for shovels
The north of Chile is still digging out from massive floods and mudslides after an unusual rainstorm hit the region March 25. As in other natural disasters, Chile's armed forces have provided essential aid, including airlifting supplies, rescuing victims, clearing roads and setting up field hospitals. Troops also are providing security by patrolling the stricken areas. At times of crisis like this, Chile's military usually shines. With at least one natural disaster each year in Chile, the military gets plenty of opportunity to be rescuers. But each disaster underscores the need for more airlift capability. Finally, some help is on the way. Minister of Defense Jorge Burgos confirmed the Air Force is acquiring helicopters. He declined to say how many and what type. But his remarks followed comments by a top FACh officer who said he expects a few Black Hawk helicopters to be added. Connect the dots, and the acquisition Burgos is talking about could be a batch of Black Hawks. FACh has been looking to replace its Bell UH-1H helicopters. Burgos also mentioned he will seek the acquisition of the sister ship of the Navy's only multirole ship. That vessel, the Sargento Aldea, has provided critical relief support by bringing vehicles, supplies and its own on-board hospital. Still, the minister sounded cautious about securing approval for the purchase.

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