Saturday, January 24, 2015

Is Air Force Souring on its F-16s?

Chile's Air Force let out an unusual critique of the F-16s it acquired from the Netherlands, raising questions about the condition of the country's front-line aviation assets. The news came in a roundabout way. Colombia's air force is shopping for new fighter jets, and is considering used F-16s. As part of that evaluation, Colombian aviators checked in with Chile's Air Force, which is the largest operator of F-16s in Latin America. Chile's response wasn't encouraging: Think twice about buying used F-16s, they said. Chilean officers said the cost and effort to upgrade the used F-16s have been more than expected, according to a report in Defensa.com. The article also quotes a Dutch officer who says some key components were replaced with used parts of lower quality before the planes were transferred to Chile. Moreover, to win U.S. approval for the sale, the Dutch had to downgrade key elements of each plane, including the radar, software, and had to remove the hardware to fire AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and anti-radiation missiles. FACh is upgrading all second-hand F-16s, which have already gone through the midlife upgrade, to the Tape 4 standard, which includes capabilities for advanced air-to-air missiles, advanced targeting pods and other electronic upgrades.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Police Bring up Armor Against Indigenous Rebels

Chile's police has been adding armored vehicles in the Araucania region, where it is battling radical Mapuches who have been carrying out a campaign of arson and other attacks. The Carabineros moved in several Mowag 4x4 armored personnel carriers to bolster a force that often has been overmatched in fighting the indigenous group. Now, Panhard PVP vehicles have been added and are in the region, according to Defensa.com. The Carabineros' latest armored vehicle were originally acquired for the Marines and used in the Chilean UN contingent in Haiti. With Chile winding down its commitment in Haiti, the eight Panhards have been reassigned to the national police. Also, at least two Renault Sherpa APCs of the Carabineros special forces unit have been seen in the area, the website said. Chances are, they'll get plenty of use. Attacks, especially arson, have not let up. At least one victim has fired back, literally. A watchman shot one of the men who set fire to trucks and farm equipment.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sizing up Bolivia as a Potential Enemy

Bolivia is asking the International Court of Justice to grant it access to the Pacific Ocean through Chile, a move that has deepened a historic rift between the two nations. The dispute dates back to the War of the Pacific (1879-1884), which resulted in Chile annexing the coastal territory of Bolivia. The loss has been a sore spot for Bolivians, and the government of Evo Morales has used it as a cause to rally the nation. It's highly doubtful the conflict would lead to war, however. If it came to blows, the fighting would be over quickly: Chile's military dwarfs Bolivia's, which has no credible armor, artillery, air power or even infantry. Indications are that its army doesn't even have enough assault rifles for all its troops. Rather, Bolivia is hoping the Court of Justice delivers a sympathetic ruling and hands it a diplomatic victory. Could Bolivia wage a low-intensity war of sabotage and harassment? That's not likely either, because Bolivia already has an important business presence in the disputed area. Chile argues a 1904 treaty set the border that remains in force today. Bolivia says it signed the treaty under duress. Chile has countered that the International Court has no jurisdiction over treaties so old. The dispute is in large part a battle for public opinion, and La Moneda produced a video that shows how it has already granted Bolivia free access to ports, railroads and other facilities that give that country de facto access to the Pacific. Like other Latin American land disputes, this one will be fought through economic and political means. So don't expect Chilean F-16s to buzz Bolivia anytime soon.