Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tierra Del Fuego Island Cleared of Mines, but Job Continues

The arduous job of clearing Chile's minefields reached a milestone this month, when Isla Grande in Tierra Del Fuego was declared free of landmines. But the achievement also served as a reminder of just how much more work is still needed to rid the country of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. After clearing more than 96,000 anti-personnel mines, the task is barely half completed. In the far south region of Magallanes, 78% of mines are gone. The minefields near the borders with Peru and Bolivia are farther behind. Still, Chile has a target date of 2020 to complete the job, which is obligated to perform as a signer of the Ottawa Convention. The mines were Chile's answer to the threat of war with Argentina in 1978, when Argentina had a far superior military and Chile was coping simultaneously with a threatened attack from Peru. The crises eventually abated, but the landmines remain a legacy of those tense days. Traditionally, mines have served the weaker armies with an effective way to confront adversaries. Mines have a deleterious effect on maneuver forces, if not a lethal one. At least the problem is manageable in Chile, which charted all of its minefields. In many other countries, it's anyone's guess where mines have been laid.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Deal with Alenia Aermacchi Raises Hopes of Aircraft Acquisitions

C-27J Spartan
Chile has signed a collaboration agreement with Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi to provide support services for the C-27J tactical transport plane and the M-345 advanced trainer jet. Chile does not have either plane in its inventory, which raises the possibility that both aircraft will be acquired. Both, in fact, have been under consideration for years but Chile never has reached the stage of signing a purchase agreement. The Italian company says it plans on a "long-term commitment." Chile's Air Force and Army have shown interest in the C-27J Spartan as a replacement for the C-212 and C-235 transports. FACh has eyed the M-345 as the final layer in its training fleet, which has the Pillan basic trainer, the Halcon trainer jet and the Super Tucano turboprop, which shares a role as light bomber. Enaer, the FACh-operated aerospace company, will provide the support services and receive technical know-how from Alenia Aermacchi. Severe flooding in the normally dry north of Chile the past week has underscored the need for transport aircraft as the military rushes aid and rescue teams. With scores of towns and cities cutoff by floodwaters, helicopters and planes capable of landing on short or unimproved runways are essential assets. Reports from the disaster area show that Chile could use more of them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Black Hawks, Jet Engines for Air Force

The Air Force is making some modest acquisitions, including two or three Black Hawk helicopters and jet engines for the F-16 fighter. The commander of the Third Air Brigade in Puerto Montt confirmed the helicopters would be added to the single Black Hawk that FACh already operates out of that base. That helicopter, of the S-70A-39 version, was acquired in 1998. Chile did not exercise options to acquire 11 more, leaving it the only Black Hawk in the Air Force inventory, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The commander did not say what country is selling the helicopters, and there's no confirmation from the Pentagon. The U.S. Defense Dept. did list a contract to Pratt & Whitney to rebuild F110 engines, the type used in the F-16, for Chile. The contract is part of a modernization program for the front-line fighter fleet.