Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Promises of Aircraft and UAVs, but Few Details

In a rare public announcement of military acquisition plans, Chile says it will add three Hercules C-130H transport planes to supplement the air force's airlift capabilities. The acquisition — disclosed in an annual document outlining major government programs and goals — doesn't say from what country the planes are being purchased or if the planes will replace the old Hercules now in service with FACh. The H series Hercules were first delivered in the 1960s, so FACh certainly isn't getting any aircraft in their prime. President Michelle Bachelet's message merely said the planes will be used for troop transport, disaster relief and to reach remote areas of the country — roles that military aviation habitually handles. The government also said plans are proceeding for the purchase of multipurpose medium helicopters, a program that was announced earlier this year. The number or model of the helicopters is not mentioned, and the only background provided is that they'll be used for military operations and disaster relief. In addition, Chile says it will continue to acquire unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). But again, no details on how many or what type. The only detail provided is that the UAVs will be used for surveillance, reconnaissance and, of course, assistance in case of natural disasters. For the Navy, the only acquisition program mentioned was the replacement of the Skymaster light naval reconnaissance planes with P68 aircraft. Deliveries end in 2017. The Army is set to acquire 330 trucks of various types, with the priority going to vehicles capable of handling evacuations and cargo transport. Indeed, Chile is not preparing for war, but for the next natural disaster. Bachelet's document also says the Army is developing new electronic warfare systems and is implementing an integrated data and communications system to better track and control troop movements.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Army Post Sparks Outrage from Bolivia

Chile has set up an Army post near the border with Bolivia, in an area known for drug trafficking, auto theft and robberies. Only 13 soldiers are camped out in the small site, which is characterized as an observation post that works with police units in the region. Small as it may be, Bolivia's government has accused Chile of threatening the security of Bolivia and of breaking a treaty between the two nations. It's just the latest in a series of accusations the government of President Evo Morales has made in a thus-far fruitless campaign to win back the territory Chile conquered in the 19th-Century War of the Pacific. Truth be told, Bolivia has its own military post 1 1/2 kilometers from the Chilean border, and it's a much larger facility. Chilean officials, in turn, are accusing Bolivia of creating a controversy. Where is it all leading? Nowhere. Morales may score some political points at home with his bravado, but he has little leverage (or hope) to gain any part of the Pacific Ocean.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Corruption Probe Opens Window to Military's Secret Funding

Many of Chile's institutions have been caught up in various corruption probes, including government officials, major corporations and the soccer federation. Add the armed forces to that list. It started with accusations that some lower-ranked officers stole funds from a military budget whose expenditures are often kept from the public. Now, investigators are targeting a former head of the Army. Retired Gen. Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba is suspected of having improperly profited while he was commander in chief of the Army. Among the facts that have come to light during the probe is the extensive network of suppliers the Army uses. Some 120 companies sell goods and services to the Army, expenditures that are kept secret under the law. The sums totaled an average of $200 million between 2005 and 2014. That's roughly one-fifth of a budget derived from a 10% tax on sales by the state-owned Codelco mining giant. Under a government transparency program, the salaries of the military commanders is now disclosed. The Army chief makes 4,049,575 pesos a month, or nearly $6,000 in U.S. currency. The Navy's top officer earns close to $6,200 while the top Air Force general gets $6,600. Those are larger paychecks than their counterparts in Peru and Colombia receive, according to El Mercurio. A Chilean Army general in charge of a division earns $5,737 a month, and a brigadier general $5,466. The top Air Force officers make more than Army and Navy officers in the same rank. A FACh general earns $6,336 a month and a brigadier general $6,057.