Monday, February 27, 2017

How to Defend Chile, an Overview

It's been said that Chile is an island. The Pacific Ocean, the Andes mountains and the arid northern desert are natural barriers that provide the country with ample separation from the rest of the continent. Those geographic features also afford Chile with formidable borders against foreign aggressors, and they are one reason the nation has seen few wars in its 206-year history. But Chile's unusually vertical geography is also its weakness and a challenge for military planners. Along much of the country, there's only one major north-south highway, and big chunks of territory can be cut off if those roads are blocked. This Achilles' heel became all too apparent after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami. With the main highway collapsed at several points, there was no way to reach many communities except by air or sea. Thus, air and sea transport are essential elements of the country's defense. Neither is well equipped, however. The Navy's transport fleet has a capable multi-role ship, a transport vessel (with capacity for 250 passengers) and three 1,400-ton landing ships. The Air Force has five or six Hercules C-130 transports, three KC-135s, one 767, one 737 (another 737 is for VIP transport) and about a dozen Twin Otter light transports. Those assets could keep a few battalions supplied during a conflict, and would be critical in any high-intensity conflict. On the ground, the Army has scores of trucks it can utilize to support its troops in the north and south, and private trucking could also be employed. Even with damaged roads and bridges, Army engineering units would be able to keep supplies moving, especially if there's enough air defense to protect against air attack. In future posts, this analysis will continue with a look at how land, sea and air units play their roles in defending Chile.