Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How to Defend Chile in the Air

For the same reason that naval power is important to Chile -- i.e., the country's narrow geography doesn't allow for much flexibility in land mobility -- air power is just as valuable. The Air Force, or FACh, has the mission of maintaining air superiority so that land and naval forces can maneuver effectively. That role falls on the 10 F-16 Block 50 and 36 F-16 MLU fighter planes that provide Chile with the backbone of its air force. Compared with neighboring countries, the F-16 squadrons form a capable if not formidable weapon, especially when targeting pods, beyond-visual-range missiles and radar systems are factored into the equation. In a conflict, the F-16 fleet would provide adequate cover to operate air combat patrols wherever Chile conducts military operations. Pilot training is thought to be at least on par if not superior to Peruvian and Argentine pilots. (Bolivia has no credible air force.) Air bases could be vulnerable to enemy strike, especially if the Andes mountains obscure radar coverage. To protect its bases, FACh counts on the NASAMS medium-range air defense missile system. It also uses truck-mounted Mistral missiles, some 40mm anti-aircraft guns and Vulcan anti-air cannon for a layer of shorter-range air defense. The F-16s also would be tasked with ground attack missions, and for that role Chile also could count on A-29 Super Tucano, F-5 Tiger III and even the antiquated A-36 Halcon jets. The F-16s, though, have the better targeting systems and JDAM bombs. Transportation is a third leg of FACh's mission, and that's an area in which it has added some assets the past few years. It acquired at least two C-130 Hercules planes and three KC-135 tanker-transport planes from U.S. stockpiles. It also has a few converted Boeing jets and light Twin Otter planes. Those aircraft, however, would be stretched thin if Chile has to supply forces at either end of its long geography, and it would also have to hope that most runways stay operational.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Navy Starts Shopping For New Subs; Deal Could Be Largest Ever

The Navy took the first steps to acquire two submarines to replace its Type 209 subs, which are nearing the end of their service life. Plans are to select a winning bid by 2020 and have the new subs operational in 2025, Jane's reports. By then, the older of the two Type 209s in Chile's Navy will be retired. Both Type 209s are already more than 30 years old. The SS Thomson was launched in 1984 and the SS Simpson in 1982. A new electric-diesel submarine typically runs about $500 million, which means the contract for two new subs could top $1 billion. It would easily be the most expensive military acquisition in Chile's history. Submarines, though, are valuable naval assets because of their stealth. Chile's two other submarines, a pair of Scorpene boats, were acquired for less than $500 million, a bargain that Chile obtained because it was the launch customer for the Scorpene. There won't be such luck with the next pair of submarines, and a future president will be faced with Chile's first billion-dollar military decision. Also by 2025, the two L-class air defense frigates will be nearly 40 years old and due for replacement. Those won't be cheap, either.