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.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

As Fires Burn, Chile Finds Itself Short on Firefighting Aircraft

A historic wave of forest fires has left much of Chile charred, a disaster that has underscored a lack of aircraft capable of fighting blazes. Fueled by years of drought, dozens of forest fires have broken out in the central and southern parts of the country. Teams from South America, France and other nations have rushed to the aid of Chilean crews overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the inferno. Some of those countries provided helicopters and airplanes with water-dropping equipment. Good thing, because apart from some helicopters dunking large buckets of water, the military has no aircraft with specialized equipment. Brazil's air force sent a pair of C-130 Hercules that are capable of spraying large areas of flames, and some planes like that would be valuable in Chile, where forest fires break out every year. As they do in any disaster, Chile's armed forces jumped into action with bulldozers, security forces and other resources. Many soldiers have been pressed into service as firefighters. Military helicopters and planes are being used to ferry firefighters and equipment. Now, they may get some firefighting equipment. A group of lawmakers is pushing to create a firefighting brigade within the military, and to acquire airplanes specially equipped to battle fires, according to a report posted in Noticias FFAA Chile. As long as the military is responding to disasters, it will need to make firefighting one of its areas of responsibility.