Saturday, July 26, 2008

EADS Wins Satellite Contract

Europe's EADS-Astrium won a $72 million contract to build and launch a research and surveillance satellite for Chile. The satellite, going into space in 2010, will be used to monitor climate, forests, fishing and other civilian purposes. It will also watch over Chile's borders and have a role in military intelligence. The Ministry of Defense is funding the project, even though only 5% of its use will be military. The deal gives Chile's air force a space program, which will manage the satellite and its data collection. Update: A defense panel in Chile's legislature has summoned defense official to explain the rationale for acquiring the EADS-Astrium satellite. Lawmakers are questioning inconsistencies between the request for proposals and the model chosen. They also want to review other issues, including the pricetag and concerns that the satellite's resolution is too weak to serve military purposes.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Military's Copper Cash Cow Threatened

Chilean lawmakers and defense officials are working to curtail or eliminate the largest source of funding for weapons purchases. The state-owned copper company, Codelco, is mandated to pass 10% of all sales proceeds on to the military. With the price of copper booming in recent years, the so-called copper law has provided Chile's armed forces with huge sums. Just last year, the allotment amounted to $1.39 billion. There's a growing consensus that the armed forces really don't need that much, especially when neighboring countries are making modest military purchases. There's also a push to improve Codelco's performance. Details of a new financing program, reviewed by the military brass, haven't been released. But the basic plan is to create four- or five-year acquisition programs and establish funding for the weapons systems approved. Largely thanks to the copper funds, Chile has acquired top-shelf F-16 fighters, frigates, Leopard II tanks and other hardware. But it hasn't spent all Codelco funds it's entitled to. Funding for salaries, health care, housing and other expenses come out of the government's general budget. Copper funds typically don't pay for maintenance costs, a major expense with any new system.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Army Tries Distancing Itself From 1974 Killing

Chile's army "absolutely repudiates" the 1974 kidnapping and homicide of an ex-army chief, current commander in chief Oscar Izurieta said July 7. His remarks were the first on the subject since a former intelligence head and others were convicted for the killing of Carlos Prats and his wife while they were in exile in Argentina. Izurieta said he knows "what I have to do" if other officers are charged. Meanwhile, the BBC tells of a controversy over new indictments against military personnel who were junior officers at the time of human-rights abuses. The officers say they were simply following orders in an ultra-disciplined military. Families of victims aren't so forgiving, though.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Air Force Plane Crash Kills 3 Crew Members

A Twin Otter light transport plane crashed during a training mission July 2, killing its crew of three. The pilots were practicing low-level flying when apparently an in-flight problem forced them to try an emergency landing. While attempting to land, the plane hit power wires, witnesses said. The plane went down near the southern town of Cochamo.