Thursday, October 30, 2008

U.S. Approves Transfer of Tanker Ship to Chile

The surplus oiler USS Andrew Higgins is being transferred to Chile's navy under a bill signed by President Bush. The Kaiser-class vessel was built in 1987 and has been out of service since 1996. It can carry up to 180,000 barrels of fuel oil or aviation fuel and eight 20-foot containers. The Higgins replaces the Araucano, a vessel built in Denmark for the Chilean navy that began service in 1967. Although transferred at no cost, the law mandates that necessary refurbishments must be done by U.S. contractors. The bill, signed Oct. 15, also authorized the transfer of two Newport-class landing ships to Peru. No word yet on when the ships will be ready for service.

Friday, October 24, 2008

F-16 Talks Confirmed, But Eurofighter In Picture

The head of Chile's air force confirmed negotiations for the purchase of 16 more F-16 fighter jets from the Netherlands. But Gen. Ricardo Ortega told La Tercera that other "very interesting offers" are being evaluated, too. Those include the Eurofigher and used F-16s offered by Denmark and Norway. Meanwhile, Chile is considering a follow-on order of 10 new F-16 C/D Block 50 jets, Flight International reported, citing local sources. The Eurofigher would give FACh another front-line warplane to supplement its existing F-16 fleet. The U.S. arms embargo of the 1970s and '80s taught Chile's military to not rely too heavily on a single country for military hardware. But while the Eurofighter's unit cost is difficult to pinpoint, it certainly would be much more expensive than second-hand F-16s. The entire package of 16 planes plus spares and logistical support would total $170 million. For that money, you can buy one or two Eurofighters. The new aircraft will replace 15 F-5 Tiger III fighters that were purchased in 1976. FACh had planned to keep them flying until 2015. But the structural repairs necessary are no longer cost-effective, defense analyst Jose Higuera told La Tercera.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Offshore Patrol Vessel Launched

The Chilean navy's second offshore patrol vessel was launched Oct. 15 at the ASMAR shipyard. The ship now goes into sea trials and is scheduled to enter service late next year. The Comandante Toro is a 1,900-ton ship with a helicopter hangar, maximum speed of 20 knots, endurance of 30 days and a crew of up to 60. Its role will be to patrol Chile's extensive territorial waters, provide rescue and environmental services and protect fisheries. Its main armament is a 40 mm gun. The navy's long-term plan is to build four OPVs, one for each of its major naval districts. The ships -- based on the German Fassmer class -- also may become the platform for a new guided-missile corvette.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Developments In Human Rights Front

Chile's highest court handed a six-year sentence to retired army Gen. Sergio Arellano, 88, for the deaths of five dissidents in 1973. The Oct. 15 ruling followed news that an ex-naval officer admitted that an activist priest died aboard the training sail ship Esmeralda after being beaten soon after the 1973 military coup. The death of Miguel Woodward has become a symbol of human rights abuses by the military. Last month, the navy brass met with relatives of Woodward and others who disappeared under navy custody. Navy chief Rodolfo Codina apologized to families, but relatives still demand an "institutional" apology. Nineteen former navy personnel have been charged in the Woodward case. The Esmeralda's second in command when Woodward died testified that medical staff tried frantically to save Woodward after it became apparent he had suffered internal injuries. Those were inflicted at a navy facility, and the priest was taken to the ship for medical care. The incident has sullied the image of the Esmeralda, a longtime source of pride for many Chileans.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Report: Chile in Talks to Acquire More F-16s

The air force plans to acquire 16 more F-16 fighter jets from the Netherlands to replace a similar number of F-5 Tiger III fighters, according to the DPA news agency. The F-5s, with more than 30 years of service, would be retired late next year, the report added. Based in Antofagasta, the F-5s serve primarily as front-line interceptors. They've been extensively upgraded with Israeli avionics, helmet-mounted targeting systems and Python 4 and Derby air-to-air missiles. Holland still has a number of surplus F-16s that have undergone the mid-life upgrade (MLU) and are quite capable warplanes. Chile purchased 18 of these three years ago. If the deal materializes, it would likely end plans to buy fourth-generation fighters. The Eurofighter had been rumored, especially after FACh commander Ricardo Ortega took a ride in one recently.