Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Russians Are Coming

Russian weapons manufacturers are finally making inroads in Chile, a market they've never penetrated before. A delegation of Chilean army officers recently visited Russia to evaluate air-defense systems and wheeled armored vehicles. The visit, reported in Jane's Defense Weekly, follows news that the air force is close to acquiring Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters. Those would be used for search and rescue operations, especially civilian emergencies. The daily La Nacion said in August that FACh had come to terms with Rosoboronexport, Russia's arms-export company, on six Mi-17s. The deal is said to be worth $70 million and includes logistical support. Many Latin American countries use Russian weaponry, but Chile has traditionally been a customer of western-made equipment.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Leopard 1 Tanks To Be Retired

Chile's 200 Leopard 1 tanks will be removed from active duty once the army's Leopard 2 fleet is fully operational. The older tanks may be placed in reserve, sold to another nation or cannibalized for spare parts, according to a wire service report. Chilean officials reportedly are sensitive about having too large of an armor advantage over neighboring armies. Although 200 is the number of Leopard 1 tanks officially reported, other sources have indicated an additional 70 were purchased. Scores of AMX-30, M-41, Sherman and other old tanks have been put to pasture already. The army's new organization consists of several Leopard 2 battalions, each with 31 tanks. They're to be supported by Marder infantry fighting vehicles, M-109 self-propelled howitzers, M-113 personnel carriers, Gepard air-defense systems and other equipment. Thus, the army is moving closer to its vision of self-contained armor brigades.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

How to Spend $3 Billion

Defense analysts estimate Chile has amassed $3 billion from copper revenues to spend on weaponry. The main items already under discussion include air-defense missiles for the army, refueling tankers and early-warning aircraft for the air force, plus UAVs for all armed forces. Here's this blog's proposed spending plan, which argues that most purchases should be for equipment that can also have a civilian use. For the navy, two more patrol vessels make sense. These ships serve a valuable role in protecting economic interests. It's also important to acquire a ship capable of transporting troops, helicopters and vehicles for peacekeeping missions and natural disasters. For the air force, UAVs and early-warning aircraft would help patrol borders and fight drug trafficking. A fleet of rescue helicopters, which is already under consideration, is needed for civilian emergencies. For the army, infantry modernization is key. That includes more optical electronics, body armor, M-4 carbines. The peacekeeping batallion should get priority. Not all $3 billion need to be spent. It would be smart to set aside $1 billion to create a fund, sort of an endowment, to generate new revenue for the military.