Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chilean Army: Really Modernizing?

This is another type of war. New in its intensity, ancient in its origins – war by guerrillas, subversives, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat. By infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him… This type of war requires a wholly different kind of force, and therefore a new and wholly different kind of military training.

-- President John F. Kennedy, in remarks to the graduating class, U.S. Military Academy, 1962.

By Jose Miguel Pizarro

The Chilean army is currently in the final phases of completing an historical modernization process that is almost exclusively focused on conventional warfare. Chilean main battle tanks, mechanized formations and heavy artillery provide a false sense of superiority that confuses political decisions -- about the eventual use of force -- with the urgent need to develop a military that is truly prepared for a myriad of asymmetric contingencies. While it is important that the implementation of maneuver warfare with heavy tank formations be subject to critical evaluation, the generalized disregard in the Chilean army on irregular warfare (IW) is flawed and warrants a closer look.

After nearly a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan – between some of the most powerful armies in the world and a group of poorly equipped guerrilla fighters – professional soldiers and military analysts have driven home important lessons that have resulted in the rapid development of new technologies as well as a new sense of appreciation for old ones.

While these lessons have been taken on board -- to a greater or lesser degree by most armies around the globe -- the Chilean army remains largely uninformed and disconnected with these developments. A look at worldwide procurement trends reveals that while the number of main battle tanks in some major armies is falling, the market for lighter armored vehicles such as MRAPs, 8x8 armored personnel carriers, and 4x4 armored security vehicles -- all of them more suited to fighting insurgencies -- has been growing almost out of control for the past 10 years. Likewise, most western armies are now developing some type of soldier system that gives the individual soldier better communications, situational awareness, protection, and increased lethality.

That lethality is increasing at the smaller unit level with a new generation of precision munitions, with GPS-guided artillery rounds for the 155 mm howitzer and with the deployment of precision-guided mortar projectiles and rifle-caliber guided rounds in development. Unmanned vehicles are also becoming more common at the rifle company and platoon levels throughout the U.S. and European forces, with an increasing array of sensors even aboard small, hand-launched UAVs. Surprisingly none of these training, doctrinal or technological developments is being implemented into the regular combat units of the Chilean army. Not even one.

Chilean army generals reject irregular warfare (IW) and counterinsurgency (COIN) because they don’t see the Chilean army embroiled in guerrilla conflicts that will tarnish the reputation of the army as an institution and because they truly believe they will never face a determined enemy wearing the “uniform” of the insurgency. “Why prepare for a war that will never come, Pizarro? We will defeat them in the conventional battlefield with our tanks, they will surrender, sign the peace and we will all go home victorious. There will never be a guerrilla movement strong enough to disrupt army operations.”

I believe this view is misguided. To be prepared for war (for virtually any type of war) is one of the most effective means of preserving peace. For instance, the Chilean army prepared for tank battles with the Peruvian and Argentineans for more than four decades, yet rarely deployed to fight. The system worked because we were never forced to cross the border. This in turn created a self-perceived idea of invincibility that effectively eliminated the need to prepare for any other type of battle. Unfortunately, the Chilean army high command has never considered the possibility that maybe war cannot be avoided, and that in the event the Chilean elected civilian leadership takes the decision to go to war, it is the Chilean army’s responsibility to be prepared to fight in all types of contingencies. The Chilean army cannot prepare only for the war that they hope to or would like to fight. Once begun, a war's character evolves and changes. Even a reasonable expectation that no insurgency or guerrilla force will arise, may in fact be tremendously flawed. The point of counterinsurgency is to counter insurgents -- that is, to fight against those who use terror, violence and fear to undermine the presence of Chilean forces in a foreign land -- both sides fighting to take control of people and territory. This is a type of war that is recurring, consistent and repetitive in the 21st century… whether or not we are comfortable with its character.

Finally, it is the lack of debate that concerns me the most. The Chilean people are convinced they have a robust, modern and highly trained military force ready to win (at least) the wars of the next decade. In fact, they truly believe that once the political decision is taken the military forces being deployed by Santiago are fully prepared to respond and adapt to all kinds of contingencies against the same traditional adversaries they have faced for the past 100 years. As a result, no surprises are expected. Sadly, that’s not true.

To suggest that the Chilean armed forces are ready to cross the northern borders, win the conventional war and then shift to maintain enemy territories under control for several months or even years… is to overstate our true capabilities. And yet that is exactly the kind of operational environment we will be forced to face. Our enemies have choices in war and in the 21st century small enemy organizations have demonstrated an amazing ability to shift the character of armed conflicts in ways that avoid our strengths and take advantage of perceived weaknesses.

The Chilean army is by no means a perfect organization. It certainly has made some mistakes in the past and vowed never to repeat them, but to ignore a whole dimension of war because we wish to, and because some academia geeks believe that certain forms of warfare do not play to our strengths, threatens to replace our duty to prepare for future wars with nothing more than simple wishful thinking. And that’s a mistake history will force us to pay with blood.

Mr. Pizarro, 42, is a former Chilean Army artillery officer with an extensive operational background in both the Latin American region and with the U.S. armed forces. He also served in the U.S. Marines and later as a senior security advisor/contractor for four years in the Middle East. Mr. Pizarro also worked for CNN en Español as a military analyst. He lives in Washington, DC, with his family. E-mail:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chile Miffed Over Bolivian Army Video

It's common for armed forces in variuos countries to make videos promoting themselves, showing off their hardware or otherwise engaging in chest-thumping. But one Bolivian army video goes further, alluding to Bolivia's hopes of taking back its coastal territory and daring, "We're wating for you, Chileans." In Chile, officials were miffed and demanded an explanation. Bolivia's army says the video was altered by someone in Brazil.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cable Discusses 'Myths' of Mapuche Conflict

The conflict between native Mapuches and Chile's government are "serious and merit attention," but at the same time, the problem is being sensationalized in the Chilean press, says a confidential cable from the U.S. State Department. "Destruction of property -- which accounts for the vast majority of all illegal Mapuche action -- is often displayed in full color and with bold headlines," notes the November 2009 cable, released by Wikileaks. "Moreover, positive or less incendiary news from indigenous communities -- resolution of localized conflicts, peaceful protests, meetings, or other actions taken to address Mapuche political concerns -- are often not covered at all." Quoting a Chilean official, the cable says 27 of 2,100 Mapuche communities are actively in conflict with landowners. A separate cable quoted former Interior Minister Perez Yoma telling the U.S. ambassador on Feb. 6, 2008, of concern about "the potential radicalization of Chile's indigenous population, including funding from foreign terrorist groups and/or Venezuela." Perez Yoma specifically asked for help in "following the money" to track financial sources. The FBI, the cable added, is working with Chilean police "to assist in identification and potential prosecution of actors within Chile." As the cables note, the conflict over ancestral lands is concentrated on a relatively small segment of the Mapuche community. Nonetheless, their activities continue to pose a security risk, even to some not directly involved in the conflict. Vandalism, arson and other crimes have created a threatening and unwelcoming environment that has retarded business development in the Araucania region, now one of the poorest economically in an otherwise vibrant Chile.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hazing Incident Proving Costly for Air Force

It's an air force tradition to celebrate a cadet's first solo flight by stripping him on the tarmac, use sandpaper on the skin and otherwise razz the new aviator. But in one case now under investigation, the hazing got out of hand and the cadet suffered serious injury to his ear. The damage has left him unable to fly and he has left the academy, says a story in El Mostrador. The incident occurred about a year ago, but grew worse lately after the cadet alleged that an officer hacked into emails between the cadet and his attorney. The air force says it's considering disciplinary action. As El Mostrador notes, training a pilot is expensive -- about $2 million for a single F-16 course. Besides the financial cost, this is no time for the air force to lose pilots. The service is desperately trying to keep them from defecting to airline jobs. It is now letting college grads apply to be pilots, without having to go into the air force academy. So the incident gives the air force bad publicity when it can least afford it, and it could have political consequences, too. More of the military budget is coming under legislative control, and bad press such as this doesn't help.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Day After We Win the War

“Like academic military historians, surprise attacks theorists have fallen into the habit of ignoring the central element of War – the fighting. Like some utilitarian historians, and many contemporary observers, they tend to focus on only one level of command, usually the very highest civilian authority, such as the president or prime minister. It is therefore to other analytic traditions or approaches that we must turn in order to learn how to dissect military misfortune.”
-- From “Military Misfortunes. The Anatomy of Failure in War,” by Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch.

By Jose Miguel Pizarro

Today we are well into an era of nonstop international conflict – a time when the most dangerous adversaries for traditional or conventional armies are in fact irregular forces supported by a constantly changing and seemingly invisible network. Just as the old rules of conventional warfare do not apply in this new environment, neither does the old way of analyzing battlefield intelligence related to these new all-too capable enemies.

The Contemporary Operational Environment (COE) is defined by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) as: “a composite of the conditions, circumstances, and influences that affect the employment of military forces and bear on the decisions of the unit commander.” (Joint Pub 1-02). Yes, I got that. But considering that in the 21st Century the population is now a key unconventional element that adapts to its terrain -- just like any other friendly, neutral or enemy force does -- then my question is: How the local population fits into the new Operational Environment (O.E)? In other words, if more than 90% of all daily combat engagements will be inside urban areas, villages and around thousands of innocent civilians, how is the Chilean Army preparing its troops to fight inside that specific combat scenario? Where is the doctrine to understand this new operational environment?

Believe it or not, many Chilean Army and Air Force generals are convinced that the Peruvian army will order its troops to deploy into a WW2 defensive formation in the middle of the desert. This convenient (and vastly accepted assumption) will comfortably allow the Chilean Army to destroy the Peruvian formations well beyond the horizon and help the Chilean Air Force to safely pursue any surviving units with a series of bomb runs well away from populated areas. But trust me… that it’s not going to happen.

I believe the Chilean army is training today to fight a conventional war of attrition that will never come and using a conventional mentality that it is fundamentally different from the threats and realities of today’s complex asymmetric battlefields in which guerrilla and irregular forces are in fact the main enemies. If Chile ever goes to war, its armed forces will be directed to capture enemy locations -- deep inside enemy territory -- and instructed to maintain those provinces for extended periods of time. But if neighboring countries don’t have tanks, mechanized formations or heavy forces the Chilean army will then quickly capture towns, cities and villages without ever engaging into major conventional battles. This particular scenario will leave between 20,000 to 40,000 Chilean soldiers occupying cities deep in the heart of an enemy nation of which our soldiers and commanders don’t know anything about.

Lots of tanks but very few UAVs and computers
There is a dramatic need – at the brigade level and below – for finer training, institutional doctrine and electronic equipment for targeting individuals instead of tanks, and for gathering accurate data about enemy populations. For instance; What do we know about the Peruvian Army and its relationship with the 15 million-strong Aymara and Quechua Indian community? Will the indigenous people of Alto Huallaga and from the VRAE region support the central government in Lima or instead, be indifferent to a border war with Chile?

The operational environment it is extremely influential in determining the outcomes of military and nonmilitary actions in urban settings. It constantly evolves and in fact constantly morphs into different shapes and characteristics. Within one southern Peruvian city, one can find the intersections and collisions of people, organizations, culture, religious beliefs, attitudes, motives, technology and personal needs that are completely different from another city of similar size in the north or in the jungle regions of the country. Since Chile's adversaries need the support of the population to survive, we must understand the local population to win the war. To grasp the influences that drive behavior, we have to collect data specific to that environment (i.e., city, villa, province, etc.) and we have to smartly keep on collecting that data to keep it updated. Unfortunately, the Chilean Army HQ in Santiago is trying to simply draw a line in the sand and declare that we now have all the relevant data we need on an operational environment like Peru and Bolivia.

The Problem
Times have changed, and the intel community in Santiago must accept that it needs to change accordingly. Conventional operations are those traditional, force-on-force, state-versus-state major combat operations typified by Operation Desert Storm, the first two months of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the tank battles between Egypt and Israel during the Yom Kippur war of 1973. Forces in major combat operations are characterized by mass and a decent degree of predictability. Conventional forces generally operate as formed units or groups such as brigades and regiments, ships and task forces, squadrons, wings and groups and perform within generally accepted parameters and functions. Although irregular forces do not follow those rules, the Chilean army has failed to prepare, train and equip its army to face such an aggressive and elusive enemy.

For the Chilean Army, the terrain of crucial interest in major combat operations is that of the physical environment over which operations are conducted. That’s all. The "local population” are generally an obstacle that will usually not participate in operations and -- it is assumed -- will take what steps they can to quickly vacate combat zones. If anything, they may be a consideration in operation planning as potential obstacles or constraints in force application. Today, the people who are of primary interest for the Chilean intelligence community are the enemy leadership (civilian and military) of the opposing nations. In Santiago they still believe that the opposing president and his government are the ones who historically determine whether their nation fights or falls. While that might be the case with Bolivia, the Peruvian Marine Corps and the Army Special Forces will welcome the opportunity to kill Chilean soldiers by following their historical tradition: “… to grab their assault rifles and backpacks and fight the Chilean Army for decades.” And believe me, they are very good at that.

Every single one of the wars that have characterized the 21st Century lacks the comfortable form and function of conventional conflict. The operating environment today is substantially different from that of the conventional conflicts that characterized the past 60 years. Surprisingly, when you review the order of battle of the Chilean army today, you see the same old force design and rigid formations of the U.S. Army in Korea in 1951. So long as we continue to think in terms of conventional warfare -- as the sole purpose of the army -- we will keep on preparing to fight the wrong war and with the wrong enemy.

Understanding the Human Terrain
Chilean soldiers are trained to observe and report enemy troops and vehicle movements. Chilean doctrine mandates that if a scout patrol spotted four Peruvian BRDM wheeled vehicles or a ZSU tracked vehicle on the move, we will immediately use that information as potential combat indicators. After confirming their presence (on a particular location), we could then apply a general decision-making template that might lead us to determine where the other key elements of that enemy force might be. Once we were reasonably certain of their location, those elements could then be engaged with weapons of mass effect such as cluster bombs, 160 mm artillery barrages or with a pair of F-16s. The problem is that today modern armies are moving away from an era of platform-based tracking to one of tracking individuals. And that is a far more fundamental and relevant concept for the contemporary environment than the much-abused "we are fighting for our country” slogan that is traditionally used in South America to justify mistakes, lack of intellect and sheer incompetence.

Well, so what’s new? The thing we fail to understand is that after the conventional war is over, the real fight will start. In the modern Irregular Warfare (IW) environment, our equivalent combat "indicator" might simply be two men and a taxi loading bags in the trunk. But in all probability they are just two men and a taxi with no supporting doctrinal template that might expose other elements of their force. So what do we do? Stop them? Follow the taxi with a UAV? Disregard the information and keep on looking for armed civilians? What does the doctrine says about this? Oh, I am sorry… I forgot. There is no doctrine for irregular and unconventional warfare in the Chilean Army. To effectively target an adversary force element in an IW conflict, we first need to understand its local environment in all its forms: cultural, physical, intentional, economical, political and informational. That's at least five more aspects than the tactical and operational levels of conventional conflict. In conventional battle, the concerns are: What is it? Where is it? (the physical aspect) and What is it going to do? (the intentional aspect). That’s all. The Chilean Army is very good at identifying the characters in the environment, but not so good at identifying the characteristics. In irregular and unconventional wars, we want to know much more about every aspect of the operational environment. We need to see beyond the obvious and ask our commander for more than the conventional considerations that might relate mostly to cover, concealment and mobility of enemy regiments and vehicles. Really? Why? Well it is quite simple; in irregular warfare (IW) there are no enemy regiments. The only way we can know about these things is to get out there and gather the data with our own troops. The human terrain system scouts and the new intel collectors, the "every soldier a sensor" concept and the data held by host nations and nongovernmental organizations, each contribute to what is a crucial function in the contemporary environment. Unfortunately, consideration for these sources is not considered necessary -- let alone important -- in the Chilean Army current doctrine of operations.

In Chile, the real weakness in this area is not the ability to collect the data but the ability to process it. Our current force design does not include the equipment, the personnel or the means of collection to support the higher resolution necessary in today's environment. Worst, doctrinally speaking we haven't adapted our human intel processing system to either manage the sheer bulk of data now collected or fuse and process it into products that contribute to our tactical commanders with anything other than random tactical gains. In other words, while we may be using this data to get short-term wins, few of these contribute to longer-term and sustainable objectives and measures of success. Even before that, we need to frame the problem and get the questions right so that the answers are not irrelevant. We can't do that either without current relevant data and the technological means to interpret it relative to the environment.

We Chileans pride ourselves with military forces trained for major combat operations and with modern formations capable of handling anything in the spectrum of conflict – from large scale combat operations to low intensity warfare. However, the past 10 years of war on planet Earth would suggest otherwise, showing a clear need for our forces to refocus for a different style of war. Military transformation allows us the flexibility and adaptability to defend ourselves in a changing world. Just as Chilean ingenuity continues to strive to create the overwhelming strategic advantages that we have enjoyed for so long, so will our adversaries continue to search for our asymmetric vulnerabilities. We, in turn, must counter these vulnerabilities with superior intellect, with constant innovation, and with change. Today's challenge is also preparedness — preparedness to deal with a dangerous world filled with a variety of changing threats. And preparedness to respond decisively, if necessary, to aggression against our nation and to our interests.

Mr. Pizarro, 42, is a former Chilean Army artillery officer with an extensive operational background in both the Latin American region and with the U.S. armed forces. He also served in the U.S. Marines and later as a senior security advisor/contractor for four years in the Middle East. Mr. Pizarro also worked for CNN en Español as a military analyst. He lives in Washington, DC, with his family. E-mail:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Multirole Ship Purchase a Done Deal?

With the Exponaval show in full force, more signs are emerging that Chile is serious about acquiring a multirole ship. Defense Minister Jaime Ravinet said the navy's only major landing ship, which needs about $15 million in repairs, will be retired. A replacement vessel is being sought, he added. The report in El Mercurio de Valparaiso adds that Chile has apparently settled on buying a Foudre-class ship offered by France, rejecting a competing offer from Italy. Meanwhile, the British are making a push at Exponaval as the Royal Navy tries to sell some of the ships being retired under a major cost-cutting program. The carrier HMS Ark Royal, two landing ships and other vessels are now possibitilies for Chile's acquisition. Twenty British companies are taking part in Exponaval, where the theme of this year's show is transport capabilities. A series of natural disasters, including the February earthquake and a volcano eruption before that, has intensified the need for a ship capable of taking vehicles and aid to areas where roads and airfields are scarce. The navy has specified a need for a ship with roll-on, roll-off ramps, with the ability to carry vehicles and supplies. Such a ship would also serve Chile's peacekeeping missions in other countries.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Small Arms, Logistical Equipment in Famae Pipeline

SAF 200 submachine gun
The army's own munitions and weapons manufacturer, Famae, has introduced a series of new guns, including its latest version of the SIG assault rifle. The SIG 556 follows other rifles made by Switzerland's Sig Sauer that have been built under license in Chile. SIG rifles are standard army issue. Famae is also has introduced a new version of its 9mm submachine gun, a model being called the SAF 200. Projects under development include reinforced bridgelayers, refueling vehicles, a smokescreen system capable of masking 70% of vehicle's infrared signature and a virtual shooting range. The projects are shown at Famae's Web site.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New F-16s Start Arriving

The first six of 18 F-16 fighter jets arrived at their new home base on Tuesday, Nov. 9. The jets flew from Holland, refueling in midair and making a stop in the Canary Islands. The F-16s were purchased from Holland, which put the planes up for sale as surplus equipment. All have undergone the mid-life upgrade (MLU) program, which includes updated electronics. Combined with an earlier purchase from Holland, Chile's air force now owns 34 F-16 MLU fighters. All F-16 MLUs are being operated from the Cerro Moreno base near Antofagasta.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Report: 3 Finalists for UAV Deal

Chile's armed forces have narrowed down their choices for unmanned aerial vehicles to three companies, from an initial group of 13, according to a defense blog. Intelligence, Defense & Security quoted Gen. Cristian Le Dante, head of the joint chiefs of staff, saying three companies made concrete proposals, and a decision will be made by year-end. The general said the systems are for medium- and long-range missions, and are equipped with radar and thermal-imaging technology. The three finalists are not named but all are from Israel, according to sources cited by Intelligence, Defense & Security. The Israeli companies that make such UAVs include Elbit Systems, which developed the Hermes line of long-endurance UAVs; and Israel Aerospace Industries, whose products include the Heron family of strategic UAVs.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chile's Air Force: Ready for Tomorrow's Wars?

By Jose Miguel Pizarro

Since the beginning of the Chilean Air Force (FACH) modernization process in the late 1990s, the use of Chilean air power has been guided in the context of large-scale major combat operations. In that type of fight, the current Chilean doctrine (a copy almost word by word of the U.S. Air Force doctrine) does an exceptional job of defining “traditional” roles that unfortunately do not necessarily apply to the realities of South America.

For instance, if Chile goes to war against one or more of its neighbors, traditional air-to-air combat operations will probably last 10 to 14 days. Two weeks -- that’s all. After hunting down every single jet fighter and bombing every operational enemy runway, the Chilean Air Force (FACH) will then realize that the current force design was not well suited for dealing with the new kind of irregular warfare (IW) in which modern air forces find themselves today.

As soon as the FACH realizes that there are no more integrated air defenses to penetrate, that there is no air threat to counter, and no traditional strategic targets left for air power to destroy, our air force generals will be tasked to quickly adapt by giving the best possible support to ground-combat elements. With their armies destroyed and their tanks and bases in flames, Chile's enemies will quickly throw away their uniforms and hide among the population and attempt to take control of certain strategic choke points in the Andes Mountains. As soon as the first guerrilla attacks start killing hundreds of soldiers, the FACH will be then required to counter asymmetric, irregular and hybrid threats for the rest of the campaign. So, and if that’s the most likely scenario for the FACH, then the new operational environment begs the question: To provide Close Air Support (CAS), but with what?

 The problem in Chile is that irregular warfare is not viewed as strategically important as traditional warfare is. As with counterinsurgency doctrine, irregular warfare and CAS operations to support this type of fight have generally been neglected in the Chilean armed forces. In its present form, CAS is primarily a reactive and a poorly understood concept that’s rarely practiced in combat drills. As a result, if a Chilean Army company commander wants to destroy a simple target such as an entrenched mortar, a machine-gun nest or a sniper hidden in a building, he needs to call in a $70 million jet (from hundreds of miles away) to do the job of a $5 million turboprop airplane specifically designed for light attacks. As common sense dictates, Chilean ground forces should instead be supported with the right mix of platforms and tactics before they ever come into contact with the enemy. As modern warfare matures, Chilean air power should adapt and quickly equip forces to better match the actual theater requirements it will face in the not so distant battlefields of the next decade.

What’s the problem?
Current Chilean Air Force strike-fighter force design and development seems to be centered exclusively around expensive fourth-generation platforms such as the F-16 Block 50. Again, these aircraft are incredibly capable (and need to be in order to counter high-end threats) but they are not well suited for low-end conflict. So the question remains: What are we going to do after just two weeks of combat operations when there are no more enemy airplanes to shoot down? Switch to provide close air support with F-16s? Sure… but with a price tag of more than $1 million per attack (and with more than 100 calls for fire every day) shouldn’t it make more sense using large numbers of low-cost airplanes specifically designed to attack and destroy ground targets? Make no mistake here -- without a robust CAS capability the Chilean army will be forced to engage every single ambush, firefight and tactical engagement alone. Without close air support the rate of casualties will be at an alarming steady rate of between 30 to 40 men killed and more than 100 seriously injured every 24 hours. With more than 1,000 Chilean soldiers killed and more than 3,000 injured and mutilated every month, the mounting casualties will force the Chilean government to execute a tactical retreat in the middle of a humiliating operational defeat. Mark my words….

The Scenario:
Since the arrival of the new fleet of F-16 fighters, FACH commanders have firmly (and comfortably) stationed themselves at very modern air force bases in Iquique and Antofagasta with the idea of providing a distant air power service in support of Chilean Army ground forces fighting in Peru and Bolivia. Although highly capable and effective, these F-16 aircraft must transit hundreds of miles and burn thousands of pounds of fuel (from Chilean Air Force tankers) to loiter in theater for a precious few minutes before flying all the way back to their bases for recovery and re-arming. Air power by its very nature is extremely flexible, yes, but its recent implementation in Chile has not been.

The solution:
The Chilean Air Force must embrace a more soldier-focused, joint air-and-ground approach while simultaneously balancing requirements for the current needs of irregular warfare. This requires the expert use of measured air power in the form of timely close air support and precision strikes against everyday targets such as snipers, machine-gun nests and fortified positions inside urban areas. If we want to save lives we are not going to send 100 soldiers to kill a single sniper inside a building. A well coordinated Army-Air Force team will get a forward air controller on the net and ensure that within 4 to 12 minutes a laser-guided bomb is dropped inside that specific building. But when fighting inside an urban area we need to keep in mind that calls for CAS will be required at a rate of 1 every 10 minutes. Accordingly, we should not overlook the development of low-cost CAS platforms that fit the intensive requirements of Close Air Support (CAS) in a much more economical and effective way.

The Colombian Air Force approach:
Today the Colombian Air Force (FAC) is flying a small fleet of 25 Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano turboprops designed for light attack, counter insurgency (COIN) and pilot training missions. Incorporating modern avionics and weapons systems, these aircraft have the ability to provide a tough, survivable counterinsurgency platform with long loiter times and large ordnance loads. Then, thinking that Chilean warplanes might need to operate from forward operating bases or expeditionary airfields deep inside enemy territory, the Tucanos bring a robust weapon system -- with a long range and autonomy -- that is able to operate night and day, in any weather, and able to land on short airfields lacking advanced infrastructure. The Colombian Air Force pioneered the concept of irregular warfare direct support to soldiers on the ground by developing a new Latin American doctrine of operations, capabilities, tactics, and costs that are in fact smartly matching the mission they currently support. In 2008, the FAC used a Super Tucano armed with "Griffin laser guided bombs" inside Ecuadorian airspace during "Operation Phoenix," destroying a guerrilla cell, 20 FARC terrorists and killing the second-in-command, Raul Reyes. While the entire operation was conducted at night, not a single Colombian soldier was injured.

It truly makes no sense using high-tech, extremely expensive $70 million F-16 fighters to kill a four-man patrol of enemy infantry running away from an ambush site at night -- especially when you can employ lower-cost, lower-tech aircraft armed with rockets and machine guns and equipped with advanced night vision systems. The concept makes even more sense if Chile can deploy large quantities of these airplanes and allow them to be used by the Chilean Army -- on hundreds of missions every day -- to achieve total battlefield superiority. Before it is too late, the Chilean Air Force should immediately acquire, integrate and weaponize a small fleet of 60 to 80 modern light-attack and reconnaissance aircraft to provide ground attack capabilities similar to those lost after the purchase of the new fleet of F-16s. These "new" light attack aircraft should be capable of operating from austere locations (such as enemy highways or secondary roads) providing ISR and joint-fire support from a low-cost, highly reliable platform built to integrate seamlessly with current Chilean Army and Air Force command-and-control systems.

Their footprint must be small enough not to necessitate major infrastructure improvements or unduly burden existing logistics systems. For instance, and if we ignore these recommendations and we just simply decide to use our fleet of F-16 fighters to go after single enemy vehicles, infantry positions or small, isolated command posts, then the operational tempo will quickly exhaust expensive fighter and tanker life spans at an alarming rate. Within two weeks, there would be no F-16s available to fly in support missions. A less-expensive light-attack platform would dramatically reduce the operational strain on the fighter fleet by replacing the F-16s on tactical CAS missions or by augmenting existing air power assets as needed. For example, and from a logistical standpoint of cost and readiness, the fuel used by a single F-16 in one hour equals more than 40 hours of flight time in a single-engine light-attack/armed reconnaissance aircraft.

Normally, platform acquisition requires long lead times. But in the case of light-attack aircraft, no research-and-development or technology-based delays will slow down the acquisition process. These types of aircraft are already fielded by a number of commercial manufacturers and more than 50 of them are already in service with the Chilean Navy and Air Force in pilot-training roles. Finally, manufacturers are standing by for the call to produce badly needed light-attack aircraft. All of this makes a compelling case: This capability is what the Chilean Army-Air Force team needs to reshape air power for irregular warfare -- and on our next war, close air support will be the name of the game

 Mr. Pizarro, 42, is a former Chilean Army artillery officer with an extensive operational background in both the Latin American region and U.S. armed forces. He also served in the U.S. Marines and later as a senior security advisor/contractor for four years in the Middle East. He also worked for CNN en Español as a military analyst. He lives in Washington, DC, with his family. E-mail:

Monday, October 25, 2010

UAVs Donated As Decision Nears on Contracts

Chile's army has acquired its first unmanned aerial vehicles -- a pair of Skylark aircraft donated by Israel Aircraft Industries. The gift comes as Chilean military authories draw closer to a decision on UAV acquisitions that could result in three or four contracts by the end of the year, according to an article in Milenio. The Skylark 1 LE mini-UAV can stay aloft for 3 hours, and has a range of 15 km. Its payload includes day and night cameras. A few companies in Chile have worked with universities or the military to develop UAV projects. These are modest projects, aimed primarily at commercial uses. For example, IDETEC built a mini UAV called the Stardust. Universidad de Concepcion has been working on a larger UAV with the army. Chile's air force developed its own UAV prototype but it has not been put into service.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Navy, Asmar Share Limelight of Mine Rescue

Among the many organizations and companies deserving credit for the historic rescue of 33 trapped miners in Chile is the country's navy. Engineers at the navy's Asmar shipyard designed the Phoenix capsules that were used to hoist the miners out. NASA provided technical assistance the engineers used to design the pods. Aside from a minor glitch with the door, the capsule made 39 round trips (including the six rescuers) to the half-mile depths with no problems. Two backup capsules were not used. Two of the six rescuers who were sent underground were from the navy's special forces: Sgt. Roberto Rios and Cpl. Patricio Roblero. On the surface, Capt. Andres Llanera was an attending physician, and Sgt. Christian Bugueno was one of the nurses. They were part of Naval Task Force 33, no doubt a reference to the 33 miners.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Air Force Taking Control of Dutch F-16s

Holland is transferring ownership of 18 used F-16 fighter jets to Chile on Wednesday, Oct. 6. The change starts a refurbishment process in which the warplanes will get software updates and otherwise be adapted for use by the FACH. Meanwhile, dozens of Chilean technicians will be trained. Deliveries are set to start at year-end, with the arrival of the first three planes. The $270 million acquisition gives the FACH a total of 44 F-16s, including the 10 Block 50 samples purchased new from the U.S in 2002. The Dutch aircraft have undergone the mid-life upgrade (MLU). UPI quoted analysts who believe the F-16s will be armed with the Python 4 and Derby missiles -- two of the most advanced air-to-air weapons.  Both are made by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Even before the latest acquisition, Chile's air power was tops in Latin America, rivaled perhaps only by Venezuela's SU-30MK jets.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Peek at Army Equipment

The army rolled out its trophy hardware for the bicentennial parade Sept. 19, including the recently added Leopard II tanks, Marder infantry fighting vehicles and M-109 self-propelled guns. It was the first time that the annual armed forces parade exhibits armor since Gen. Augusto Pinochet's final parade. More interesting are the pictures of the army's small arms (which get little attention in the press) that are showing up on Chilean bulletin boards. One board shows the Mini-Hecate .338, a sniper rifle made in France, the AT-4 shoulder fired antitank weapon and the M-4 Panther carbine. The Mini-Hecate (at right), also known as the PGM .338, has a range of 1,400 meters. It is a bolt-action rifle, as most sniper rifles are.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Report: Chile Considers AEW Options

Chile's air force is evaluating three options for a new airborne early warning system (AEW), according to a report in Enfoque Estrategico. All three involve turboprop platforms: the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, the SAAB 2000 AEW&C and a third alternative that would incorporate SAAB's ERIEYE airborne radar to C-295 aircraft made by Airbus. The air force is seeking to replace its lone Condor AEW airplane, a Phalcon system built by Israeli Aerospace Industries and Elta Electronics on a Boeing 707 platform. The report echoes chatter about an AEW acquisition. Enfoque Estrategico, by the way, is probably the most valuable Web site for South American military news.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hopeful Signs for Struggling Aircraft Company

After years of sluggish business, the air force's aerospace company is landing some big contracts. Enaer signed a $100 million, 10-year contract in August to provide parts for Embraer's Phenom and Legacy business jets. Enaer later won a contract worth up to $700 million over 10 years when it joined a strategic alliance with Embraer to develop and build the new KC-390 transport-tanker. The deals should help Enaer (owned and managed by FACH) emerge from its long slump. It should also result in an order by Chile's air force for about a half-dozen planes. The company last year booked a mere $35 million in sales as it got by on its core aircraft-maintenance business and some aircraft parts. Meanwhile, the company landed a contract to repair Uruguay's C-130 Hercules planes, and in March was authorized to upgrade equipment in the Chilean air force's F-16 fighters. Enaer is also trying to revive its Pillan basic trainer program. The manufacturer has unveiled plans for a new model with all-digital displays.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Does Multirole Ship Make Sense for Chile?

In a sign that Chile is getting serious about acquiring a multi-role ship, the navy is entertaining offers from France and Italy. France is offering to sell the Siroco, a 12,000-ton ship, according to reports. France's DCNS, meanwhile, is proposing to build a new Mistral-class multirole vessel. That option that no doubt would be more costly, but the navy has expressed interest in such a project. Italy is trying to sell Chile two San Giorgio-class vessels built in the late 1980s. Chile's navy is still dusting itself off from the major 8.8-magnitude earthquake in February, which seriously damaged some naval facilities. But the disaster also underscored the need for ships that can move rescue and relief materials to ports or shores. Chile's unsual geography makes the country vulnerable to earthquakes or volano eruptions that can cut off the major north-south highways. At the same time, most cities and towns are within a reasonable drive of the coast, which makes it feasible for multirole ships to carry major loads to afflicted areas. Such vessels also would support peacekeeping operations, with the capacity to move a battalion-sized force and helicopters to distant locations. A multirole ship, however, would not be an aircraft carrier. Multirole ships are designed to carry a handful of helicopters, not carrier-borne fighter jets. In a pinch, a vertical take-off jet could use one of these ships. But Chile has no plans to acquire any.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

FARC Linked to Mapuche Extremists, Communists

The Colombian rebel group FARC is training Mapuche radical activists in Chile, officials in Colombia have warned. FARC's involvement goes back to 2001, and evidence show their tactics being adopted by  Mapuche extremists. Moreover, several communist party leaders in Chile have ties with FARC, the dossier from Colombia says. The communist leaders admitted their involvement, though they maintain the connections are purely political. That caused an uproar, and President Sebastian Pinera said anyone with ties to the terrorist organization owes the country explanations. For years, Mapuche radicals have mounted a campaign of violence that includes setting fire to ranches and trucks and taking over lands. Their activities pose one of the largest security problems in Chile. Their cause: reclaiming ancestral lands taken in the 1980s. Mapuches have denied any links to FARC.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chile, Peru Seek Agreement on Arms Deals

Chile and Peru, which have been at odds over their borders and Chile's military spending, are cooperating on a joint agreement on weapons acquisitions. The two governments would disclose weapons programs to each other and set agreements on their defense purchases under a diplomatic effort now underway. Last month, the defense ministers of both nations met in July in the first step toward such an agreement. They are to meet again this month in Lima. The pact would be similar to one Chile already has with Argentina. Peru has repeatedly complained about Chile's arms modernization over the past decade. Economic difficulties forced Peru to cut back its defense budget, and only in recent years has begun to upgrade its forces. In 2008, it filed a case in the World Court seeking to expand its territorial waters into areas that today belong to Chile.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Air Defense Command, Control System Sought

Chile is seeking to buy an air defense command and control system from the U.S., the Defense Security Cooperation Agency reported. The $105 million acquisition includes radio equipment, such as the jam-resistant Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS) Radio Transmitters. The umbrella of the system is the Forward Area Air Defense (FAAD) Command and Control system, which tracks aircraft and UAVs, identifying friend or foe, to provide situational awareness for air defense crews. The system works with the Avenger mobile missile system -- another possible Chilean acquisition from the U.S. FAAD would be used to protect the army's valuable armor brigades. Defense Minister Jaime Ravinet told El Mercurio the government is reviewing the acquistion, as well as a separate air defense system for the air force. Both could be finalized next year.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chile’s Military Modernization Process: Still Solving Complicated Issues

In this Q&A with a Chilean defense analyst, we look into strategic scenarios the country faces and how well prepared it is for those situation. Here are views on those topics written by Jose Miguel Pizarro.

What have Chile's armed forces learned from the Feb. 27 earthquake? Did they have enough aircraft, ships and other equipment to handle the massive aid and rescue efforts?

I believe the Chilean Armed Forces are now learning how to think strategically. Historically the Chilean military was used to operate and deal with small- and medium-scale emergencies at the county or provincial level. They were not trained nor equipped to engage an incident response that rapidly escalated into an historical strategic event. Administratively speaking and prior to Feb. 27, each of the services operated somewhat independently and not in a coordinated fashion for emergency response in support of civil authorities. Also -- and because there was no defined chain of command or a true active and standing Joint Command relationship between the other services -- it was truly problematic to get the entire Ministry of Defense moving in the same direction. (Especially in the middle of a weekend night in a country that is more than 4,300 kilometers long) What I now understand is that the military is creating a Joint Forces Headquarters that will design the appropriate protocol -- and the command relationships -- with regional and government authorities that will allow the Chilean Armed Forces to effectively support civil authority in the event of a massive catastrophe.

Now, and in terms of aviation resources, I am afraid you are absolutely right. The Chilean armed forces lack the tactical lift capability required for contingency operations at the national or strategic level. If this Joint Forces Headquarters is ever activated, it will certainly need to be equipped with material resources and maneuver elements that we currently don’t have. For a country with recurrent catastrophic earthquakes every 20 or 30 years, what we really need the most are -- at the very least -- several hospital ships to support thousands of citizens living in the southern islands, 80 medium-lift helicopters, 40 expeditionary hospitals, 20 additional C-130 transport aircraft and eight mechanized engineer battalions with heavy equipment to replace and rebuild and average of 100 bridges that are usually destroyed in a massive earthquake. To plan on facing the next massive earthquake in Chile with anything less than that is simply unrealistic.

The possibility of war between Chile and any of its neighbors seems remote. What is a more likely conflict in which Chilean forces might see themselves engaged in?

For all practical purposes -- and in terms of economic power, energy supplies and survival -- Chile is in fact an island. Chile is probably one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t produce a single barrel of oil or gas and a nation that completely depends on foreign imports to satisfy more than 90% of its daily energy requirements. In fact, and without any oil reserves and lacking the weekly arrival of tanker ships from distant places like Angola, Turkey and Nigeria, the country could – in just a matter of months – stop functioning as a fully coherent society. If a crisis like that is to last an entire year without the immediate re-establishment of significant oil supplies, the country could slowly disappear from the Latin American map as a nation state.

Despite popular fantasy, there is not a lot of oil left to be found. Much of what remains is of a lesser quality, tremendously more expensive to refine and dispersed around the world in smaller reservoirs located in extremely adverse terrain or in unstable countries. My views are not designed to reflect any political philosophy but to simply present facts and basic high-school mathematics. Numbers are impersonal and apolitical. Oil demand has growth to unprecedented levels and world production is no longer able to satisfy the demand. With roughly 800 million internal combustion-powered vehicles on the planet (i.e; cars, buses, trucks, cargo ships and passenger planes) and with no alternative energy systems that can replace current levels of consumption, confrontation, war and regional collapse are simply inevitable.

Today the planet is being strangled by two gigantic hands. On one hand is an exponentially surging rise in human population with a desperate need for food, energy, goods and basic services. The other hand is an alarming and rapidly declining supply of cheap, affordable energy to power our cities, houses, buses, industries, etc. and, in general, a frightening lack of everything that is required to sustain a work force able to produce food. To further sustain this theory, on April 11, 2010 the U.S. military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years, and there could be serious worldwide shortages of oil and gas by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact. This energy crisis will be triggered in the year 2012 with record level prices that are now predicted to soon top $100 a barrel. Once it reaches the $100 mark -- for more than 12 months -- that number will never scale back. Ever.

While it is not easy to predict what specific economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce in an oil-dependent country like Chile, it is surely easy to predict that a catastrophic event like this will immediately reduce the prospects for growth, infuriate the Chilean population and force the government to face the wrath of millions of citizens who will then understand that they have been misled. While I can’t elaborate on how the rest of the world would react, at least in Latin America such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved border tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic and military impact on both; Chile and its three neighbors. Mark my words.

If Chile faces the possibility of fighting an asymmetrical conflict, how prepared are its armed forces for such a fight?

The only kind of war Chile will face in the 21st century is one where asymmetrical conflict and irregular warfare will take center stage. Traditionally, and when a significant disparity in power exists between two opposing forces (in terms of firepower, advanced technology and numbers) the smaller actor usually has two choices: surrender or die. However, with the significant advantages in C4I technology and the low cost of certain tactical weapons and communications systems, a motivated “die hard” enemy may choose a third option: To resist (for many years) by waging guerrilla warfare. While asymmetric warfare is as old tactic of war, it has only recently garnered great political and military attention as a result of the events in the mountains of Afghanistan and the urban areas of Iraq. Broadly defined, irregular warfare is the ability of a small military power to use its tactical strengths against an opponent’s weaknesses to gain a temporary advantage. Unfortunately, asymmetric warfare is often viewed by South American generals -- and by senior politicians -- as something quite “irrelevant” that only needs to be faced with a “platoon of ninjas” dressed with black pajamas. It is precisely for that reason that I am now being forced to stress the dangers we are facing here. Today, irregular warfare it is still poorly understood by the army and not yet perceived as a mortal threat that should be immediately addressed at both the strategic and institutional level.

Successful asymmetric warfare commanders (such as the Sendero Luminoso platoon leaders in Peru) will generally seek a major psychological impact, such as shock or confusion (usually a large-scale massacre) that can effectively disrupt the army‘s initiative, freedom of action, or will to fight. In the mountains and urban terrains of South America, irregular warfare advocates will often employ innovative, nontraditional tactics, weapons, or technologies. But remember, those “hit and run” tactics can and will be applied with tremendous aggressiveness and surprise at all levels of warfare -- strategic, operational, and tactical -- and across the entire spectrum of military operations. Asymmetric Warfare has only one rule: “There are no rules.”

Following the same “tragic logic” of those armies that stubbornly prepare for the last war, the Chilean armed forces are slowly (and only recently) taking their first steps toward truly understanding this new threat. Accordingly, and while its mechanized infantry units are now reluctantly walking away from some of their traditional desert warfare training mentality (and learning how to fight and kill an enemy entrenched in the treacherous terrain of the Andes Mountains), the high command is making slow progress on teaching them how to fight the next war. By that I mean to train them on how to fight with an entire mechanized brigade inside urban areas or how to destroy an elusive and agile enemy that dominates a high-altitude jungle region. Both scenarios truly represent -- in my humble opinion -- the most likely battlefields where we will find the Chilean armed forces fighting within the next decade. The name of the game here is "how" to operate with a traditional army in jungle and mountain areas at more than 10,000 feet; how to fight in small villages and on big cities and comfortably embrace full-scale urban combat operations, etc., and for that, believe me, Chile is simply not prepared.

Chile's army now has advanced tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and mechanized artillery. Do you see any major gaps in its ground forces?

Today, the two major gaps of the Chilean army are the absence of a modern fully integrated doctrine of operations and the complete absence of a logistical culture to sustain modern warfare. Purchasing the tanks was the easy part. Developing an operational force design and a modular force structure capable of operating in a wide variety of battlefield scenarios (desert, mountains and urban areas) with the appropriate logistic support (i.e., fuel and ammo trucks, heavy lift helicopters, medical evacuation support, etc.) are the true and very real Achilles heels of Chile's land forces. So yes, we may have the armor brigades we always dreamed about but – unfortunately – we lack the entire logistical support structure required to sustain high-tempo combat operations for more than two weeks.

While the Chilean army is by far the most advanced military force in Latin America their doctrine of operations and field equipment still reflect a European design of the early 1980s. Despite the fact that in its next war the Chilean army will not be facing a mechanized enemy, not even the reality of the disastrous order of battle of all neighboring countries failed to shake the army’s fundamental faith in mechanized desert warfare and massive firepower. In Santiago, the General Staff of the Army turned its back on the past 30 years of modern warfare and returned to the post-World War II doctrines of sustained heavy combat as the primary focus of the army. Traditional mechanized warfare on open desert was – in their view – the “logical future.”

In their expert opinion, “messy engagements” like the 10-year war in Afghanistan or the 7-year war in Iraq (with over 1 million soldiers engaged in combat operations against an asymmetric enemy) were simply an exception to the rule and nothing more than an aberration. And believe me, in Chile there was little patience for those who said otherwise. Since 1990 -- and over the following years -- several military conflicts other than conventional war (MOTW) rose again and again in Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, Russia and in the Middle East. However, the Chilean Army -- and for that matter the entire Chilean defense community -- resolutely avoided making these events an important part of its doctrine of operations.

Civilian commentators that lack a robust military background are usually poor military advisors. To truly understand the traditional Chilean army way of thinking you need to be both: an army officer (active or former) and a consistent professional student of modern warfare. If the so-called students also have some field experience, even better. Historically, the difference between the Chilean army and the other armed forces of Latin America was not merely technological but also due to important and dramatic changes in personnel recruitment policies, doctrine of operations and training methods. While in the rest of the region serving in the army was considered a punishment -- or a last resort to escape from starvation -- military service in Chile was perceived as a social and an intellectual privilege. Well educated middle class kids wanted to serve as NCOs in the infantry, or as technical sergeants in the Air Force, all while upper class youngsters wanted to serve as armor, artillery or cavalry officers. And that was a sharp contrast with neighboring countries. Between 1910 and 1950 names like Schneider, Von Chrismar, Nielsen, Von Haggen and Zimmerman were common last names in the Chilean officer corps. After World War II, the German influence reached its highest point and in so doing, they solidified the idea of an “active defense” mentality. This new line of thought quickly developed into a new doctrine of operations that advocated the employment of heavy armored forces (against three simultaneous adversaries) as the new army’s central methodology. Nonetheless, decades will pass before these ideas could be fully implemented.

Then, a shocking new reality between 1960 to 1973 forced the Chilean Army to cancel almost every single modernization plan. During that time soldiers were instructed to spend much of their time on routine cleaning duties at their barracks, peeling potatoes or painting rocks. Their military skill training was only episodic and often lacking any specific combat orientation. Then, in the late 1980s they started to spent most of their time soldiering. By mid-1990 the Chilean Army began a revolution in training and leader development called Plan Alcazar that touched almost every aspect of the way the army prepared for war. By 2001, and after replacing all conscript soldiers with professional soldiers, army commanders were determined to create training conditions that approximated actual battlefield scenarios as closely as possible. The idea was “if you lost there – at the national training center -- you then learned better how to win in combat”.

Unfortunately, the Chilean army high command is currently led by a generation of officers that graduated from the Military Academy and joined the army in the early 1970s. They not only witnessed the Vietnam war drama on TV but also served as lieutenants and captains during the 17 years of the military government, thus bringing with them an enduring lesson that would influence an entire generation of soldiers and politicians: casualty and scandal aversion. Long guerrilla wars would generate unacceptable numbers of casualties and create widespread public opposition against the Army. Successful wars, on the other hand, had to be short, extremely violent against enemy formations, activated with massive firepower and with minimal casualties on our side. Accordingly, mechanized warfare against a predictable and traditional enemy (that will conveniently “line up” their forces in an open desert to be methodically destroyed) was the preferred doctrine of operations and the only truly decisive form of warfare the Chilean high command wanted to see in the 21st century.

The problem we have now is that when we go to battle next time, the deserts and the great plains of the north will be empty. Not a soul will be there. Our enemies will be waiting for us inside of their cities, behind every corner and window, on the sides of every dirt road inside their country and behind every single rock of the Andes mountains. And for that, Chile is not yet prepared.

Mr. Pizarro, 42, is a former Chilean army artillery officer with an extensive operational background with both the Latin American region and with U.S. armed forces. For the past 20 years he has developed a network of working relationships with key members of the Latin American defense community as well as with a wide variety of defense agencies. Mr. Pizarro served in the U.S. Marines and later as a Senior Security advisor / contractor for four years in the Middle East. He also worked for CNN en Espanol as a military analyst. He lives in Washington, DC, with his family.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reconstruction, Police Expenses Highlight Yearly Plan

Chile is setting aside $446 million to rebuild the earthquake-ravaged Asmar shipyard and Talcahuano naval base. That's one of the largest items in an annual program outline provided by the government. The funds for those navy projects will come from the so-called copper law, which earmarks a portion of sales from the state-owned copper company for defense acquisitions. Also, some $1.7 million will be spent to fix or rebuild police stations and jails, which will mean postponing other infrastructure programs for the Carabineros. Other noteworthy items in the budget: A joint-forces exercise on disaster response; a command and control system for the army; upgrades to the two Type 209 submarines; upgrades to the Cougar naval helicopers; night-flying training for the air force; and beefing up police forces. Chile is going ahead with multinational training exercises, such as Panamax and Cruzex.

Monday, June 21, 2010

NASAMS Chosen for Air Defense

Chile's air force has agreed to acquire Norway's NASAMS medium-range air defense system, according to various reports. The system uses U.S.-made AMRAAM missiles, which are fired from a six-missile container and controlled by a 3D radar. Chile decided on NASAMS because of its reliability and frequent upgrades to the AMRAAM, normally used as an air-to-air weapon. Co-developed by Raytheon and Kongsberg, NASAMS can attack as many as 72 targets simulteneously, including aircraft, UAVs and cruise missiles. An initial $100 million order will pay for three batteries, says Enfoque Estrategico. NASAMS will be the deepest layer in Chile's air defense system. The army has acquired Gepard anti-aircraft artillery systems, and an acquisition of Avenger short-range missile systems and Sentinel radars is being sought. UPDATE:  Chile's Defense Ministry denied that the NASAMS system was being purchased. Rather, it is being evaluated by the air force, the ministry said.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chile Cedes Helicopters to Peru

In a symbol of rapprochement with its historic rival, Chile is delaying delivery of Russian-made helicopters, yielding the batch to Peru. The government of Peru has an urgent need for helicopters to fight drug operations in the country's jungle. Although it meant postponing its own acquisition, Chile agreed to let Peru jump ahead in the delivery schedule so it could get the five Mi-17 helicopters sooner. Peruvian officials thanked Chile for the decision -- a gesture of good will as both nations prepare a World Court case over their ocean boundaries. "The least we can do is recognize this gesture of friendship, generosity and selflessness," said Peruvian Defense Minister Rafael Rey. It demonstrates Chile's desire to improve relations with Peru, Rey added. The massive Feb. 27 earthquake in Chile underscored the need for helicopters and transport aircraft. Along those lines, Chile has set aside $10 million for a modest upgrade for its three C-130 Hercules planes. Each will be installed with multifunction displays, Flightglobal reported. The work will be done by Chile's Enaer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Analyst Examines Chile's Naval Air Power Needs

This blog entry was provided by Jose Miguel Pizarro, a Latin America defense analyst. Mr. Pizarro is CEO of Chile Company Consulting Group and is Senior Latin American Advisor for Business Intelligence / Strategic Risk Consultant for GardaWorld. He has worked for CNN en Español as an analyst. His resume also includes experience in private security operations in Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait.

By Jose Miguel Pizarro
Those familiar with the business world recognize the use of a common vision to stretch the imagination of a corporation, create new expectations and cause a sense of urgency for the proposed changes. Once the goals and the strategic vision are set, the direct involvement between potential suppliers and the leaders of the organization seeking the changes is one of the first steps toward information exchange and cooperation. Kind of the "be there, make it happen" new business style.

This might be the case of Chilean naval aviation. Of all South American nations, Chile -- along with Brazil -- is the one with the most urgent and obvious need for an aircraft carrier and embarked fighter squadrons. The increasingly active involvement of the Chilean Navy in international naval exercises such as RIMPAC (in which Japan, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and other nations participate) is a clear sign that change might be under way. However, the strict discipline of the Chilean Navy officer corps means its leaders and pilots are not publicly aggressive as they should be in seeking their new requirements. Chile is traditionally Latin America's major sea power. Although it lost its position of quantitative supremacy to Brazil late in the 20th Century, today it ranks second in terms of size and firepower among regional navies. Technologically speaking, the Chilean Navy remains unmatched on a qualitative basis throughout Latin America.

Chilean thinkers such as Daniel Prieto Vial (a defense consultant) view the future of strategic environments revealing danger and opportunity. Danger - chaos in the littoral waters - is characterized by myriad clashes of national aspirations, religious intolerance and ethnic hatred. Unfortunately, today more than 75% of the Chilean economy depends largely of the safe arrival of cargo ships to international ports (not to mention the total dependence on the timely arrival of foreign oil). Failure to accomplish the above may well threaten the very existence of the nation. Opportunity for future enemies arises from advances in information management, battlefield mobility and the lethality of conventional weaponry in unconventional warfare. Such changes in the operational environment (already in use by some unstable and aggressive nations) representing both new threats and enhanced capabilities for piracy, sea crime, commercial area denial, etc., raise many questions regarding how the Chilean government prepares its naval forces.

I would like to briefly outline plans for future equipment and to give an indication of past and present lessons from around the world to "uncover" the striking need in this nation for modern naval air power. In Chile, the Navy needs AV-8B Harriers, and it is looking for a way to get them. The recent disbanding of Harrier squadrons in England could well be an attractive opportunity for Chile. But since there are no official government plans to acquire naval fighters, some external help might be necessary to convince legislators of the need for such equipment to properly protect the economic future and commercial sea lanes.

The modern strategic environment in international waters is one of regional rather than global crises with intra-regional conflicts (revolutions, terrorism, civil war, guerrillas, piracy, etc.) quickly replacing more traditional inter-regional conflicts. Advanced navies such as England's, Italy's and Spain's have recognized this shift and the increased need to counter potential economic threats with military force. As we are all learning in the 21st century, you can no longer keep dealing with criminal and terrorist organizations as if they were traditional nation states. Negotiating with them should not be an option.

Modern navies have demonstrated that embarked aviation has much to offer to help preserve and strengthen international security in the difficult and uncertain circumstances of our world today. However, from a local perspective, it is important to note that within the generation of current legislators in Chile, there is not a single member ever to have served in the armed forces. Therefore, their views and understanding of international conflicts and threats is at best quite limited. To them, the acquisition of new and costly weapon systems for the navy is not a major priority. We recognize that economic problems and funding will be major issues before acquiring a small aircraft carrier, but pursuing the acquisition of a modest embarked fighter force should not. Since Harriers can take off and land from small ships, the Chilean Navy can take them on board its frigates and destroyers, adding tremendous firepower, tactical mobility and playing a major role in the activation of a fighter force ready to protect its economic interest beyond territorial waters.

This alternative offers an advantage when an enemy has the capability to operate fast attack boats against commercial vessels. This particular naval posture offers unique abilities by matching demands for full dimensional protection of commercial ships with responsive maneuver and engagement capabilities for a minimal operational cost. For the future, a more aggressive and decisive approach, by both Chilean politicians and foreign defense companies, should ensure that the Chilean Navy is well placed for the next century, and able to provide the Chilean government and its western allies with a force capable of generating enough air power for current and future operations as diverse as warfighting and peacekeeping. Protecting sea lanes might be the new task of the South Pacific navies. There is no reason to believe that the Chilean Navy and its naval aviation forces should not be part of it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Infantry Training, Lasertag Style

Chile's army operates an infantry training center that uses laser technology to simulate live-fire combat. The center is similar to the US Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California, although in a much smaller scale. The center is located at an army facility in Peldehue, about 40 km north of Santiago, where army special forces also train. The laser technology is much like the laser tag games. Soldiers use a rifle with a laser beam and aim it an opponent. If the "shot" is successful, detectors worn by the troops identify the opponent as a casualty. The Peldehue center is one of several in Chile where simulators are used. The air force has flight simulators for some of its aircraft; the army also has a training simulator for tank crews.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

First C-295 Airplane Delivered to Navy

The navy has received the first of three C-295 maritime reconnaissance aircraft purchased from EADS/CASA. The plane will be used for search and rescue, patrol and anti-submarine missions. The C-295, plus options for five more, were acquired under a plan to replace all navy fixed-wing aircraft. The navy's current fleet includes the P-3 Orion, Embraer P-111 and C-212 light transports. Chile's territorial waters span more than five times the country's land mass.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Defense Funds Tapped for Earthquake Reconstruction

Chile will take $1.2 billion from funds initially set aside for weapons purchases to finance reconstruction programs. Half the sum will be spent directly on rebuilding projects, according to details provided by Defense Minister Jaime Ravinet. The armed forces will spend the other half to rehabilitate their own facilities damaged in the Feb. 27 earthquake. Specifically, $150 million will go to army facilities, $200 million to the heavily damaged Asmar shipyard, and $250 million to other military installations. Chile's legislature still must approve the funding, which would be spread out over this year and next. The $1.2 billion represents roughly a third of a funding pool that swelled thanks to soaring copper prices. Chile's state-owned copper company is mandated to give 10% of export sales to the military. But Chile is working to replace that system with another that doesn't rely on copper sales. The Asmar shipyard was the military installation most severely damaged in the quake. Chile recently signed an accord with Argentina to have that country take some of the work that Asmar cannot complete on time.

Friday, April 30, 2010

F-5 Fighters Redeployed to Southern Base

A squadron of F-5 Tiger III jets has moved to the Chabunco air base near Punta Arenas. The jets had been stationed in Antofagasta from the time they were acquired from the U.S. in 1975. The F-5s replace a squadron of aged A-37 aircraft at Chabunco that was retired. The F-5s have received a number of upgrades, including digital displays and refueling booms. They also use the Elbit DASH system, which enables pilots to aim missiles just by pointing their helmets.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Defense Spending Another Victim of Earthquake

Chile was Latin America's largest importer of weapons in 2005-2009. Don't expect that to happen again in the next five years. The massive post-earthquake rebuilding effort is changing the government's priorities, including the armed forces' budget. Specifics are few so far, but there was an illuminating bit of detail deep in an army press release last week (translated): "...Some international activities will be suspended; skills courses will be postponed to free up personnel for reconstruction and humanitarian labors. At the same time, plans for operations and maneuvers will be reassessed, with the goal of executing an austere budget in this year of reconstruction." Indeed, if a slowdown in defense spending wasn't already gathering momentum, the earthquake has all but ended Chile's 10-year military spending boom. Even before the quake, new president Sebastian Pinera favored eliminating the law that earmarks 10% of the national copper producer's revenue to defense acquisitions. A bill in the legislature seeks to replace that funding source with four-year strategic acquisition plans. To be sure, the military and its backers are vowing to maintain ample budgets for the armed forces. But Pinera can use his conservative credentials to push through changes. Of course, the military's role in providing security and ferrying supplies to ravaged areas has only proven the worth of helicopters, aircraft, ships and all-terrain vehicles. Chile's government is rumored to be looking closely at more purchases of helicopters (perhaps a few more Sikorsky Black Hawks) and transport airplanes.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Army Hiring Construction Workers as Troops Rebuild

Chile's army is heading one of the largest jobs programs in the country, deploying 8,000 soldiers to reconstruction projects. About 1,000 conscripts who were scheduled to return to civilian life in May have agreed to stay in the army until the end of the year to also help out. In addition, the army is hiring 13,000 workers for home construction, infrastructure repair and other rebuilding programs. The work is being targeted at three regions most seriously damaged by the Feb. 27 earthquake: Biobio, Maule and Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins. This time, soldiers are not handling security, as they did in the first few weeks after the 8.8-magnitude quake.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Military Hands Over Control of Disaster Area

Chile's military has turned security control of earthquake-damaged communities over to the president's reconstruction chief, Cristóbal Lira. But while security and aid efforts are back in civilian hands, the armed forces continue their relief work. Soldiers and sailors are helping with clean up, repair, construction, medical and other efforts. Army troops helped rail workers fix a damaged railroad. The navy's central focus is helping rebuild the port city of Talcahuano. Meanwhile, US Air Force crews that helped airlift supplies have ended their mission. Brazil sent some Black Hawk helicopters to reach remote areas, too.

Friday, March 19, 2010

UAVs Make Operational Debut in Chile

Unmanned aerial vehicles will fly missions in Chile for the first time. A pair of Aerostar UAVs will keep watch over areas still recovering from the Feb. 27 earthquake, La Tercera reported. The UAVs are on loan from Israel's Rafael, which will also provide a crew. Chile's air force arranged for the loan. The Aerostar can stay aloft 12 hours and can carry a 110-pound payload that can include day and night cameras. Chile's armed forces have been shopping for UAV systems, and some will be on display at this month's Fidae air show. Elbit Systems, BEA Systems are other UAV manufacturers at the show.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Earthquake Victims Embrace Military's Help

As Chilean troops continue providing aid and security in earthquake-hobbled communities, reports indicate a broad acceptance of the military. About 14,000 soldiers have been maintaining order after looting and mobs struck ravaged areas. "Soldiers organized lines for residents to enter banks, pharmacies and gasoline stations," the New York Times reported. "And for the most part, emotional and exhausted residents...embraced them." Indeed, accounts are widely supportive of the military's response. The armed forces also have provided a vital pipeline, using trucks, helicopters and airplanes to deliver aid. That was a role the military trained for, but taking control of the streets was not. That's where the earthquake relief operation is serving as a test of the military's reforms in post-Pinochet Chile. And if Chileans are embracing their soldiers, they are also demonstrating that the country has turned a page in its history. The Feb. 27 earthquake marked the first time troops took to the streets since Gen. Pinochet stepped down and a civilian government took over. Some leftists, recalling the 1973-1990 military dictatorship, disapproved of the mobilization. Pinochet's legacy remains a political flashpoint. "But the scenes of Chileans' embracing soldiers who aided in rescue and reconstruction efforts after the huge earthquake last month make all that divisiveness seem an eternity ago," another NY Times article notes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Great Airlift

Chilean air force planes filled with relief supplies are landing every 30 minutes at the airport in Concepcion. A KC-135 tanker-transport that was delivered just days earlier was pressed into service. Bell 412 and UH-1H helicopters are reaching areas cut off by the Feb. 27 earthquake -- all part of the "air bridge" reaching Chile's south. Some of the injured have been flown to hospitals, while the air force deployed its own field hospital in the town of Curanilahue. Chile's army, meanwhile, continues patrolling Concepcion and other devastated areas, while also operating field hospitals. It is playing a principal role in distributing food and supplies, operating Cougar, Super Puma and MD 530 helicopters in addition to CN 235 airplanes. The navy is helping keep the peace in Talcahuano, as it tries to get its own base in that city back to normal. The Asmar shipyard, owned by the navy, is "unrecognizable" after the tsunami, the navy says. Its shops were destroyed, floating docks were damaged and ships being serviced were cast onto the shore. Some boats in the harbor sank. Despite some initial missteps, the military's efforts are proceeding well by most accounts. Indeed, its labors are a critical test. Disaster relief is one of the armed forces' main missions, especially in a nation where war is a remote possibility. The earthquake exposed Chile's vulnerability to its own geography. With the single north-south highway cut off, air and sea transportation became crucial links.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How Ghost of Pinochet Influenced Quake Response

Many Chileans are blasting their government for a slow response to security problems in the wake of the Feb. 27 earthquake and tsunami. Some mayors and military commanders -- sensing an outbreak of crime amid the ruins -- urged President Michele Bachelet to send in troops and impose a curfew immediately. But Bachelet hesitated, according to various press reports. To her and some of her advisers, the thought of soldiers patrolling streets and curfew restrictions was a bitter reminder of life in Chile after the 1973 coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. But looting, theft and shootings soon came over the most heavily damaged areas. Police forces were quickly overwhelmed, and public angst swelled. With the situation growing out of control, Bachelet acted. Two days after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake, the president signed a special order granting the military control over affected communities. A 16-hour curfew was imposed, resulting is scores of arrests. On March 4, Defense Minister Francisco Vidal declared the security situation under control. Meanwhile, government and military officials pointed fingers at one another. The interior minister accused the air force of being slow to provide helicopters to the epicenter zone, which delayed the emergency response. The head of the air force insisted that two hours after the quake, aircraft were "ready to depart wherever we were told." The navy has a major base right in the devastated area of Concepcion, yet its personnel wasn't much visible in emergency operations. Why? According to a fire department official interviewed on radio, the base itself was heavily damaged and the navy had its own casualties to deal with. Update: In an interview with the New York Times, President Bachelet dismissed "speculation" that she held back on sending troops into disaster areas because of her own experience under military rule.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Navy Suffers Brunt of Earthquake Damage

Chile's navy has been the military branch most damaged by the Feb. 27 earthquake. The ensuing tsunami destroyed much of the Talcahuano naval base and most of the Asmar shipyard. A new ocean research vessel, set to be launched the same night of the quake, suffered some damage. Some coast guard boats were lost. An offshore patrol vessel being built for Iceland was badly damaged. Navy commander Adm. Edmundo Gonzalez said the navy's capital spending plans will be re-prioritized to get Talcahuano and Asmar back to normal, a process that could take years. The navy has insurance coverage for a lot of the damage. The submarines based in Talcahuano escaped any serious damage, as did an Ecuadorian sub undergoing refit at Asmar. The blog Armada de Chile y Otros is doing a good job tracking the navy's damage and its role in the relief operations.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Military Mobilizes for Earthquake Relief

Chile's armed forces are being tested on one of their principal peacetime roles: disaster relief. One of the navy's main areas of attention is the Juan Fernandez archipelago, where a tsunami ravaged several villages. The frigate Almirante Condell docked with a helicopter, marines, one doctor, nurses and other emergency workers. Army troops have taken control of Concepcion, a large city near the epicenter where looting seems to be worst. The national police force has fanned out to keep order as much as possible. But given the severe conditions, President Michele Bachelet signed a decree authorizing the army to assume policing duties in the area. Troops also will watch over food distribution. The air force is making hourly flights to Concepcion with emergency personnel and rescue crews. The navy, though, got a black eye for failing to detect the tsunami promptly enough, apparently because of faulty equipment. The navy later raised the alarm and many people were able to flee the waters. Defense Minister Francisco Vidal called it an "error."

Friday, February 19, 2010

First of 3 KC-135 Tanker Planes Arrives

The air force took delivery of its fist KC-135E tanker-transport aircraft acquired from U.S. Air Force stockpiles. Two more are being delivered over the next year or so. The $40 million acquisition gives Chile an in-flight refueling capability for its F-16 and F-5 fighter jets. The KC-135E planes can carry personnel and cargo and can be modified for medical airlift missions. Their range is ample enough to supply Chile's peacekeeping force in Haiti nonstop. A video clip of the arrival is available at CNN-Chile.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Oiler Ship Handed to Chile's Navy

The navy has taken possession of its new fleet replenishment ship. The newly christened Almirante Montt underwent a refit in Alabama after being given to Chile from the US Navy's surplus inventory. The ship will sail to Chile in March, not February as initially estimated. Details on the ship are available at Wikipedia.