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.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Defense Reform Takes Power from Military

The armed forces' reform has taken a key step with a new law that formally puts strategic planning and military operations under the control of the civilian government. The president and defense secretary will head a new joint chiefs of staff in control of the military. The chairman of the joint chiefs was picked by President Bachelet from a list of nominees the armed forces provided. The law is a significant achievement for Bachelet, coming in the final weeks of her administration. Another structural change for the military -- the creation of a new funding mechanism -- is still pending in the legislature. Meanwhile, president-elect Sebastian Pinera has named his defense minister: Jaime Ravinet, a member of the opposition Christian Democrats who held the same job under former president Ricardo Lagos.