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 EspaƱol 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.