Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Rumor of War

As Chile and Peru await a court ruling on their disputed Pacific Ocean border, officials in both countries are downplaying the possibility of heightened tensions or even armed conflict. The presidents of both nations have pledged to abide by the ruling of the International Court of Justice, and indications are that the two neighbors will keep their cool. Yet, rumors are swirling that Peru and Chile have already mobilized troops around the border, and that their armed forces are rushing purchases of military equipment ahead of the court decision. El Mostrador reported that Chilean Army and Air Force commanders are not convinced the reaction to the ruling will go as calmly as the diplomats characterize, and have been reinforcing their northern bases. The Chilean Navy, though, has been trying to strike a friendly tone with its Peruvian counterparts. El Mostrador cited a weapons buildup occurring in Peru that includes upgrades to its MIG 29 fighters, its helicopters and submarines, plus acquisitions of anti-tank missiles (the Russian-made Kornet-E) and other weapons apparently aimed at countering Chile's formidable armored brigades. To be sure, some of the Peruvian acquisitions are long-term projects, such as the construction of about a dozen warships and the planned acquisition of tanks. (A deal for Chinese  MBT 2000 tanks apparently fell through.) In Peru, there's concern about wargames Chile has conducted near the border. Chile calls these routine exercises. The International Court of Justice is not expected to rule until at least September. When it happens, the two countries will face a test like they haven't seen since the mid-1970s, when a political flare-up threatened to unleash a war.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sentinel Radars Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Next stop, Chile
Some of the six Sentinel air-defense radars Chile has purchased are being delivered. Two of the radars were picked up in the U.S. by a Chilean C-130 plane on July 1. The delivery was crucial for the radars to be part of upcoming training exercises, according to Edwards Air Force Base. The purchase was announced in 2009, and it includes SINCGARS radio systems, parts and logistical support in a $65 million package. Sentinel is a three-dimensional radar that can detect threats at low altitudes, at more than 40 km and as small as UAVs. ThalesRaytheon developed it. The radars will be integrated with the three dozen Avenger air defense units Chile is acquiring, and the three Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control Intelligence Systems it's also buying. The entire air defense suite is used by U.S. forces and can be integrated with allied forces. In fact, Chilean armed forces have been purchasing weapon systems that are in use in the U.S. or NATO. That's no coincidence: Chile's military has made a strategic decision to align itself with U.S. forces and its allies, and it continues that integration through regular joint exercises and through the modernization of its weaponry.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Nearly 130 Years Without War, Can Chile Fight Well?

So, it turns out Chile is the second most-peaceful Latin American country after Uruguay. That's according to a study by the Institute for Economics & Peace. Of 158 countries, Chile ranked 31st. But the country hasn't been at peace with itself, which could explain why it didn't rank any higher. Violent protests, occasional bombings and attacks by Mapuche radicals show that internal security remains a challenge. Still, these problems are on relatively low scale, and Chile has been able to get on with its peace. Chile has not fought a war in nearly 130 years (if you leave out its 1891 civil war and the 1973 military coup). That's an enviably long period of peace that figures to continue for the foreseeable future. Despite territorial disputes with Peru and Bolivia, the possibility of a new war is remote. Chile's armed forces may boast that they have never been defeated, but without a true test in 130 years, that claim of invincibility is open to debate. Even in their peacekeeping missions, Chilean troops have hardly come under fire. However, there are indications that if Chilean were to fight a war, they would perform well. In multinational wargames, they've often won praise from foreign commanders. When some former Chilean soldiers went to work for private security companies in Iraq, they earned glowing evaluations. Long ago, the armed forces had the good sense to lay solid foundations that are still paying dividends today. In 1886, Prussian tutors started molding the Army into the well-trained, highly disciplined force it remains today. In fact, all three services have patterned themselves after model forces: It's been said that Chile has a Prussian army, a British navy and an American air force. Of course, the military has had its share of major command blunders, such as the Navy's botched tsunami alert in 2010 and the asinine march through a blizzard that killed 44 soldiers in 2005.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Air Force Acquires Two C-130 Hercules

The Air Force is getting a couple more C-130 Hercules transport planes, adding to its current fleet of two C-130H and one C-130B. FACh Gen. Jorge Rojas revealed the acquisition in an interview with La Tercera that covered a range of topics. However, he did not say the model or origin of the new Hercules. Gen. Rojas also said there are no immediate plans to acquire additional weapons systems. He also complained that in the past five or six years, many specialists such as hydraulics mechanics have left for jobs in the mining industry, causing a 27% reduction in specialized workers from 2011 to 2012. (The Army also is losing a lot of specialized personnel to mining companies.) For years, FACh has been losing pilots to high-paying airline jobs. That's a trend that started in the mid-1980s with a boom in aviation in Chile. But Gen. Rojas said the exodus has slowed, and having advanced warplanes has motivated pilots to continue their air force careers.