Saturday, February 28, 2015

Volunteer Numbers Rise, Ending 7-Year Declining Trend

More women rush to recruitment tables
More than 17,000 men and women have signed up to serve in the armed forces, an increase of 4.6% from last year's recruitment period. That ends a seven-year streak of declining sign-ups, the Ministry of Defense announced. The slowdown never threatened the military, however. Every year since the volunteer system went into effect, the three branches have been able to fill their requirements. This year, only 11,000 of the 17,000 applicants will be accepted for one- or two-year enlistments. The number of women trying to enter the military continues to rise: More than 4,000 registered, but only 1,060 will be taken. Defense Minister Jorge Burgos says the slots for women may need to be increased. For thousands of young Chileans, love of country and a sense of adventure motivate them to become soldiers or sailors, much like in any other country. But another draw is the trade skills they can learn. As this blog has noted, it's not a stretch to call the armed forces the nation's largest trade school. And for those who go on to specialize in explosives, the mining industry can provide a comfortable living in civilian life. Although all enlisted personnel join voluntarily, Chile still maintains a draft registration system for all males ages 17-24. If the volunteer pool ever proves to be insufficient, the Ministry of Defense would resort to a compulsory draft.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Peru Accuses Naval Officers of Spying for Chile

Two Peruvian naval officers have been charged with giving Chile sensitive military information. A third officer is under investigation. The scandal comes just as the two countries were improving their relations and leaving their territorial disputes in the distance. Last year, the nations complied with a ruling of the International Court of Justice that granted Peru a larger piece of the Pacific. The thaw was a welcomed development for Chile's government, which is dealing with a much more hostile dispute with Bolivia. Besides the political fallout, the spying case could also impact Chile's strategic vision. The government of President Michelle Bachelet is hoping to forge closer ties with Peru, the same way Chile did with Argentina years ago. Argentina now stands as a model of successful diplomacy. Once bitter rivals, the neighboring nations are now allies. They've formed a joint peacekeeping force and both militaries cooperate extensively. That's allowed Chile to reduce its defenses along the Argentina border. Bachelet's hope is to someday have the same detente with Peru, and earn a peace dividend. There's been other spying cases in the past, usually involving Peruvians or Bolivians spying for Chile.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Air Force Acquires 2 Surplus C-130 Planes from U.S.

Chile has acquired two C-130 Hercules from U.S. Navy stockpiles — the most significant addition of transport aircraft since the 2010 purchase of KC-135 planes. The Hercules will be delivered this year and next, according to El Mercurio. The newspaper reported the C-130s are part of the H series, the same as two others already in FACh's fleet. The purchase is confirmed in the database of Excess Defense Articles of the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which shows Chile paid $7 million for each plane. The agency's database also shows the transfers were authorized in 2012 and 2013, indicating that Chile didn't accept them until recently. The planes are listed as C-130R, a Marine Corps air-refueling version with hose and drogue refueling pods. It's possible that the refueling capabilities have been removed, which is why the newspaper says the Hercules are H-series rather than the R version. On a related note, the DSCA database also lists a transfer last year of two F110-129 jet engines — which are used for the F-16 fighter — at a cost of $3.89 million.