Thursday, December 31, 2020

Chile's Army has Latin America's Best Tanks, but Are They Vulnerable?

The backbone of Chile's Army is its three armored brigades, all equipped with Leopard 2 main battle tanks and supported by Marder infantry fighting vehicles and assorted other armor. The Leopards are armed with a 120 mm gun and decked with a number of upgrades added when they were purchased refurbished from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann of Germany. Its armor protection is among the best around. But the Leopard 2 has been shown to be vulnerable to anti-tank missiles. They are also becoming increasingly vulnerable to rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). In one of the most significant combat tests, Turkey lost more than a dozen Leopard 2 and older M-60 tanks in Syria from 2016 to 2018. Kornet and other anti-tank guided missiles did the job. The losses forced Turkish military officials to rethink their use of armor and to adopt another defensive layer. That came in the form of active protection systems (APS), which can detect an incoming missile and take it down with their own missile. Turkey decided to equip its tanks with a Ukraine-made system. Israel is a pioneer in APS technology, with systems that have already been shown effective in battle. Facing no serious threat and no plans for deployment in world hotspots, APS are unlikely to be part of future upgrades for Chilean Leopards. The Army, it seems, is willing to accept the vulnerability for the time being.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Shooting Death of Police Officer Underscores Endless Indigenous Revolt

 A 24-year old police officer was slain in an ambush, the latest death in an extended conflict between extremists and carabineros in the south of Chile. A 23-year campaign by indigenous mapuche radicals to reclaim lost ancestral lands is seeing the most violent year so far. This year alone, five police officers have been killed in incidents attributed to mapuche gunmen. Earlier this year, the conflict impacted the whole nation when truckers went on strike for a week and blocked highways to pressure the government. Truckers complain the government is not doing enough to protect them from countless attacks. Mapuches' most common tactic is to burn trucks that belong to logging companies in the disputed territories, sometimes stopping trucks at gunpoint. The first attacks started in 1997, and have only worsened. Every president in that time has failed to bring the crisis under control, which remains one of Chile's biggest security problems. Government programs to buy back land for mapuches have done little to appease the movement's radical elements. Chileans this month voted to draft a new constitution, which may end up providing specific rights to indigenous peoples.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Covid-19 Forces Cancelation of Armed Forces Day Events

For the first time in at least 37 years, Chile's Armed Forces Day went quiet. The traditional military parade in Santiago and smaller ones in other cities were canceled as the nation continued to lock itself down to fight the coronavirus. The Army marked the occasion with a modest ceremony at its academy, with President Sebastian Piñera and other officials in attendance. Masks and other precautions, of course, were plentiful. Chile's military was far from idle, however. Troops and marines continue to be deployed along the country to enforce curfews and other measures designed to combat the pandemic. Chile has one of the highest infection and mortality rates from Covid-19. Armed Forces Day is celebrated on Sept. 19, a day after Independence Day.

Friday, July 24, 2020

U.S. Approves $634 Million Package for Chilean F-16 Modernization

U.S. defense officials authorized a package of electronic and support equipment to upgrade Chile's F-16 fighter jets. The $634.7 million deal is the largest known military contract for Chile in at least a decade. Among the key items in the contract are 44 LN-260 Embedded GPS/IN, 49 tactical radios, Combined Altitude Radar Altimeters and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) AN/APX-126 Combined Interrogator Transponders. Chile's Air Force also will get 19 Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing Systems, which allow pilots to aim missiles with high-tech visors, providing an aiming range at wide angles. Other navigation, mission planning and software upgrades are in the package, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Chile's F-16 C/D and MLU jets form the backbone of the country's warplane arsenal. It is the most expensive military program in Chile's history, and one that has already undergone upgrades. The assistance package is authorized, but not finalized until Chile's government approves funding. Previous U.S. assistance deals have taken years to bring to delivery. Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor on the latest upgrades.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Chile's Navy Quietly Acquires 2 Frigates from Australia

Chile's Navy acquired a pair of used frigates from Australia, boosting its air defense capabilities. The purchase of the former HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Newcastle was finalized late last year, and the warships were transferred to Chile in May. The vessels replace a pair of ex-Dutch L-class frigates that were launched in 1986. The Adelaide-class frigates were built in 1989 and 1992 and carry better armament than the Dutch ships they replace. Each is armed with SM-2 air defense missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 76mm Oto Melara gun and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles. A computerized command and control system integrates the weapons systems. The ships, based on the U.S. Oliver Hazard Perry class, also have hangar space for two medium helicopters. They underwent a refit before the transfer to the Armada. The acquisition, reportedly for more than $70 million, was made with little publicity. The Navy only posted the two vessels on its website once they had arrived in Chile this month. The transfer occurred while Chile was fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and while it still faces social unrest, so the Navy appeared to avoid publicizing the deal. Chile's Navy has named the new frigates FFG 14 Almirante Latorre and FFG 11 Capitan Prat, the same names given to the Dutch vessels. It is the largest acquisition by the Navy in nine years. It's also the first major military purchase from Australia, an ally in the Pacific Rim and a trade partner.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Where Chile's Artillery Units Are Deployed

Chile's Army has its most powerful artillery units in the north, near the border with Peru and Bolivia. That's the main take-away from an article in an Army publication that details where each artillery unit is deployed and its main armament. (See below.) Three self-propelled units with refurbished M-109 Paladin are in Arica, Antofagasta and Baquedano, and a fourth is stationed in the far south. The only rocket artillery unit also is stationed in Arica. It is equipped with Israel-made LAR 160 vehicles. Several battalions use Soltam M-71 howitzers, also made in Israel. In other areas, primarily less-vulnerable zones, the Army supports its units with 105mm howitzers.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Military Back on the Streets As Chile Goes on Coronavirus Lockdown

Chile has locked itself down to fight the spread of coronavirus, and the president has ordered the armed forces to help enforce the quarantine. Chile closed its borders, imposed a nighttime curfew and placed limits on gatherings and movement. The military also is being tasked with sanitation work and is deploying field hospitals. The armed forces' response is similar to what they've done in natural disasters in the past, when troops responded with mobile hospitals and humanitarian aid. It's the second time in six months that President Sebastian Piñera calls on the military to patrol the country. In October, Piñera sent out the military to help quell violent protests across Chile. Soldiers returned to their barracks after a 10-day deployment, but the government left open the option to again use the military to safeguard critical infrastructure. With a medical crisis being the new mission, the Army, Navy and Air Force (FACH) find themselves in a less-controversial role than in October.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Hercules Investigation Focuses on Dangerous Load, Malfunctions

Nearly three months after an Air Force C-130 Hercules was lost near Antartica, investigators are turning their attention from an accidental cause to a malfunction or even negligence. A report in El Mercurio notes that the plane was carrying a dangerous load. Whatever material was in the plane, it was cleared by FACh maintenance for the flight. Also, investigators are looking into two malfunctions known to have occurred on the flight, which went down Dec. 9, killing all on board.