Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Army Upgrades Transport Units with More Than 400 New Trucks

The Army's logistics units just got a big boost with the acquisition of more than 400 new trucks. The purchase replaces trucks that had been in service at least 30 years. Mercedez-Benz won a big part of the contract, supplying 278 trucks. It is providing Unimog 4000 4x4, Atego N1023 crane-equipped trucks, and the larger-capacity Zetros 1833 4x4 truck. Under a separate project, 154 engineering vehicles were acquired also. Bulldozers, excavation vehicles, wheeled graders, 4X4 loaders, forklifts and fueling trucks were in that upgrade. Capable trucks like these serve an important role in supplying and moving the Army. But they also are valuable assets at times of natural disasters. In fact, President Bachelet says the replacement program was pushed forward after heavy flooding in the north of Chile in 2015. The new trucks are being deployed with Army units all along the country.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Army Clears Way for Women to Become Generals

Chile's Army has ended the separate officer grades that kept women from advancing to the highest ranks of the service. The highest rank any woman in the Army could reach was colonel. But starting this month, men and women are under the same rank structure, meaning women can advance to brigadier general, and perhaps even elevate themselves to commander in chief of the army. Women make up about 14% of Chile' armed forces, including officers and civilian personnel, and the military has slowly opened access to combat roles. Some restrictions do remain. For example, only a certain number of slots are open to women who want to enlist or become professional soldiers.

Monday, February 27, 2017

How to Defend Chile, an Overview

It's been said that Chile is an island. The Pacific Ocean, the Andes mountains and the arid northern desert are natural barriers that provide the country with ample separation from the rest of the continent. Those geographic features also afford Chile with formidable borders against foreign aggressors, and they are one reason the nation has seen few wars in its 206-year history. But Chile's unusually vertical geography is also its weakness and a challenge for military planners. Along much of the country, there's only one major north-south highway, and big chunks of territory can be cut off if those roads are blocked. This Achilles' heel became all too apparent after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami. With the main highway collapsed at several points, there was no way to reach many communities except by air or sea. Thus, air and sea transport are essential elements of the country's defense. Neither is well equipped, however. The Navy's transport fleet has a capable multi-role ship, a transport vessel (with capacity for 250 passengers) and three 1,400-ton landing ships. The Air Force has five or six Hercules C-130 transports, three KC-135s, one 767, one 737 (another 737 is for VIP transport) and about a dozen Twin Otter light transports. Those assets could keep a few battalions supplied during a conflict, and would be critical in any high-intensity conflict. On the ground, the Army has scores of trucks it can utilize to support its troops in the north and south, and private trucking could also be employed. Even with damaged roads and bridges, Army engineering units would be able to keep supplies moving, especially if there's enough air defense to protect against air attack. In future posts, this analysis will continue with a look at how land, sea and air units play their roles in defending Chile.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

As Fires Burn, Chile Finds Itself Short on Firefighting Aircraft

A historic wave of forest fires has left much of Chile charred, a disaster that has underscored a lack of aircraft capable of fighting blazes. Fueled by years of drought, dozens of forest fires have broken out in the central and southern parts of the country. Teams from South America, France and other nations have rushed to the aid of Chilean crews overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the inferno. Some of those countries provided helicopters and airplanes with water-dropping equipment. Good thing, because apart from some helicopters dunking large buckets of water, the military has no aircraft with specialized equipment. Brazil's air force sent a pair of C-130 Hercules that are capable of spraying large areas of flames, and some planes like that would be valuable in Chile, where forest fires break out every year. As they do in any disaster, Chile's armed forces jumped into action with bulldozers, security forces and other resources. Many soldiers have been pressed into service as firefighters. Military helicopters and planes are being used to ferry firefighters and equipment. Now, they may get some firefighting equipment. A group of lawmakers is pushing to create a firefighting brigade within the military, and to acquire airplanes specially equipped to battle fires, according to a report posted in Noticias FFAA Chile. As long as the military is responding to disasters, it will need to make firefighting one of its areas of responsibility.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Patrol Vessel Program Expands Into Warship Role

The Navy is getting more ambitious with its offshore patrol vessel program. What began as a four-unit fleet of modestly armed boats quickly was increased to five, and the newer ships have a 76 mm main gun. (The first two OPVs had a 40 mm gun.) Now, the Navy says it's considering using the successful Fassmer-class platform to build corvettes. Chile needs to replace its three remaining missile boats, and hopes the replacement ships will increase capabilities. After putting three OPVs into service since 2007, the Navy's Asmar shipyard has gained valuable experience building the 1,850-ton vessels and feels confident to take on a larger project. This is not a new idea. From the beginning of the program, the Navy had an eye on evolving its OPVs into small combat ships. A report in Jane's, via Noticias FF AA Chile, notes that the new ships could be operational by the time the three Saar 4 missile craft will be retired, within a decade. The corvettes might also be called  littoral combat ships, and they would carry anti-ship missiles and an air defense system, plus more sensors. Removing the hangar and landing deck on the existing design, Chile's OPVs would have enough room to add those components. Jane's report says the corvettes would be at least 2,200 tons.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Navy Decides on Upgrades as it Faces Scandal

The Navy has been the most active of Chile's military branches this month, for good and bad. The three Type 23 frigates, the most modern of the fleet, will undergo extensive upgrades. Those include installing the Sea Ceptor air-defense missile to replace the Sea Wolf that came with the purchase of the vessels from Britain. The Sea Ceptor, which has a range of 25 km, is made by MBDA Missile Systems, a European consortium. The Type 23s also are getting the TRS 4D radar system from Airbus Defense and the CMS 330 naval combat system from Lockheed Martin Canada, according to Defensa.com. The project exceeds $180 million, and Chile's Asmar and Sisdef will participate in the project. Defensa.com also has reported that the Navy acquired Exocet Block III anti-ship missiles for at least one of its frigates, in what could be the first time the Exocet replaces the U.S.-made Harpoon system. Earlier this year, the Navy signed a contract with Canada-based IMP Aerospace for a major upgrade of P-3 Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft, according to InfoDefensa. The project includes replacing parts of the wings and horizontal stabilizer on two P-3s plus new avionics systems and improved engines. Now, for the bad news: Nine sailors are under investigation for secretly installing video cameras with the intention of secretly taping female sailors aboard the frigate Almirante Lynch. The sailors face criminal charges and the scandal could hurt Chile's efforts to integrate more women into the armed forces. Update: The first Orion has left Chile to undergo its midlife upgrade, the Navy announced. The work will extend the service life of each P-3 by about 20 years.