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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

30 March 2016

FIDAE 2016: Chilean Armed Forces Update

The Chilean Armed Forces are currently among the better trained and equipped forces of the region, and make up for the best and most balanced military force in all of South America, a status never achieved before by the country, surpassing Argentina and in a certain measure Brazil, as well as Peru in many aspects.

EMB 314 Super TUCANO. (Photo: FACh)

The Chilean Air Force (FACh) is equipped with nine Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting FALCONs (Block 50/52), manufactured in 2006/7; 32 ex-Netherlands F-16A/Bs (Block 15 MLU), manufactured in the early 1980's; nine Northrop F-5 TIGER IIIs equipped with Rafael PYTHON 4 IR guided missiles; and nine CASA C-101 AVIOJET training and light attack aircraft, better known in Chile as A/T-36CC HALCÓN. Air defence of the Grupo 23 and 24 consists of two Kongsberg/Raytheon NASAMS systems batteries, two AIM 120C four missile launchers, and short range MYGALE anti-air systems produced by Thales and mounted on Mercedes Benz 230G jeeps.

The ENAER T-35 PILLAN are supported by 12 EMB 314 Super TUCANOs from Embraer, used for training and light attack.

The fire power of the Chilean Navy (Armada de Chile - AdCh) is based on their eight relatively modern frigates, and one class 22 batch 2 built for the Royal Navy in 1986 by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders, armed with BARAK 1 anti-air missiles from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael. As a sea-to-sea capacity, they are armed with eight Boeing HARPOON missiles. Three class 23 frigates (built between 1990 and 1998 for the Royal Navy at the Swan Hunter and Yarrow Shipbuilders shipyards in the UK) are armed with eight sea-to-sea HARPOON missiles and BAe (now MBDA) SEAWOLF defence missiles. Two L-class frigates and two M-class frigates (ex-Netherlands, manufactured between 1986 and 1993 at the Koninklije Schelde Flushing and Royal Schelde de Vlissingen shipyards) are equipped with eight sea-to-sea HARPOON missiles each, while the two L-class frigates are furthermore equipped with a Standard SM-1 anti-air missile launcher, which, as it is known, is lacking missiles, and a NATO SEA SPARROW anti-air missile launcher (the M-class is only kitted with 16 SEA SPARROWs).

The AdCh’s submarine forces include two modern SCORPENE-class submarines, produced by the French-Spanish DCN-Bazán Shipyards (now Navantia) in 2004/5, which are the most modern in the region, equipped with WASS (now Finmeccanica Defence Systems) BLACK SHARK long-range heavy torpedoes and MK-46 short-range medium torpedoes; and two 209-class, type 1400-L submarines built for the AdCh by HDW (now thyssenkrupp Marine Systems - TKMS), in 1982/4.
The AdCh’s Aviacion Naval (Naval Aviation) fleet consists of three upgraded Lockheed Martin P-3ACH ORIONs, three Airbus C-295 PERSUADER, five Airbus Helicopters AS 582 COUGARs, armed with MBDA AM-39 EXOCET missiles, two AS332 Super PUMAs, and eight Airbus Helicopters AS 365 DAUPHINEs.

SCORPENE-class submarine. (Photo: ARCh)

The Chilean Army (EdCh) contributes to the country’s high level of deterrence in the face of potential adversaries, with immediate availability, high specialisation and combat capacity, versatile and with great strategic mobility. The EdCh is equipped with 140 LEOPARD 2A4 MBTs manufactured in Germany since 1979 by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), as well as 30+ LEOPARD 1 of earlier construction, which operate in Punta Arenas, at the southern end of the country. At the same time, the EdCh owns 48 M-109 self-propelled howitzers bought from RUAG and the US Army and modernised by BAE Systems; and hundreds of Rafael SPIKE anti-tank missiles. Army Aviation consists of a modern aircraft fleet, out of which there are four SA 330 PUMAs and eight AS 532 COUGARs, although they are expecting 20 more units, which will be incorporated as budget allows; as well as one AS 355F and four AS 350B ECUREUILs; two Airbus CN 235 and three Cessna (Textron Aviation) 208 Grand CARAVAN.

HMMWVs armed with SPIKE missiles (Photo: Gonzalo Godoy Seves)

The potential superiority of the Chilean Armed Forces is mainly based on powerful and relatively modern material, however, new challenges cast a shadow on the future of their fire power, for certain systems are approaching the end of their useful life and/or begin lacking spare parts for keeping them fully operational. Rolls Royce no longer produces spare parts for the Rolls Royce Tyne gas turbines, used by the Argentinan, Brazilian, and Chilean Navies. All three countries gather annually at different locations in order to discuss a solution. In November 2015, turbine maintenance courses were held for members of the AdCh at the Puerto Belgrano Naval Base of the Argentine Navy.

They will also have to face a replacement regime for much of their equipment before spare parts become impossible to come by. This includes LW-08 radars manufactured by Hollandse Signaalapparaten BV (Signaal) of the ex-Netherlands ships, and almost all MM-38 EXOCET missiles.

The Chilean LEOPARD 2A4 has an urgent need for modernisation. A modernisation kit, very similar to the one sold to the Argentine Army by Elbit Systems, is available. The EdCh’s inventory also includes 172 MARDER armoured vehicles with over 40 years of service; 500 M-113s of different origin, state, and age, however all of them with over 50 years of service and with an urgent need for upgrade or replacement; and 179 Mowag (now GDELS)/FAMAE PIRANHA (6x6 and 8x8) armoured vehicles.

They will also need to unify the automotive fleet, making logistics easier.

Most concerning is the lack of joint interoperability between the three services due to being completely separated from one another, which still is in the military’s bone since WWII. Even though the Chilean Armed Forces possess a powerful armoury, communications for joint operations on the battlefield move very slow, diminishing fire power and resource exploitation.

FF-15 ALMIRANTE BLANCO ENCALADA (M-class). (Photo: ARCh)
For more information please see MILITARY TECHNOLOGY #03/2016, available at the show at Pavilion E, Stand 13; and frequently check back for more NEWS FROM THE FLOOR.