Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Defense, Police Budgets to Increase 3% in 2018

Chile's defense budget is getting a 3% increase for 2018, to roughly $2.9 billion under currency exchange rates. That sum covers operational costs, payroll, vehicles, equipment, funds for military-owned companies and other expenses, but it excludes main weapons systems. Those are financed from a 10% tax on sales by the state-owned copper mining giant Codelco, which can greatly increase the military's purchasing power. Several billion dollars are believed to be socked away in that fund. But for the Army, Navy and Air Force, a total of $1.94 billion is budgeted, which is a drop of 0.5% from this year's outlays. Chile's police force is budgeted for a 2.7% increase for 2018, to about $1.8 billion in U.S. currency. The budget includes funds for 1,500 additional carabineros, replacement of 250 patrol vehicles and infrastructural improvements. The investigative arm (Policia de Investigaciones) is getting a 1.6% hike in expenditures to $507 million. That includes money for 1,200 more investigators. Chile's most serious security problems are internal, and it's the police agencies that are shouldering the burden of combating those. Police are battling a violent indigenous movement in the south, drug and auto crime along the Bolivian border, and sporadic attacks by anarchists and other extremists. The budget has been introduced in the legislature, which must pass it into law. But while the outgoing administration of President Michelle Bachelet crafted the spending plan, a new administration is taking office in March and will inherit the new budget. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Was Chile Sending a Message in Armed Forces Parade?

In a rare break from tradition, the Sept. 19 Armed Forces Day parade saw the Army put some of is heavy armor on display. Armored units usually don't participate in the annual parade, which is mainly a showcase for the military academies and for patriotic celebrations. But this year, elements of the Third Armored Brigade based in Antofagasta took part, the first time since the bicentennial parade in 2010 that tanks roll in front of the military brass and the president. It was a modest assembly of just a few Leopard 2A4 tanks, Marder infantry fighting vehicles, M-109A5 self-propelled howitzers and engineering vehicles. But with Bolivia's leaders unrelenting in their anti-Chile rhetoric, perhaps Chile wanted to remind its neighbor of the potent enemy it would face if the two countries ever came to blows. The Third Armored Brigade, in fact, would be one of the first to face Bolivian troops. Still, the possibility of armed conflict remains remote, largely because Bolivia's military is so inferior and Chile would mobilize its Army only if it saw a real threat. A bigger problem with Bolivia is the smuggling, car theft and drug traffic along the border.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Chile Resorts to Anti-Terrorism Law in Mapuche Attacks

The radical indigenous movement operating in the south of Chile has stepped up its attacks, burning 29 trucks in a single assault and launching other attacks that have left dozens of trucks and logging machinery destroyed. Mapuche activists have long been targeting logging companies in a violent campaign to win back ancestral lands, a conflict that's only growing worse. Since 2010, more than 250 trucks have been burned, but the toll has risen sharply since last year. Some churches and government equipment have been targeted, too. Chile's government says it will combat the violence with its counter-terrorism laws, which limit certain civil rights. The attacks certainly aren't of the severity of global terror organizations such as ISIS. In another context, these would be just criminal acts, but the political overtones make them fall under the umbrella of organized terror. Years of conflict, ineffective policing and little progress on the central issue of land holdings have combined to create one of Chile's biggest security problems, and one with no quick solution. The latest wave of attacks comes amid the trial of 11 Mapuches accused in the killing of an elderly couple whose home was set ablaze in 2013. Truckers, meanwhile, have threatened to strike unless the government can provide better protection.UPDATE: Police arrested eight people in connection with the fires, including the spokesman of the Mapuche uprising. His home and others were raided in what police called a six-month investigation.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Chile Studies LORA Long-Range Missile

Chile is evaluating the Israeli Aerospace Industries Long Range Attack system, a weapon with a range of 400 km — far more than any artillery system currently in the country's arsenal and anywhere in Latin America. LORA is being considered for deployment in the next decade and would be based on a ship platform, according to a report in Jane's 360. This may end up like so many rumored acquisitions that never materialize. But if LORA does come to Chile, it would mark a shift in military strategy, and not just because of the extreme range. Installed on a warship or even a commercial vessel, LORA could be moved around the expanse of the southern Pacific, providing more mobility than if the system were based on land. LORA also has the potential to change Chile's deep-strike strategy. A missile with 400 km of range and GPS guidance would lessen the need for F-16 fighter jets and the risks that come with an attack into enemy territory. Looking further into the future, any fourth- or fifth-generation fighter to replace the current fleet of F-16s would be costly, and a surface-launched missile would offer another attack option. LORA could take the deep-strike role from FACh, at least in part. LORA is a 5-meter long missile launched from sealed canisters. It uses GPS guidance to reach its target and is accurate to within a 10-meter radius, packing a warhead capable of penetrating reinforced structures.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Navy Adds Fourth Off-Shore Patrol Vessel

The Asmar shipyard delivered a new off-shore patrol vessel to Chile's Navy, the fourth in the series. OPV 84 Cabo Odger displaces 1,728 tons and measures 265 feet in length, with capabilities to stay on the ocean up to 30 days and travel a maximum of 8,000 nautical miles. The ship is armed with a 76 mm cannon and .50-caliber machine guns. OPV 84 will be based in Iquique, where the Navy faces a swarm of illegal fishing activity. Like others in the Fassmer-class OPVs, Cabo Odger has capabilities for search and rescue, environmental protection and a number of auxiliary roles. Each also has a hangar and deck for a helicopter. The Navy plans to build six of the vessels. The program started with the 2007 launch of the first ship, OPV 81, in what originally was going to be a fleet of four boats. Construction of the next two OPVs has not been announced.

Monday, July 31, 2017

How to Defend Chile at Sea

C-295 Persuader
Chile has a long western flank, made up entirely of the Pacific Ocean. With every major city, major highway and industrial center within a few hours' drive from the beach, protecting that flank is one of Chile's most vital strategic goals. The Navy defends Chilean territorial waters through four naval districts. The main naval bases are in two ports: Talcahuano and Valparaiso. Most warships and the most valuable support vessels are stationed in those two bases, making tthose bases critical assets to protect. The backbone of the Navy is its eight frigates: four acquired second-hand from Britain and four others purchased from the Netherlands. Six are equipped for anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare, while two others (the ex-Dutch L class) are primarily air-defense ships equipped with SM-1 and Seasparrow anti-aircraft missiles. The most modern ships are three Type 23 vessels, and those are being upgraded with improved electronics and Sea Ceptor air-defense missiles. The Navy's submarine force consists of two Scorpene boats and two Type 209 subs, the latter of which are nearing the end of their service life. The subs provide Chile with a stealthy weapon, and the Pacific Ocean in that part of the world provides currents and other conditions that enhance the effectiveness of submarine warfare. Thus, the four subs are just as important as the frigates. In the air, Chile has never had much more than just an adequate force. It has several SH-32 Cougar helicopters with sub-detecting electronics and capabilities to launch Exocet anti-ship missiles. The fixed-wing force counts on three operational Orion P-3 planes, plus three C-295 Persuaders. These aircraft help Chile cover sizable gaps that the surface forces alone cannot cover. Some P-111 are still in use, but are mainly for search and rescue and reconnaissance missions. The bulk of naval aviation is stationed near Valparaiso, with airfields also in Punta Arenas, Iquique and Talcahuano. The Navy has considered drones to help patrol the ocean, but there's been no acquisition other than the Navy's own development of a UAV system.