Chile's marines plan to purchase a dozen Coyote LAV reconnaissance vehicles from Canadian surplus stockpiles. Janes.com reported that negotiations continue on the deal, and that Chile is seeking new engines and spare parts as part of the purchase. Deliveries could begin as early as this year. The Ottawa Citizen, however, indicates that a sale remains far from ready, and that Canada has yet to officially list the vehicles for sale. That doesn't necessarily mean there's no interest from Chile. Weapons deal often are secretive until all terms are agreed upon. The Coyotes would replace Scorpion light tanks the marines use in a reconnaissance role, only the Coyotes are much better equipped. The Coyote LAV is a variant of the Piranha family of light armored vehicles. Armed with a 25mm M242 Bushmaster cannon, the Coyote's main characteristic is a suite of electronic sensors that can be elevated on a 10-meter telescoping mast. This gives the Coyote a superior ability to watch over large areas of the battlefield. This capability has made the Coyote an effective weapon in peacekeeping missions and in combat areas such as Afghanistan. The Scorpions are the only armor in Chile's marine force, which consists of a few battalions around key naval assets plus an embarked battalion.
Retired Gen. Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba goes to court May 30 to face charges that he laundered state funds to cover personal expenses. The sums involved total about 700 million pesos, or about $1 million U.S. dollars. Prosecutors believe Fuente-Alba used Army funds while he was still in charge to pay for relatives' travel and other personal expenses. He is also accused of making payments to certain Army personnel who were close to him. The case is one of many corruption scandals that have shaken Chilean government and business in the past several years. The Army saw many of its Pinochet-era officers convicted of human rights violations, and there wasn't much controversy among the top brass until the corruption cases emerged. Fuente-Alba is one of three former Army commanders facing charges. Gen. Humberto Oviedo, who led the Army in 2014-2018, also is being investigated for using funds to pay for family travel. Gen. Juan Emilio Cheyre was convicted in a case that echoed back to the human rights era. As a recent graduate of the military academy, Cheyre accompanied officers who took part in the killing of 10 persons following the 1973 coup. Sentenced to three years of probation for covering up the crimes, Cheyre was soon indicted for a series of abuses. He denies those charges.
Chile's Navy is taking early steps to acquire two Class M frigates from the Netherlands, as the Navy looks to replace some of its older warships. The Navy signed a letter of intent to acquire the Van Amstel and Van Speijk once those ships are retired from Dutch service, reports say. The Van Amstel could be transferred in 2024 and the Van Speijk in 2027. The acquisition means Chile would own half of the Class M frigates ever built, having already purchased a pair of Class M ships in 2004 from the Netherlands. Chile is looking to replace two Class L frigates that were part of the acquisition of the Class M ships. The L frigates are air defense ships, and their retirement would leave the Armada without a platform for long-range anti-aircraft missiles.
For the first time since they were acquired, Chile's Air Force has put its Hermes 900 on public display, ending a seven-year period in which the high-altitude UAV was kept shrouded. FACh this month showed off a Hermes 900 in a display of aircraft tasked to fight wildfires. The UAV is equipped with an electronics payload to monitor burn areas and relay information to command posts to coordinate firefighting efforts. The Hermes on display was also equipped with a dorsal antenna for satellite links. FACh is also using transport planes and helicopters to ferry firefighting units, and at least one UH-1H Huey helicopter has been fitted with a water bucket. Chile confirmed the purchase of the Hermes 900 in 2011, but had kept it out of public view. FACh acquired from Israel's Elbit Systems three UAVs and support equipment in what was its first purchase of high-performance UAVs. Hermes 900 can fly to a maximum altitude of 20,000 feet and can stay aloft for as much as 26 hours. Other branches of Chile's military also are providing assistance to fight brush fires.
A Chilean court sentenced a former commander of the Army to three years in prison over human rights violations. This case marks an ironic twist of fate for an officer who played a central role in the return of democracy after military rule in 1973-1990. Retired Gen. Juan Emilio Cheyre was convicted of covering up the execution of political dissidents at an Army regiment in the days following the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup. At the time, Cheyre was a 25-year-old officer serving as an assistant to the regiment's commander. Cheyre eventually rose to the highest post in the Army, becoming its commander in 2002-06. It was then that Cheyre made history by declaring that the Army would "never again" rise against a democratic government. It was pivotal point in Chile's transition to democracy. Moreover, he was the first military leader to acknowledge publicly that Chile's military committed human rights abuses during its rule. Scores of other military officers have been convicted over human rights, but the Cheyre case is one that has left many Chileans conflicted and perplexed. Cheyre is appealing his sentence.
Chile's Defense Minister Alberto Espina confirmed the Navy started looking to acquire three frigates to replace warships that have been in service since 1986. The three ships slated for retirement are the two air defense frigates — FFG-11 Almirante Prat and FFG-14 Almirante Latorre — and the flagship FF-19 Almirante Williams. The latter is a Type 22 frigate acquired from the British navy in 2003. The Prat and Latorre are Class L frigates that were acquired from the Netherlands in 2005 and 2006. While the Navy has bought used ships to renovate its surface fleet, Espina said Chile is looking for "new" warships. The cost of building new is many times that of buying used, so it'll be interesting if Chile goes that route. Around the turn of the century, Chile planned to build its own frigates. But the staggering cost of new ships and the availability of used but capable vessels caused the Navy to opt for bargains. In January, the Navy started discussing plans to replace its oldest surface units. The plans also include replacing naval helicopters. The Navy has an aging fleet of Cougar anti-submarine helicopters and Dauphin light helicopters that are used for drug interdiction, sea patrols, search and rescue and other missions.
To protect its international borders, Chile relies mainly on manned outposts. But they're no match against a formidable combination of smuggling and illegal crossings in the northern reaches of the country. Government leaders now are turning to the armed forces for help, specifically for electronic sensors that can be brought to bear on the border. The border security program seeks to coordinate agencies and increase the use of technology to combat criminal activity. That includes military units that can gather information and coordinate with civilian authorities. Already, the armed forces have played a role in border patrol. The Navy, in particular, is tasked with policing the nation's oceans and has a key role in the new program. Drugs, weapons, stolen cars, cigarettes and even human trafficking filter through the largely undefended and uncontrolled border with Peru and Bolivia.
Chile's Navy is making its customary deployment to the biannual RIMPAC naval exercise in the Pacific Ocean, and this time it's getting a leading role. Chile is serving as combined force maritime component commander of the 26-nation exercise. It's the first time such a role is handed to a non-founding nation of RIMPAC, an acronym for Rim of the Pacific. U.S.-led RIMPAC was first staged in 1971 and Chile joined for the first time in 1996. The 26th version of RIMPAC features 47 surface ships, five submarines, 18 land forces, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel. Chile's participation includes the frigate Almirante Lynch and a marine platoon. As it is for most nations with an export economy, Chile relies heavily on shipping lanes. About 90% of its international trade moves over the oceans, and Chile is the third largest user of the Panama Canal, after the U.S. and China. Chile's Navy also is a regular participant in the PANAMAX naval exercises. RIMPAC runs from June 27 to Aug. 2 around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.