Chile Looking to Replace F-5s With More F-16s
Chile’s 16 upgraded F-5E/F+ Tiger II lightweight fighters are very old, and are slated for decommissioning in 2009. Its Mirage 50CN Panteras have already been retired. The country is looking to used F-16s as a replacement, in order to maintain its fighter strength.
The FACh’s current F-16 fleet currently includes 10 advanced F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft bought from the USA, and another 18 F-16A/B Mid-Life Upgrade aircraft bought from the Netherlands for $180 million. Unsurprisingly, Chile believes that a reprise of their Dutch deal would represent a fine solution.
DID’s Latin American correspondent Inigo Guevara has some additional comments…
Chilean Modernization & Financing
Chilean military equipment purchases are somewhat unusual, in that they are financed by a set percentage of windfall earnings from copper mining, one of Chile’s major exports. That legislation dates back to Chile’s military dictatorship, and is scheduled to be amended, but the fund created by that arrangement is expected to hit $3 billion in the coming months.
This is so despite a slew of purchases that are modernizing Chile’s armed forces, after a long slump in copper prices that had put a crimp in Chile’s options. The last decade has seen purchases of F-16s, handfuls of Bell 412 and Eurocopter AS535 Super Puma helicopters, a strong core of used Leopard tanks and accompanying Marder IFVs for the Army, plus 2 new Scorpene Class submarines, 8 used frigates, and 3 new C-295 MP maritime patrol aircraft for use along Chile’s long naval frontier.
If the reports of a new F-16 order turn out to be correct, Chile will have ended up replacing its 16-24 recently-retired Mirage 50CN Panteras, and 16 F-5E/F+ fighters, with 46 F-16s.
DID correspondent Inigo Guevara adds that this purchase marks a significant shift from the Chilean armed forces’ traditional “multiple-source” policy for advanced equipment, towards a single source fighter fleet. This marks an evolution in defense thinking, and he believes that it also signifies total political control over the Chilean armed forces.
He also believes that the decision to buy second hand aircraft is significant for domestic and international reasons. Domestically, it involves standardization on an all-F-16 fighter fleet. This will reduce operations and maintenance costs, but the fact that most of the fleet will be 40 years old by 2020 opens the door for a large-scale next-generation replacement at that time. Internationally, the interesting element is the fact that the purchase:
“…failed to be viewed by its neighbors (specifically Peru) as simply a “watered down stop gap buy” as (completely different from a defense analysis) in the political arena, F-16s are F-16s, no matter if they are 25-year old F-16A/B veterans vs new built F-16C block 52+.”
Contracts and Key Events
May 25/09: Dutch Undersecretary of Defense Jack de Vries confirms an agreement in principle with Chile to sell that country a second batch of 18 F-16 MLU fighters. Formal contracts are expected soon, so that the first planes can arrive in 2010. The exact sales figures are considered confidential, but reports indicate a fee of about EUR 100 million (about $140 million at current rates). Chilean government spokeswoman Carolina Toha added that:
“This is nothing new… What has happened is simply that the process [of approval] has continued. Stages have been fulfilled, but the process still has a lot of road to cover and is moving along normally.”
The Netherlands will reportedly provide limited support under the deal, including instructors from Dutch industry to help train another 75 Chilean technicians. Meanwhile, Chilean diplomats will be kept busy soothing the kerfuffle with nearby Peru, which operates MiG-29s and has clashed with Chile in the past. Chile’s El Mercurio | Dutch MvD [in Dutch] | Luchtvaartniews [in Dutch] | Business News Americas (diplomatic background).
Oct 11/08: Mercopress reports that Chile is looking to replace its 16 upgraded F-5E/F+ Tiger II aircraft with more second-hand F-16s. Mercopress places Chile’s next buy at $170 million for 16 more F-16A/B MLU fighters from The Netherlands, to be delivered in 2009.
Additional Readings & Sources
- DID thanks our Benelux subscribers David Vandenberghe and VNCcc, for their assistance and tips.
- Inigo Guevara is the author of a new book from HARPIA publishing: “Latin American Fighters: A history of jet fighters and armed trainers in service with Latin American air arms.” DID thanks him for his assistance.
- F-16.NET – F-16 MLU: Mid-Life Update
- Dutch MvD (Sept 9/06) – Overdracht eerste zes F-16’s aan Chili. The first batch of 18.