Chile Expanding its Air Fleets With Hueys, C-295 Maritime Patrol
Chile is a country with a lot of area to cover, ranging from long sea coasts and maritime areas to deserts and mountain ranges, in temperatures that range from hot to near-Arctic. While new F-16 C/D aircraft from the USA and second-hand Dutch F-16 MLUs will replace its 15 Mirage 50 Panteras as they prepare to retire, its F-5 E/F fleet is also headed for the scrap yard soon. In more prosaic roles, Chile has rather fewer military helicopters in its Army, Navy, and Air Force than one might imagine given its rugged topography. Looking over its long coast, meanwhile, the country must contemplate the finite lifespan of its aging P-3ACH Orion maritime patrol aircraft.
Fortunately, copper prices had risen again by 2007, which gave the country some fiscal breathing room to undertake fleet recapitalizations – including a 2007 purchase of Leopard 2A4 tanks. Now, a pair of recent aircraft purchases aim to begin redressing Chile’s recapitalization needs in helicopter support and maritime patrol – though neither is what one might call a large deal.
Contracts & Key Events
May 7/10: Airbus Military announces the first successful torpedo test launch from one of its C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA).
April 30/10: The first Chilean C-295 MPA maritime patrol aircraft holds its delivery ceremony at the Vina del Mar base in the municipality of Concón, Chile. Chilean Naval Aviation is recapitalizing its fixed-wing patrol aircraft fleet, which currently consists of P-3ACH Orions and EMB-111ANs.
Chile now operates a fleet of 17 Airbus Military aircraft: 13 C-212A Aviocar light transports, 3 CN-235 light transports, and now 1 C-295 MPA. Another 2 C-295 ASW aircraft are on order, with an option for 5 more MPA/ASW planes. Airbus Military release.
Nov 20/07: The Fuerza Aerea de Chile currently relies on a handful of UH-1H Huey helicopters, plus a smaller number of Bell’s 412 helicopters that add modern avionics, 4-bladed rotors and a 28.5% power increase from their twin turboshafts. They will be adding 12 more Bell 412s for search-and-rescue and general troop transport duties under a recent deal with Bell Helicopter, terms not disclosed. Chilean Chief of the Air Force Gen. Julio Escobar said that:
“We evaluated several helicopters and feel the 412 will give us the capability to significantly increase our mission coverage. As you know Chile’s unique shape presents us with challenges and the 412 has the range to cover great lengths of territory and also performs equally well at sea level or high in the Andes.”
Oct 18/07: Chile’s Servicio de Aviacion de la Armada buys 3 C-295 maritime surveillance aircraft, with an option for another 5. EADS-CASA generally sells the smaller CN-235MPA Persuader as its maritime surveillance offering, but Chile’s long coast and maritime zones would make the C-295’s extra range important. The plane is capable of carrying out missions lasting over 11 hours.
The C-295 MPA comes with 6 underwing hardpoints for fuel, sensors, or weapons, 2 of which can carrier heavier weapons like air-launched torpedoes (ASW version). Situational awareness depends on a maritime surveillance radar and electro-optical surveillance turret. Its rear ramp allows for rapid reconfiguration, and the Portuguese have taken the logical step and pelletized their mission systems for rapid roll-on and roll-off. The standard fit-out includes Airbus Military’s Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS), developed as an internal suite and retrofit for maritime surveillance, Exclusive Economic Zone control, and search and rescue activities. It will integrate the plane’s on-board radar and electro-optical scanning sensors, and serve as the plane’s mission system. The aircraft can be fitted with a full range of basic self-defense suites for missile warning and protection.
These mid-tier maritime patrol aircraft will join Chile’s 3 aging P-3A Orions at the high end, and 3 light twin-turboprop EMB 111AN aircraft at the low end – and are likely to eventually replace the Orions entirely. Again, terms of purchase were not disclosed. EADS release.
- Airbus Military – C295 MPA