Chile Buying American for Air Defense

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Avenger(click to view full) Chile presents interesting challenges for an air defense network. Its geography is long, thin, and extremely mountainous, which greatly complicates attempts at full coverage. Tensions over the last couple of decades have been centered on the relatively narrow border with Peru, which represents a simpler problem, but mountainous areas will still […]

(click to view full)

Chile presents interesting challenges for an air defense network. Its geography is long, thin, and extremely mountainous, which greatly complicates attempts at full coverage. Tensions over the last couple of decades have been centered on the relatively narrow border with Peru, which represents a simpler problem, but mountainous areas will still introduce “shadows” into radar coverage. Mobile systems are extremely desirable, and to date, Chilean missile defenses have consisted of Blowpipe and Mistral shoulder-fired missiles, and short-range MIM-72 Chaparral tracked systems based on AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

In November 2009, Chile submitted a pair of purchase requests to the US DSCA whose net effect would be to create a mobile short-range air defense system for its army. Chile’s Ejercito currently relies on MBDA’s shoulder-fired Mistral missiles for this role, but the addition of Avenger fire units and Sentinel radars would offer big steps forward in mobile battlefield awareness and defense. In June 2010, reports emerged that this would be followed by a purchase of longer-range AMRAAM-based systems. The $200+ million question is whether any of this has moved forward, as of May 2012.

Sentinels, Avengers, Stingers, and SLAMRAAM


FIM-92 Stinger, firing
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ThalesRaytheon’s AN/APQ-64 Sentinel is the USA’s standard short-medium range air defense radar. It is generally mounted on a trailer, and towed into position. The addition of Sentinel radars to this order will provide the Avenger units with longer-range (up to 75 km/ 47 mile) awareness of incoming threats, allowing slew-to-cue that puts their electro-optical targeting sensors on target as soon as the threat is within range.

Raytheon’s FIM-92 Stinger is one of the world’s best-known shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, and its combination IR/UV seeker makes it more accurate and harder to decoy. Its engagement range is limited to about 3 miles/ 5 km, but dispersing the firing units and networking them with longer-range sensors can improve overall coverage. The USA will be replacing Stingers in mobile roles with a longer-range and more expensive system, based on improved Sentinel radars and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles; nevertheless, Stingers will continue to see service in the USA and many other militaries for years to come.

Boeing’s Avenger system mounts 8 Stinger missiles on a Humvee jeep, along with an FN M3P .50 cal machine gun, and automated systems that include optical sights, infrared, a laser rangefinder, and an IFF (Identification Friend-Or-Foe) system. In 1998, modifications began that upgraded some systems to “slew-to-cue,” which automatically slews the turret to place the sights on targets received from FAAD (Forward Area Air Defense) Command and Control systems.

Egypt’s Avenger orders recently re-started the production line, to the benefit of other interested customers.

Peer competitors include MBDA’s Mistral-based Atlas and Albi systems, and KMW’s missile-agnostic LeFlaySys/ASRAD. Israel’s Spyder, which uses the same Python missiles employed by Chile’s air force but can also mount the radar-guided Derby 4, is a longer-range and more capable take on the same LLAD concept.


NASAMS launch
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NASAMS is a medium-range air defense system, developed as a partnership between Kongsberg of Norway and Raytheon, and was the first surface-launched AMRAAM (SL-AMRAAM) system. As of July 2010, customers include Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain, plus limited deployment in the USA. It uses fixed emplacements, which can be transported by truck.

NASAMS’ core consists of of ThalesRaytheon’s AN/MPQ-64 F1 Improved Sentinel 3D X-band radar (q.v. Nov 12/09 entry), and Raytheon’s AIM-120 AMRAAM active guidance missile, which has a ground-launched of up to 25 km/ 18 miles. AMRAAM’s active radar homing means that external radar guidance is no longer required once the target comes within the missile’s own seeker range. That allows tactics like rotating burst scans from the radars, coupled with network sharing to improve survival odds, and confirm position data for incoming aircraft, UAVs, or cruise missiles.

A truck-mounted Fire Distribution Center provides command and control, offering seamless integration for a variety of missile systems from Patriot to man-potable very short range systems. The FDC automatically performs track correlation, identification, jam strobe triangulation, threat evaluation and weapon assignment.

The system can offset its range disadvantage by using a dispersed defense pattern to broaden coverage, and by networking existing radars via radio datalinks. This also removes terrain-caused “shadows” in mountainous countries like Norway and Chile, and creates a real-time air picture that can be shared with other systems. Engagement can even take place with radars completely shut down. NASMS can use external data sources for position tracking, supplemented by NASMS’ MSP-500 electro-optical surveillance system in fair weather, in order to establish a target’s location and verify its identity for firing.

Raytheon and its ThalesRaytheon Joint venture provide many of NASAMS core systems, including the AIM-120 missiles, MPQ-64 Sentnel radars, and FDC integration for the USA. Kongsberg acts as overall integrator for NASAMS, including production of the MSP 500, plus computing and software used by the system to network it together and enable sharing with other systems. The Sentinel radars were already the subject of an earlier request, and NASAMS’ AIM-120 missiles are the same as the ones already in FACh inventories.

Contracts and Key Events


NASAMS-II networking
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Note that DSCA requests are not contracts. If Congress does not block the request within 30 days, negotiations can begin for related contracts.

July 3/13: Although there has been no news in the defense press or in Chile, the USAF shows that there have been some sales under these FMS cases:

“Two SENTINEL radar systems are loaded onto a Chilean C-130 July 1 at Edwards Air Force Base as part of a foreign military sales case for Chile. Chile intends to use the radars to modernize its armed forces by expanding its existing air defense architecture to counter threats posed by air attack. The pick-up was crucial to ensure Chile received the systems to conduct scheduled training.”

May 16/12: News regarding the air defense sales has been a black hole since the initial DSCA announcement, even from Chilean sources. Boeing specifically declined to discuss international Avenger system customers, but did say that:

“The most recent Avenger production deliveries occurred in 2009. We are currently on contract for sustaining engineering work.”

This does not guarantee the absence of a Chilean contract, which could be in place with no deliveries yet. On the other hand, it does strongly suggest that Chile may not have moved forward with its air defense project yet. Even as neighboring Peru signs a contract for systems from Poland, Israel, and the USA.

July 13/10: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Chile’s official request to buy up to $105 million in air defense gear. Items include:

* 3 Forward Area Air Defense (FAAD) Command and Control Intelligence Systems (C2I). These are the air defense component of the US Army’s Battle Command System. FAAD C2I is designed to work with the MPQ-64 Sentinel radar and surface-launched AMRAAM, but it can also work with shorter-range systems like Avenger.

* 3 FAAD Force Operations Systems Air and Missile Defense Workstations (AMDWS)

* 3 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS) Vehicle Dual Long-Range Radio Systems (AN/VRC-92E).

* 14 Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS) Radio Transmitters. Raytheon’s EPLRS collects data from widely dispersed systems in the forward battle areas, and sends it back to the combat force. It can distribute a wide variety of information, from air track data to artillery fire requests, to multiple destinations, simultaneously. They’re mostly installed on ground vehicles, but can also be mounted on helicopters.

* Plus spare and repair parts, support equipment, communication support equipment, repair and return, tool and test equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor support.

The principal contractors will be Northrop Grumman in Carson, CA (FAAD C2); Raytheon in Ft. Wayne, IN and Fullerton, CA (EPLRS); and ITT Industries in Ft. Wayne, IN (SINCGARS). Implementation of this proposed sale will require up to 4 U.S. Government or contractor representatives to travel to Chile for a period of 5 weeks for equipment de-processing, fielding, system checkout, and training.

June 15/10: Conflicting reports surface, with most saying that Chile is adopting the Norwegian NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System) system for their future air defense needs. NASAMS-II reportedly beat Israel’s SPYDER and MBDAs SPADA 2000. Other reports suggest that the Chilean Air Force (FACh) is evaluating the system. What is clear, is that Chile is looking for a longer-range missile system to complement its Gepard tracked air defense guns, and array of Mistral and Stinger very short range air defense missiles. The medium-range systems will reportedly be used to protect the country’s 2 air force bases, as well as the army’s armored, mobile-reinforced brigades. Jane’s | StrategyPage | El Mercurio says evaluation only [in Spanish] | Enfoque Estrategico [in Spanish] | Infodefensa [in Spanish].


Sentinel radar
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Nov 12/09: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Chile’s official request to buy 6 AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel radar systems, 6 AN/VRC-92E Vehicular Dual Long-Range Single Channel Airborne and Ground Radio Systems (SINCGARS) and associated parts, plus the required spare and repair parts, tool and test equipment, repair and return, software support, support equipment, training, and other forms of engineering, technical, and logistics support.

ThalesRaytheon makes the AN/MPQ-64 F1 Improved Sentinel radar, and the estimated cost of all requested items is $65 million.

The systems would significantly extend the capability of Chile’s other purchase request:

Nov 12/09: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Chile’s official request to buy:

* 36 Avenger systems
* An unspecified number of S250 Shelters that mount on High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV)
* 36 AN/VRC-92E Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS)
* 378 FIM-92 Stinger Reprogrammable Micro-Processor (RMP) Block 1 Anti-Aircraft missiles
* 42 Captive Flight Trainers (CFTs) with seekers but no motors
* 12 STINGER Block 1 “Buy-to-Fly” missiles for testing and training purposes
* Plus the required spare and repair parts, tool and test equipment, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other related elements of support.

The estimated cost is $455 million. Raytheon makes the FIM-92 Stinger missile, and FN USA makes the machine gun, but Boeing is the prime contractor for the Avenger system as a whole.

Appendix A: Chile’s Military Funding Laws

Rebounds in commodity prices have helped several nations, Chile among them. The country’s goal is to modernize their military by 2015, and recent military purchases have included Leopard 2A4 tanks and Marder IFVs from Germany, M113 variants from the USA and Belgium, and upgraded M109 self-propelled howitzers. They are also reportedly modifying the Army’s structure by adding armored brigades throughout their entire territory.

Most of Chile’s mining by volume is done by 100% state-owned Codelco, the world’s biggest copper producer. In 1958 a tax was introduced on mining profits (Ley Reservada del Cobre 13,196) and changes made under the Pinochet regime in the 70’s and 80’s have been directly funding the military with 10% of Codelco’s exports since then.

This has been debated in Chile because this limits civil control over military expenditure while the strong ups and downs of copper prices have little to do with actual FFAA (Fuerzas Armadas or Armed Forces) procurement needs. Talks of reform have surfaced now and then since the early 2000s. A new defense funding law project was introduced by (former) President Michelle Bachelet’s administration in September 2009, and explained [in Spanish] by the Ministerio de Defensa Nacional.

Presidential elections occurred in December 2009, and the leading contenders seemed favorable to reform. The project was to be reviewed by Congress, along with other proposed statutory changes for Codelco. However, for the first months of his administration new president Sebastián Piñera has had to focus on addressing the destruction caused by the massive February 27th 2010 earthquake that happened just days before he replaced Bachelet. The reconstruction financing law [in Spanish] drafted by the executive branch in May 2010 took $600M out of the “copper fund” to contribute to civilian rebuilding, and another $600M to rebuild military infrastructure. The Senate approved [in Spanish] this provision in July 2010 – the money will be raised from the fund evenly between 2010 and 2011. The law had not been finalized by mid-July because its mining royalty proved more contentious with the Congress. The president has confirmed his intent to replace the Copper Law and reform defense financing, in line with statements made [in Spanish] during his 2009 campaign.

In October 2010 Defense Minister Jaime Ravinet confirmed that a law project is in the works (El Mercurio, in Spanish) for the end of the year or early 2011. Its draft terms are broadly in line with changes discussed by earlier administrations, including a switch to multi-annual budgets and the set up of a contingency fund for national emergencies and catastrophes.

Additional Readings

* Kongsberg – Surface-Launched AMRAAM

* Army Technology – Surface-Launched AMRAAM (SL-AMRAAM / CLAWS) Medium-Range Air Defence System, USA. The Norwegian NASAMS has become the most popular version, so far.

* ThalesRaytheon – AN/MPQ-64 Improved Sentinel

* Boeing – Avenger

* Army Technology – Avenger Low-Level Air Defense System, USA

* DID (March 21/12) – Peru’s Next-Generation Air Defenses. Peru got moving, and issued a contract to RAFAEL, Bumar, and Northrop Grumman.

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