Chile Requests a Mechanized Artillery Battalion
In June 2009, Chile’s formal request to buy a variety of artillery-related systems and equip a new mechanized artillery battalion was cleared by the US state Department, and allowed to go forward. The request centered on BAE’s M109 tracked self-propelled howitzer, but it also includes necessities like shells, tracking radars, and accompanying personnel carriers. Chile already operates the M109 self-propelled howitzer, and this order could double its available fleet, to a total of 48.
Chile’s current stock of 24 M109s are the KAWEST version, which were upgraded by Switzerland’s RUAG and sold to Chile at the end of 2004 (Cooperativa.cl, in Spanish). The Swiss upgrades included an L47 gun with 27 km/ 36 km assisted range and 3-round burst capability over 15 seconds, 6 crew members instead of 8, carriage of 40 rounds and 64 charges, improved electrical systems, an integrated inertial navigation and positioning system, day and night capability, and added protection against fire, nuclear EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse radiation), and NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) threats.
Contracts & Key Events
Aug 18/11: BAE Systems Land and Armaments, LP in York, PA receives a $7 million firm-fixed-price contract, modifying an existing contract to refurbish 12 M109A+ self-propelled howitzers for the country of Chile. The contract in question (W56HZV-10-G-0003) has been used for a wide variety of tracked vehicle services involving BAE, for the US government and for foreign governments.
Work will be performed in York, PA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI, on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale client.
An October 2011 BAE release clarifies, marking the order as $15.8 million in total, to return the 12 vehicles to “like new” condition, add the M109A5’s 155mm M284 cannon and M182 mount, and add new equipment including digital connectivity and automatic navigation and gun positioning systems. The U.S. Government will provide the howitzers to the Chilean Government outside of this contract, and BAE Systems will perform the refurbishment and upgrade work. The new cannon is expected to offer a 25% range increase, compared to the previous gun.
June 12/09: The USA’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced [PDF] Chile’s official request for self-propelled howitzers, artillery radars, tracked armored vehicles, weapons, and assorted equipment required to equip a new mechanized artillery battalion. The request could be worth up to $275 million.
2 AN/TPQ-37v3 Firefinder artillery-spotting radars, which can backtrack a shell’s trajectory to the weapon that fired it while the shell is still in the air.
The M109A3s are M109A1s that were rebuilt with 27 mid-life improvements to reliability, availability, and maintainability (RAM). The most significant additions were the long barreled 155 mm M185 cannon, ballistic protection for the panoramic telescope, and the ability to store 36 rounds of 155mm ammunition, instead of just 28.
The M109A5s add a number of newer features over the M109A3, including a new M285 155/30mm cannon in a new mount. In addition to longer firing ranges of 24 km unassisted or 30km with assisted rounds, the A5 model adds better equipment for surviving Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) environments, improved engine starting, and improvements to the turret mechanisms that allow it to be moved even if the vehicle experiences electrical failures.
All of these M109 variants retain the need to physically string communications wires between the howitzers and the fire-control center, as part of a 15-20 minute emplacement procedure. Full “move, fire, move” capability is restricted to the M109A6 Paladin variant, fielded by the US Army.
1,968 M107 155mm projectiles. Standard High Explosive (HE) round
896 M549 HERA 155mm rocket-assisted projectiles for longer range
12 M2 .50 cal Machine Guns
12 MK19 40mm Grenade Launchers
18 M113A2 Armored Personnel Carriers
6 M577A2 Command Post Carriers
24 M548A1 Tracked Logistics Vehicles
All 3 of these vehicles types are derivatives of the M113 family. Chile currently possess over 400 M113s, mostly M113A2s. The latest version is the M113A3, with an upgraded engine, transmission, and other new features.
- 2 M1165A1 High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs)
- 2 M1152 HMMWVs
- 2 AN/TMQ-41 Meteorological Measuring Sets (MMS)
- 28 Camouflage Systems
- 4 support vehicles: 5-ton capacity trucks
Plus fuses, artillery trainers, 2 mechanical and ordnance tool kits, generators, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and required support.
The principal contractors involved in this program are:
- BAE Systems in York, PA (M109s, M113 family)
- L3 Communications in Lancaster, PA
- Smiths Detection, Inc. in Edgewood, MD
- Thales Raytheon Systems Company, LLC in Fullerton, CA (Firefinder radar)
There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, but this proposed sale would require 10 U.S. Government or contractor representatives to travel to Chile for a period of 4 weeks, for initial equipment checkout and training.