Chilean Air Force / (Fuerza Aérea de Chile--FACh)
The world's fourth oldest independent military air arm in existence, the Chilean Air Force (Fuerza Aérea de Chile--FACh) predated its United States counterpart by seventeen years and became the most United States-oriented of the three Chilean Armed Forces. As of 2011 the air force had a strength of 12,500. Air assets were distributed among five air brigades headquartered in Iquique, Antofagasta, Santiago, Puerto Montt, and Punta Arenas. The Air Force also operates an airbase on King George Island, Antarctica and at Quintero, near Valparaiso. The FACH has one of the most capable air forces in Latin America with 10 Block 50 F-16s purchased new from the U.S., and 36 reconditioned Block 15 F-16s from the Netherlands. With 120 combat aircraft, the FACh is organized into the Combat Command, the Personnel Command, and the Logistical Command. FACh aircraft are deployed among four air brigades with a total of five wings (alas) and twelve groups (grupos de aviación) or squadrons.
Since its beginning in the early 20th Century, Chilean aeronautics has been constantly evolving. This process has given the Chilean Air Force (FACH) its present significant strategic dimension. Thanks to decades of effort, the FACH has served as a basis for developing the different components of an authentic Aerospace system. The Chilean Air Force’s mission is to defend the country by controlling and exploiting air space, participating in the surface battle and supporting its own and friendly forces with a view to contributing to the strategic objectives set for the Armed Forces by national policy. In order to fulfill its mission, the Air Force carries out specific functions both in peacetime and in wartime.
In Peacetime, in conjunction with the General Office of Civil Aeronautics (DGAC), the Chilean Air Force controls air traffic so that the country’s air activity is undertaken safely within international parameters and so that it can react in the event of an illegal incursion into Chilean air space. It contributes to developing aerospace power. This is a real, potential or limited ability to use air space for one’s own benefit. Even if it does not have any spacecraft, a country may be considered to have aerospace power when it has policies or plans to use this capability in the future. Since it works with the DGAC in controlling air traffic for the safety of air activity, the Air Force has the means to respond in the event catastrophes and disasters caused by aviation accidents. This rescue capability is used frequently in emergencies affecting the country as a result of natural disasters.
Through the Aerophotogrammetric Service (SAF), it performs its assigned duties within the country in terms of aerophotogrammetry, cartography and other related fields. It has the ability to observe the earth from space, which offers planners in all fields of the country’s endeavors an overview that allows them to make optimum use of their resources. It promotes the development of aerospace interests, the aeronautical and aerospace industry, aeronautical infrastructure, scientific and technological development, civil, sporting and commercial aviation, aerospace policy, national and institutional infrastructure and awareness of the country’s air space.
In wartime, it undertakes operations aimed at destroying or neutralizing enemy air, ground and sea forces. Air Power offers the possibility of facing enemy forces almost anywhere, reducing the impact of such factors as distance or terrain features. It directs and controls air defense based on controlling and watching over national air space. In the event of unidentified, illegal or hostile incursions, it intercepts the aircraft, thereby being able to provide a graduated response, including the use of force if circumstances warrant. It achieves a degree of control over air space that allows Chile’s own and friendly forces to operate. Air Control is the degree of freedom of action acquired in a given space and time as a result of subjecting the enemy to air power, so as to be able to use air space for one’s own benefit and deny its use to the enemy.
It offers support to operations carried out by ground and sea forces, so as to contribute to their war efforts. This support takes different forms and helps ground forces neutralize or destroy enemy resources. It undertakes strategic air reconnaissance and surveillance, and military air transport. The resources at the Air Force’s disposal make it a useful instrument for efficiently observing enemy actions, contributing valuable information to the various levels of command conducting the war. In the other hand, military air transport allows forces to be quickly deployed over long distances, expediting any possible change of the main effort of war operations.
In order to fulfill its mission, the Air Force General who holds the position of Commander in Chief of the Air Force exercises the Command of the Air Force, and is responsible for strategic leadership and administrative management of the Institution. The working group that helps him do this job is the Air Force General Staff, which advises him in planning, managing and controlling the Institution, so as to meet air activity requirements in peacetime and their use in wartime. Combat Command is the Higher Operational Unit that manages the Air Force’s operational units with a view to keep them in the state of operational readiness that the service planning requires.
The Logistics Command executive unit’s mission is to obtain, provide, maintain and develop the material, technological and logistical information resources required to meet the needs arising from war and development planning and those generated by institutional activities. The Personnel Command’s mission is to manage personnel system duties with a view to full development of human resources in support of the Air Force’s mission. Operational Units are the five Air Brigades, whose jurisdictions cover the country’s territory. Air Brigades are operational units that exercise command within a geographic area and whose mission is to conduct air operations with the resources at their disposal in their areas of authority. A General Officer commands each of these Brigades and reports directly to the Commander in Chief of the Air Force. Each Air Brigade has Air Groups equipped with different types of aircraft, which conduct combat and air support operations according to institutional planning and instructions.
Air Brigade I, with its headquarters in Iquique, covers Region I. The Air Brigade V, with headquarters in Antofagasta, covers Regions II and III. Air Brigade II in Santiago covers Regions IV through VIII, including the Metropolitan Region. Air Brigade III, with headquarters in Puerto Montt, covers the south, including Regions IX and X and part of Region XI. Air Brigade IV, with headquarters in Punta Arenas, covers the far south, including part of Region XI and all of Region XII. The Air Force implements its air power through these units, developing their capabilities and means.
Thanks to their ability to gain height, and for speed and range, the resources at the Air Force’s disposal can counteract threats or comprise a threat over a very extensive area in a short period of time. These resources may be deployed rapidly to far distant theaters to provide timely help for an ally, or to act as a deterrent element in the event of aggression. Within its organizational structure, the Air Force balances all of these resources, distributing them to the Air Brigades throughout the whole territory. This ensures efficient performance of the mission with which it has been entrusted.
The Air Force’s weapons systems are reinforced with in-flight refueling and airbone early warning capabilities, which are considered force multipliers. Heavy and light air transport are added to these resources, consisting of aircraft capable of transporting cargo and passengers under peace, war and emergency conditions. Transport and rescue capabilities are supplemented by helicopters suitable for operating in different types of terrain. For efficient use of its material resources, the Air Force also has air bases, anti-aircraft defense units and detection units in its various Brigades, all coordinated by means of an automated command and control system which enables efficient handling of the flow of information in order to carry out operations. In addition to these operational resources are the resources provided by commercial aviation and by civil and sporting aviation, which furnish new contingents of pilots each year. All of these human and material capabilities make up a system called the Aerospace System. The Air Force is the main component of this system.
Beyond its own specific mission, Air Power cooperates in the success of the other services’ missions, contributing to land and sea battles by means of combat operations against ground and sea targets, and combat support (such as aerospace surveillance, air reconnaissance and air transport). The Air Force’s speed of reaction is strengthened by an appropriate early warning system; in turn, the in-flight refueling capability makes it possible for aircrafts to increase their operating range and results in a greater capability to influence a geographical area.
The General Office of Civil Aeronautics (DGAC) is a State agency that reports directly to the Commander in Chief of the Air Force. According to national legislation and international law, its mission is to aid and protect air navigation in an air space whose longitudinal axis runs down to the South Pole and whose transverse axis runs more than 5000 kilometers into the Pacific Ocean from Chile’s coastline, to Meridian 131 West. If there are any illegal flights into sovereign air space, the DGAC and Air Force act in coordination to identify and control the event.
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